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Gas Forge Welding

Written by F. Thomas Breningstall
Category: Shoe & Tool Fabrication
Hits: 6567

breningstall_anvil"I went to farrier school some time back," writes Kevin McClain of Kelowna, British Columbia. "I built my own gas forge, a folding anvil stand, and most of my own tools, which are better than can be bought. I shoe only on the side, but I do make all my own shoes, either creased bar stock or concave. The shoes I make are awesome, but my forge welding is poor at best. I have used borax with limited results, and last week I bought some Sure Weld but had worse luck with it. My question is: What is your method of welding bar shoes?"

Gas welding is sometimes dubious. I use mostly torches or arc welding, but I still love forge welding (both gas and coal), because I enjoy trying to overcome all the variables that rule. Figuring out how to control the variables is hard for everyone. Weather, humidity, and how you hold your mouth all add to the variables. But you sound like a dedicated craftsman. I like that. So I'll go through gas forge welding and hope I cover something that will help you.

Your gas forge needs to get hot enough to make the steel white hot, about 2,500° F. At that temperature the surface of the steel is just at the liquid point. Don't make it any hotter, or you'll melt and burn the steel.

Both pieces must be at the same heat and free of scale. As the steel heats up, wire brush it to remove the scale. As you get to an orange heat, add flux to both pieces. A good flux can be made from borax, clean sand, and iron filings. You'll have to experiment to find the proportions that work best for you. Try one pound borax, one pound white sand, and one ounce iron filings. After adding flux, return the steel to the forge to get the white heat.

Your anvil should be pre-heated until the face is quite warm to the touch. Warm your anvil by heating a piece of steel to yellow heat and laying it on the face of the anvil. As the steel cools off the anvil will heat up.

To make bar shoes from one piece of steel, you must scarf (bevel) and overlap the ends--right-handed overlap for right handers, and left-handed for left handers. Heat the shoe and add your flux, then heat your shoe to welding heat. Bring the shoe out and place it on the anvil. Use light blows to seat the weld and then stronger blows as the weld makes. Shape the shoe as the color cools to dark red.

Well, that's my gas welding short course. Welding in a coal forge is tough, but welding in a gas forge is tougher. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. With practice you will be as proud of your welds as you are of your tools and shoes.

F. Thomas Breningstall is an AFA and MHA certified full-time farrier living in Fowlerville, Michigan. His column "Hoof & Hammer" appears regularly in RURAL HERITAGE draft-animal magazine, and is reprinted here with permission.