A forge blower is a device designed to create air flow toward a fire in a coal forge or other type of forge system. This device replaces the hand-operated bellows a blacksmith would traditionally use to stoke the fires to keep the temperature high enough for metal working. A modern forge blower will be electrically operated to ensure consistent air delivery and a more powerful stream of oxygen reaching the fires and the coals being heated. The air will usually be directed through a pipe known as a tuyere to ensure proper delivery to the fire.
In the past, an assistant was needed to operate a bellows, which was a type of air blower that was operated by hand. This person was responsible for stoking the fire before and during the metalworking process, for which the blacksmith was responsible. The assistant would need to be able to stay out of the blacksmith's way, but also be ready to keep the fires appropriately hot when necessary. This could make for a crowded work space, and injuries were possible as a result. Today, the forge blower is mounted out of the way and it eliminates the need for an assistant to operate the air flow machine.
The size of the forge blower can vary according to the size of the fire pot and hearth. In many cases, the forge blower is quite large because it must house both a motor and other components that create the flow of air. Once the fan within the forge blower creates an airflow, the air is forced through a tube that redirects it toward the fire pot above. The coals within the fire pot are then stoked to the appropriate temperature and maintained at that temperature to ensure a better metalworking environment.
Before electric blowers became common, some were operated by a hand crank. This type of forge bellow was the technology that essentially replaced hand bellows that were pumped; this unit was instead outfitted with a hand crank mounted to the side of the bellow body. An assistant was still usually necessary to operate this machine, but the air blower could be mounted away from the fire pot and hence away from the blacksmith working the metal. The assistant would stand away from the hearth and turn the hand crank vigorously to produce an airflow that could be redirected through a pipe to the fire pot.