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How to Use a Propane Forge

The Voice: Hey, Kevin. What are you doing now?

Kevin Caron: Well, you know we Arizonans, we always like it hot? It wasn't hot enough today, so I've got the forge running.

(using forge)

I'm flattening out some railroad spikes to get them thin enough so that I can work them in the air shaper.

I got a commission for a garden sculpture; I'm going to make a steel butterfly and use the spikes for wings. But first I'm going to flatten them, spread them out. Then I can shape them, drag them out a little bit, and get them a little bigger than what they are now.

Well, my air shaper is too small a tool to do that on cold metal, so I'll throw them in the forge, fire them up, and melt them; get them good and hot. Pound them down. Spread them out a little bit. Then I can work in there.

This is a propane forge that I use here in the studio, instead of a coal forge.
Here, come and take a look while that's heating up.

As you can see, this is coal, like they used to run the boilers in the old steam trains, (they still do). We've got millions of tons of this stuff in this country, but it's smoky and smells bad when you're burning it.

It actually burns a little hotter than propane does, I think. But it just takes a lot more work. You need to have a fire tender. Typically, that's The Voice's job, but she's running the camera right now, so we're going to run the propane forge instead. It's a lot cleaner, a lot quicker, and I can do it by myself if she's not here to help.

Back to work.

You'll know the metal is hot enough that you can work it when it glows red like that. (using forge)

Do you know why I use the little end of the hammer instead of the big end?
If I use this big end, I'll just squish it the metal. If I use the little end and go lengthwise down the spike, I'll actually spread the spike out this way.

As long as I keep working it this way, down the spike, it keeps getting wider. If I go this way down the spike, it starts getting longer. If I go this way, it's kind of out of control. It just goes wherever the heck it wants; however you happen to hit it, it could twist it a little bit, go one way or the other.

If I can get this down to about an eighth of an inch, then I can take it into the air shaper, which will be a lot quicker than this way. (using forge)

And, yes, I have the two different gloves on for a reason. It's hotter over there. This hand is closer, so this is my welding glove, while this one is my hold-the-hammer glove.

I've got to pay attention to what I'm doing. I'll see you next time.

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