How to make a blacksmith's bellows

A blacksmith uses a fire bellows to increase the intensity of the fire when forging. This allows the blacksmith some control over the stoking of the flames. A fire bellows has a narrow nozzle, a broad air chamber and thin handles. The shape is similar to the club shape on a deck of cards. The pointed end of the club is extended to create the nozzle of the bellows. Leather or vinyl surrounds or encases the centre chamber allowing the bellows complete extension and compression for maximum use.

Measure, mark and cut a piece of newspaper 5 3/4-by-14-inches. Fold the paper in half lengthwise to form a 2 7/8-by-14-inch long strip.

Line the edge of the ruler up with the right hand 2 7/8-inch end. Make a mark 1 inch from the fold. Repeat the process on the left hand side of the newspaper strip.

Line the ruler up with the 1-inch mark at the right end of the newspaper strip. Draw a 3-inch line perpendicular to the fold line. Line the ruler up with the 1-inch mark at the left end of the newspaper. This is the nozzle. Draw a 5-inch line perpendicular to the fold line. This is the handle.

Connect the end of the handle with the end of the nozzle by making a large curve across the gap. The curve is the chamber section of the bellows. Smooth the intersection of the bellows chamber, handle and nozzle with gentle curves. This is necessary to ensure a uniform fit of the vinyl when adding it to the bellows.

Cut the bellows shape from the newspaper along the drawn edge. Open the newspaper to show the shape of the bellows. Complete a second paper template if not satisfied with the first.

Place the paper template on a 14-inch flat board and trace around the outside edge. Place the board with the bellows drawing on top of the second 14-inch flat board. Clamp the boards together. Cut the shape from the two boards using a band saw.

Remove the clamp from the boards. Rasp or flat file the outside edges of the chamber section and handles on both boards. A gentle curve is necessary on the edges to prevent the vinyl from ripping during use. Set one board aside to use as the back to the bellows.

Locate the centre of the bellows chamber and drill a 5/8-inch hole. Drill a second 5/8-inch hole in the centre of the handle 1/2-inch in from the end. This is the front board for the bellows.

Cut a 2-inch section off the 3-inch nozzle of the back board of the bellows.

Flip the front board for the bellows over so the rounded edges are on the bottom. Line up the 2-inch section cut from the back board to the nozzle end. Apply a layer of wood glue between the layers. Clamp the 2-inch section of board to the end of the nozzle making sure to line up the three edges. Allow the glue to dry 24 hours.

Clamp the front board in a bench vice so the glued 2-inch piece of wood is on a vertical axis pointing straight up. Mark the centre of the 2-inch board. Drill a 1/2-inch hole through the length of the 2-inch board on the mark. This is the location for the nozzle tip.

Remove the front board from the bench vice. Remove the clamps. Place the front board on a flat surface so the glued 2-inch board is on top. Place and match the back board of the bellows on top of the front board.

Measure and cut a 2-inch square of vinyl. Place the vinyl square so it is half over the joint between the glued block and the back board. Secure the 2-inch square in place with two to three carpet tacks on the glued block and on the back board.

Open the two handles of the front and back board of the bellows. Insert the mail-to-mail compression pipe coupling through the 1/2-inch hole between the front and back boards in the glued piece of wood. Secure the coupling into place with the flare nut.

Cut a piece of vinyl 1/2-by-20-inches long. Insert the end of the strip through the hole in the bellows handle. Extend the handles 6-inches apart. Insert piece of scrap lumber between the handles to hold in place. Wrap the strip of vinyl around the handles and tie a not in the vinyl to prevent the handles from opening farther than 6-inches.

Wrap a 9-inch strip of vinyl around the bellows beginning on one side of the nozzle end of the wood, around the chamber, stopping at the opposite side of the wood creating the nozzle. Add approximately 1-inch to the length. Cut the shape of the vinyl so it extends past the edge of the bellows 1-inch. The shape will depend on the finished shape of the bellows.

Remove the vinyl and squeeze a zigzag line of gorilla glue along the edges of the wooden nozzle and chamber. Replace the vinyl, making sure to wrap the 1-inch edge of vinyl over the top of the top board and the back of the back board. Secure in place with carpet tacks every 1/2-inch. Allow the glue to dry 24 hours before use.

Things You'll Need

  • Two 1-inch thick by 6-inch wide by 14-inch long wooden boards
  • Newspaper
  • Pencil
  • Scissors
  • Ruler
  • Band saw
  • C-clamp
  • Rasp or flat file
  • Drill
  • Drill bits
  • Bench vice
  • Vinyl
  • 1/2-by-1/2-inch male-to-mail compression pipe coupling
  • 1/2-inch flare nut
  • Wood glue
  • 1/2-inch carpet tacks
  • Hammer
  • Gorilla glue
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About the Author

Kim Blakesley is a home remodeling business owner, former art/business teacher and school principal. She began her writing and photography career in 2008. Blakesley's education, fine arts, remodeling, green living, and arts and crafts articles have appeared on numerous websites, including DeWalt Tools, as well as in "Farm Journal" and "Pro Farmer."