Re: building a forge
My husband built his first forgebox from an empty 55 gal. steel drum back in the mid 1950s when he started forging his sword blades as a teen. Used a #400 Champion forgeblower to attach it. Now he uses a commercially made 1930s forgebox. Although he could have made a gas powered forge, he has always preferred coal since he has better "heat" control...especially when he tempers.
You can still find old farrier's/Blacksmith portable forges like Hawg's. My husband has one powered by a #40 Champion blower. When he got it, the bronze gears were still in good shape. All that was needed was to be regreased. Better than being used as a "quaint flower pot".
Usually these portables had either #40 Champions or same size Buffalo type.
Occasionally you will find one that used a lever action "rack and pinon" style "pump" to turn a large leather belt powered blower. These were made in the late 1890s up through the early 1900s for farm and farrier use. These sold through Sears or Montgomery Wards.
Not all steels are good for making knives...and especially if you decide to make a longer sword blade. Too little carbon and the steel will be too soft for a suitable blade and you can't temper it. Tool steel alloys are too hard and brittle. I have seen a sword blade made from tool steel snap when its owner was showing it to some friends. Stainless is the same way....It was developed as a "rust free" steel alloy. And despite it being used for all sorts of knives, commercially made "swords" et.c......if you want to start out making a good knife, stick with a high carbon steel.
The higher carbon steels like 1080, 1084, and 1095 are good blade steels but the 5160 alloy is the King. This alloy was actually used by Frankish swordsmiths in the 8th century and found as "mined" ore in specific Celtic held areas from the Iron Age. Even the Thracian smiths used it. The alloy has a certain amount of chromium and manganese in the iron ore. When forging it out, you change/rearrange the molecular structure. After proper oil tempering and annealing, you create a tough, yet springy blade.
From the beginning my husband used Spring Steel 1/4" leaf springs for his sword blades and any knife/daggers too.
Wit needs the wanderer in foreign lands,
At home, all is easy