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Tools for the Studio, Part 4

The Voice: Hey, Kevin. What are you looking at?

Kevin Caron: This is one of my start-up tools. One of my YouTube video subscribers asked awhile back, "What were your first tools? What did you have when you started, how did it progress; when and why?"

This is the fourth installment on the topic of how I acquired my welding and metal working equipment, and this is what I got next: a coal-fired forge, just like they used to use on the railroads.

I got it because I was working on a piece of home and garden art, a sculptural fence out in front of a house. I named the metal sculpture "Tenacity? because it took six months to finish the darn thing. You can go to my art website and check it out. Tenacity.)

I needed the forge to heat the 1-inch-thick rod that I was using because I was burning up so much oxygen-acetylene trying to use the rosebud tip and work along a 10-foot-long panel at one time.

So this is the fire pot; it's cast-iron, eighth-inch steel, or three-eighths inch steel for the rest of the body itself. There's a little flue down inside; a little damper where you can break up the clinkers.

Clinkers are what you get left over from burning the coal. It's all the impurities in the coal, settling on the bottom and forming an object such as this. This is what you would find in the bottom of the firepot after the coal has burned down some - it's all the impurities that burned out of the coal.

If you look here you can see this is a piece of iron, and here's where the iron was melting. This is actually a railroad spike that got lost in the bottom the last time I was running the forge to bend railroad spikes. It got all the way down in the very bottom and just sat there, burning and burning; it eventually melted the whole darn thing. You can see how fragile it is - it just wants to fall apart as you touch it.

Over here we have a little electric blower with a fan inside and a rheostat, a variable rheostat that goes from really slow to really fast, so you can just plug it in. In the good old days you would use a bellows or a hand crank to run the blower. This one all electric so all you have to do is tend your fire and do your work.

Down here on the very bottom of the fire pot is a little trap door, so every now and again you just open that door and all the ash, the clinkers, rocks and whatever fall out. Put a little metal pail down there; that's really important - a metal pail, not a plastic one.

The Voice: Where'd you get the forge?

Kevin Caron: I bought this online from a company called Centaur Forge. They're up in South Dakota. You can find them online.

The coal is actually out of Pennsylvania. They call it Pocahontas coal. It's got a very low sulfur count, so it doesn't stink or smoke as badly as other coal.

Something else you need to have with a forge is an anvil, so that's the other piece of equipment we got at the same time. Now, this is an old blacksmith anvil. There was a blacksmithing school here in Phoenix that went out of business, and this was found in the back room. You can see the big horn for shaping horseshoes.

These are hardy holes, and this is a hardy. They come in lots of different shapes, styles and lengths. This particular one goes in the anvil outside; I just keep it in here so it doesn't get all rusty. It would fit down in that hole when you want to shape something. If you've got a really weird-shaped horseshoe you're trying to make, or a weird-shaped sculpture you're working on, that's what you do. You can change the shape of the anvil, basically.

Anvils come in various weights, starting from about five pounds and up. This one is 105 pounds. I?ve seen them up to as high as a thousand pounds. It was a monster; it was mounted to a metal bench, with a big post full of sand to help weight it down; it helped to keep everything where it needed to be so it wouldn't ?walk around? while trying to use it.

There are also lots of different hammers, such as blacksmithing hammers for when you're pounding on railroad spikes, or if you're doing your preliminary shaping.

This is called a flattening hammer. It has nice, flat surfaces on either end made to strike flat down on the anvil, or on the piece that you're working on. Never strike at an angle, because you don't want to put a dent in it - you're just trying to flatten it and stretch it out.

Here's a little picking hammer for working in the corners, for doing little detail work. It's got a small head for when you don't want to whale on it, but rather just want to tap it, smooth it out a little bit.

These are tongs that I would use in the forge. (You can tell this one's been used a lot). These are for holding round stock, different sizes of round stock or small wire, the smaller gauges. All different shapes and sizes.

If you were a blacksmith apprentice in the old days, one of the first things you would have to do was make your own tongs. You'd also have to make your own hammer and all your other tools. That's how you?d learn to become a blacksmith - by making your own tools.

So, that's what came next here in my metal working studio. Next time, we'll talk about a different tool.

I'll talk to you later. Bye.

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