Traditional Japanese swordsmithing forges can be constructed with simple materials and natural ingredients. This article will present a photographic overview of the process of refurbishing the swordsmith’s forge at a museum on Vancouver Island.
Most of history was forged with very simple equipment made from found and natural materials. A basic charcoal forge can be made with clay, brick, or even mud and stone.
The forge was originally constructed in 2016 and was in need of some repair and adjustments for efficiency aimed at its current type of operation. The first goal was to repair the walls and tuyere using the few available firebricks and other materials on hand. The second was to reduce the charcoal bed and floor depth for smaller project work and to cut down on the amount charcoal fines needed to insulate it during use. The large scrap anvil was also replaced at a later date.
Raising the Forge Floor
The lower half of the entire forge was filled with charcoal fines (kona-zumi), filtered through a ~5mm screen but caught by a window screen to separate the dust out. The charcoal bed provides an insulated and adjustable floor depth for the forge area and is wet down before each lighting of the forge to prevent it burning up.
For the current use of this forge a deep fire is rarely required so the floor of the forge was filled in and raised to a layer closer to the normal operating depth. The existing charcoal bed was shoveled out, the brick walls rebuilt, and the floor filled with stones and rocks to about 2sun below the required depth.
Replacing the Higuchi
The tuyere side wall is constructed of hard kiln brick and a new higuchi (tuyere) is built from brasque fire clay (6:2 charcoal powder and clay). Some schools build the tuyere separately and allow to dry before installing (as in the original build) but in this case it was built in place and allowed to dry after installing (some schools don’t even wait for drying before lighting the forge!).
Modifying the Forge Floor
The rough stone floor is filled with smaller stones as much as possible and then about 1sun of brasque fire clay (6:2 charcoal powder and clay) is used to provide a smooth surface for the charcoal bed to rest on. There is space for about 1sun of charcoal fines below the tuyere to protect the clay floor of the forge and allow for some depth adjustment.
Brick Workshop Floor
Views of the Forge
Special thanks to Pierre Nadeau for generously providing the fuigo for this project, along with the blacksmith crew who assisted with moving brick and stone. Thanks specifically to Dave Kasprick for enthusiasm, encouragement, and sharing his shop space and to the Craig Heritage Museum for hosting the forge.