Tag Archive for Survival

Back to Basics


I was visiting my in-law’s farm a few months ago and found a book sitting on the night stand. Back to Basics is an old Reader’s Digest book that has been republished several times. I found my copy at Amazon. I think I paid about $3.50 for mine and being a ‘Prime’ member I didn’t even pay for shipping. The book I recieved was pretty much in mint condition. I’m sure it sat on someone’s book shelf for years untouched. I have thumbed through the book and I have to say it was worth every penny. I’m not a ‘prepper’ by all means but I can appreciate old methods and doing things a more traditional way. I do a lot of masonry work and have gone back and forth with grinders and chisels. I have always found it more rewarding building a project with a chisel and hammer vs power tools.

Anyhow, Back to Basics has a wide range of information including leather tanning, building and raising barns, metal works and more. My thought is to pick a topic and talk about it for my readers. Since the magazine is IRON MIKE and our motto is ‘Forge On’ I thought it fitting to lead with the topic of building a forge with a brake drum.


The book was published in the 1980s and says that you can buy a new coal burning forge with a hand cranked blower for about $150. A quick (and not lengthy) look on the internet pointed me to a couple that are still in that range. I did see a few on up to $400. Like anything I’m sure you can find some for less and a whole lot more. The book explains that there are four parts of a forge that are key.

  • Fire pot with an air grate in the center
  • A blower with a way to regulate air flow
  • A pipe or hose connecting the fire pot and blower
  • A grate that allows ash to fall through and be removed

A truck brake drum is recommended for the fire pot. The instructions tell you to “bolt a flange beneath the bottom of the drum.” The flange should be one that can receive a 2″ threaded pipe. The diagram shows the 2″ pipe connecting with a 2″ tee. From there another 2″ pipe continues straight down just a few inches past the tee and is terminated with a 2″ threaded cap. The 90 off of the tee becomes the port for airflow from the blower to the fire pot.

There are several suggestions for a blower in the instructions. Everything from a hair dryer to vacuum cleaner exhaust fan. It does suggest that using a manual fan rather than a motor driven one will provide a more precise flow control of air.


Mounting the brake drum should be based on your needs. You could create a platform that is more permanent using something like concrete or CMU blocks (I’d suggest looking into a fire brick or mortar to help provide insulation to the heat. This will prevent cracking.) The diagram shows using smaller flanges with 3/4″ threaded flanges bolted into the base of the drum. From their they used three 3/4″ pipes to create a tripod stand.

One other item that they use in the diagram but not in the instructions is sheet metal grate. Essentially a round disc that fits into the drum  with holes in the center. This will be for your ash clean out. Create a pattern on a piece of paper then trace it with a marker. Use a good set of tin snips to cut the disc out. Use a drill to create the holes in the center of the disc to allow for the ash to fall down into the trap.

If you get a chance buy this book. Its filled with useful information. If you build one send me your pictures and let me know how you built it and what you’re doing with it. I’d like to know.

Forge On