How to Make a Bellows for a Forge


A bellows is a tool commonly used by blacksmiths in forges. This tool is comprised of a central body surrounded by two paddles connected with an air bladder. The two paddles can be spread apart to fill the bladder with air. When the paddles are squeezed together it forces the gathered air through a nozzle that is pointed at the base of a fire. Fire temperatures can be manipulated by increasing or decreasing the amount of airflow from the bellows.

Things You'll Need

  • Measuring tape
  • Scissors
  • 2 sheets plywood, ¼ inch thick, 4 by 4 feet
  • Jigsaw
  • Drill
  • 1-inch drill bit
  • Hacksaw
  • 1-inch diameter metal pipe
  • Upholstery fabric
  • Staple gun
  • Staples
  • 1-by-1-inch lumber
  • Circular saw
  • 19 wood screws, 1 ¾ inches
  • 2-by-2-inch lumber
  • Wood glue
  • 8 wood screws, ½ inch
  • Vinyl
  • Duct tape
  • Draw a teardrop shape on a piece of paper. The teardrop should be approximately 36 inches long and 14 inches at the widest point. Locate the point at the top of the teardrop where the edges of the shape are 2 inches apart. Draw a horizontal line connecting both edges at this point. Cut out the pattern.

  • Place the teardrop pattern on a piece of ½-inch plywood board and trace the pattern four different times. Cut out all four pieces with a jigsaw. This will be your bellows' top, bottom and body pieces.

  • Place a body piece of plywood in front of you. Measure a distance of 5 ½ inches from the left and right sides of the piece at the widest part of the shape. Drill a 1 inch hole at each measurement. Repeat this step on the second body piece.

  • Place the top of the bellows in front of you. Measure a distance of 3 ½ inches from the left and right sides of the piece at the widest part of the shape. Drill a 1-inch hole at each measurement. Measure 1 inch from the interior edge of each drilled circle and drill a 1-inch hole at each measurement. You will have four holes in a vertical line spaced 1 inch apart.

  • Measure, mark and cut a piece of upholstery fabric that is 4 inches long and 8 inches wide. Center this piece of fabric over the holes in the top of the bellows. Staple the top edge of the fabric to the wood. The top edge of the fabric is the edge closest to the 3-inch flat top of the teardrop shape.

  • Measure, mark and cut 15 pieces of 1-by-1-inch lumber that are 1 inch long. These are the body spacers.

  • Lay one body piece in front of you. Position the 15 body spacers around the outer edge of the body piece so that the outside edges are aligned. Lay the second body piece on top of the spacers. Join the three layers of wood together with wood screws. Leave the 2-inch horizontal portion of the body open.

  • Measure, mark and cut a piece of 2-by-2-inch lumber that is 2 inches long. Drill a 1-inch hole in the center of one side. This is the mount for your pipe.

  • Position the mount at the 2-inch top of the body. Pipe a thin layer of wood glue around the edge of the mount and push the two pieces together. Allow the glue to dry.

  • Attach one edge of a hinge to the 2-inch end of the front and back piece. Make sure the hinge is attached to the side without the upholstery fabric. Align the front and back pieces on either side of the body so the hinges are on the outside. Attach the free ends of the hinges to the mount.

  • Measure, mark and cut a 1-inch diameter piece of metal pipe that is 8 inches long with a hacksaw.

  • Spread a thin layer of glue around the edges of the mount hole. Slide the pipe halfway into the hole and allow the glue to dry.

  • Wrap a piece of vinyl around the exterior of the bellows leaving 2 inches of material sticking up over the top of the bellows. Secure the extra material to the bellows top with a thin layer of glue and staples.

  • Turn the bellows on the side and open the front and back of the bellows as far as possible. Fold the vinyl around the back of the bellows. Secure 2 inches of material to the back edge of the bellows using a thin layer of glue and staples. Cut off the excess vinyl.

  • Wrap duct tape around the mount and hinges of the bellows to make sure that there is a tight seal.

  • Measure, mark and cut two pieces of 2-by-2-inch lumber that are 12 inches long. Position the piece vertically along the bottom of the bellows so that 6 inches sticks out over the edge. Secure the lumber to the top of the bellows with two wood screws. Repeat this process on the bottom of the bellows.

Tips & Warnings

  • Make sure that the edges of the vinyl are secured on all of the sides. Any unsealed areas will allow air to escape and alter the performance of the bellows.

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  • Photo Credit Hemera Technologies/ Images
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