Hand Crank Forge Blowers for BlacksmithingRoger Pink | May 17, 2017
When most of us think about blacksmithing, medieval swords and armor, or wild-west horses in need of horseshoes generally jump to mind. Certainly, with modern methods of metal working, there are far fewer blacksmiths than there used to be. However, there does remain a robust niche service industry for blacksmithing that includes both decorative and industrial applications. Blacksmiths can repoint, retool and repair specialized hand tools or industrial parts economically. They also are great for providing solutions that preserve the artisan metalworking features of the old buildings found in the historic districts of cities. For quality, authentic metal working and specialized tools and parts, blacksmiths are hard to beat.
Modern blacksmiths still use a forge, hammer and anvil to practice their trade. One feature that can really improve the “feel” of a forge for the blacksmith can be found in hand crank forge blowers. In the past 100 years, electric blowers tended to be used for forges, but lately there has been a small but growing movement to return to a more mechanically precise solution. With hand crank blowers the flow of air is much easier to control, with fine adjustments simply a matter of changing the crank rate. They are quiet compared to vacuum blowers while still pulling a decent amount of air. Also, if the blacksmith has to step away from the forge, they don’t have to worry about burning up the irons left in the fire.
Hand crank blowers operate by moving air with centrifugal force by spinning a fan quickly and forcing air outward into the air delivery pipe. A series of gears are used to step up the number of turns or rotations the fan makes for each turn of the crank. The size of a blower for a good high volume machine is about 10 or more inches in diameter. Ideally, a blower needs only about a half revolution of the hand crank per second to force a strong blast in the fire. Most blowers have some type of mounting flange or lugs cast into their body or housing to allow mounting to a frame or stand.
Hand crank forge blowers have been around a very long time, at least since the mid-1800s. Traditionally they use radial or paddle fans. Those made with ball bearings tend to last longer and are easier to crank, though they must be filled with oil, which can leak through seams over time. For those blacksmiths looking to fire multiple irons at a once, traditional vacuum blowers are probably a better choice since they can provide the volumetric flow needed. For blacksmiths just starting out, or looking for more control, and less noise, hand crank blowers can be a great alternative the helps the metalworker become more in tune with their forge.
As our buildings and industries age and we are increasingly scrambling to preserve and refurbish the metalworking of the past, blacksmiths play a vital role producing tools and décor with soul and flair. The minor imperfections of the century old wrought iron fence can appeal to those surrounded by cookie-cutter metal décor. In a way, the imperfections of hand crafted work have become an indication of quality craftsmanship. A sign that someone who cared took quality materials and shaped them into something useful or beautiful. It shouldn’t be surprising that an industry built upon such values should be embracing the hand crank. After all, what is a hand crank forge blower but just way of taking more personal responsibility for the art?