Just in case you are still looking…find/aquire an old propane or refrigerant bottle. Carefully vent and clear the inside. Cut a 4"-6"hole in the center of the (technically) top and bottom (although you really only need 1 opening
, 2 lets you run longer stock). Use part of tour budget at home depot for a bag of ‘Owinfs Corning: ROXUL" (ROXUL can hold its own with ceramic type blankets). Go to hightemptools.com and order about 20# (thin coat) to 55# (thicker coat)of Mizzou. While waiting cut a 2" gole in the middle of the side of the bottle. Weld (or get someone to do it 4 you) a 1.5"-2" section of schedule 40 black pipe (acpid/remove threaded section first) drill and tap 3-4 1/4-20 holes in the 2" welded pipe. Return to hightemptools.com and order a single venturi burner and a 0-30 psi regulator/POL/5’-10’ propane connection. By this time thw Mizzou should arrive. PM me for mixing/curing instructions (can either give a quick ru by vn-down or mail/fax you a copy. Once the burner and reg kit arrive, get a 20# bottle from the closest place to you (for now). Put burner through 2" pipe and pin inbut I with 3-4 bolts you made holes for, but make sure it does not point straight down the middle…angle to one side or across the top a bit…should havw said that around the “weld 2” of 2" pipe…mix and dry/cure Mizzou over ROXUL" part…apologies… once curing instructions are complete…heat and beat some steel. You should easily reach weld temps, with an ITC100 coat over the Mizzou (get it later…$$$$$$) you can hit smelting temps.
All of that should be right around your budget.
I did it, welding 2 20# propane bottles together, 2 burners (until welding temp is hit, then I cut 1 off) and can weld 5160 (stacks of 1/4"x1 3/4"x6" of 5-7 pieces) in about 3-4 heats , then can draw out to what I wan (5160 can take the heat and moves u der hammer easier close to welding temps…can always thermal cycle/ normalize IF tou are worried about grain size, but I have had no issues after proper HT…it’s virtually bullet proof when I’m done everything)
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