How big is your coal?


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I'm a hobby level smith in North Georgia, with a small brake disc forge I made by modifying a lawnmower. It works great, but I have trouble getting coal.  The closest blacksmith coal, (pea size anthracite) takes around a 3 hour trip, and is around 20 bucks for a fifty lb sack. Or I can go 25 minutes away and get a 40 lb bag of heating coal (also anthracite) for less than 7 bucks.

 

First thing I learned about lighting coal, is that it's hard as all get out to light heating coal and keep it going. So, I usually end up buying the heating stuff and busting it up with a hammer and a boulder.  Grant you, I've learned tricks to get faster, but this sucks.

 

I've played with making charcoal, but it's time intensive, and burns up a lot more quickly (although I love to use it to start the fire).  I've made gas burners, (mostly for casting) but had trouble getting past 2200 degrees.

 

What do you do? Does the bigger stuff work for you?

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Posted · Report post

Glenn Conner sells good bituminous coal. he will ship it too. Glenn has something to do with I Forge Iron , try contacting him . Good Luck!

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Starting a fire should not be hard!  Save some coke from your last fire and use a little kindling too.  I have seen guys using the heating/hopper  type coal with no difficulty.  Lump coal does need to be broken up but anything from 1 1/2" screen down should work fine once you get used to it.  Put PLENTY of coal in your forge... you need a fireball AND coal all around it coking up.  As the fireball hollows you push a little coke into it and scoop some fresh coal up to start coking.  The coal pile should be equal to the depth of your firepot.  

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I usually make a crater in center of coal/coke in fire pot, wad up one sheet of newspaper, lay some wood chips, splinters (kindling) on paper, douse it with charcoal lighter fluid (couple of table spoons full) and light.... Slowly move coal in to flaming mass and add air... Usually have useable heat in 5 to 10 minutes....

 

Dale

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gallery_1_534_30467.jpg

 

Two 55 gallon drums of bituminous lump coal.

 

You can always use a hammer to make big coal small. I have not found a way to make small coal big.

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Posted · Report post

First of all, you will want to use bituminous. Lights easier than Anthracite.

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I would love bitumous, figured it would be easier to light, it's just harder/more expensive to get. 

 

Is there a time you would want larger coals? Once I finally figured things out (and it took me a long while) I can light with up to about 1.5 inch, but the big stuff is nigh on impossible, at least without that initial fire. Maybe I could burn bigger stuff after it's started. I'm pretty sure I saw the larger stuff burned in a historical/celtic forge.

 

What I usually do is this, break up anthracite from 4-5 inches across down to 1 inch, give or take, with a hammer.  Light with paper with a handful or two of my homemade lump charcoal tossed in. Turn on the blower, and as the flames in the charcoal turn all the way up to 11, toss in my coal/leftover coke. 

 

It works great and rarely misses, but I swear I spend as much time breaking coal as forging. I even tried busting it up with the end of an axle, but nothing used to hold the coal/bust it against, held up to the axle.  I may just have to give in and pay more/ship the stuff, or do the driving.  If anyone knows a better way to break coal, I'm open for ideas.

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Posted · Report post

I wish I could find coal in Ontario for less than $1 a pound!

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My favorite way of starting the forge is to take a big handful of wood shavings and cover them in coke from the previous fire.  Lights quick, burns hot.

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Anthracite is much harder to work with than good bituminous coal---but blacksmiths have even worked using *peat* before---you use what you have access to!

 

As for size pea to nut is easy to work with as it doesn't fall down the grate like fines do and doesn't blow out of the firepot like fines do.  Too big of chunks and you get less surface area burning and so a "colder" and more oxidizing fire.

 

Out here we are using  fines that we store in a bucket of water and try to get to coke into chunks.  If you are getting big lumps of coal===well that is what coal hammers were made for!

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Try Sidney Lewis Welding Supply,2247 US HWY 41, Hampton, Ga 30228.  770 946 4287.

 

Last Oct, 50# bags of blacksmithing coal were $17.50 with bulk buys progressively lower depending on the quantity purchased.

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Calling them in the morning. Not that far in distance, but supposed to be about an hour and a half away. I can run pretty small material, I used a cutdown piece of stainless skillsaw blade for a grate with a bunch of 1/4" holes in them.

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Ended up at Georgia Farrier Supply in Jasper, Ga.  Supposed to be 39 cents a lb, for metallurgical bitumous, which is a little high for the area, but not a lot, and I'm pretty sure I ended up with more weight than I was charged for. Nice folks. Found coal for as low as 15$ per 50# in Dalton, but would have cost me as much or more in gas.

 

Oh, too that one post, the welding supply had it for 17, 16 if you buy a 1000 lbs, but even though the drive was only 10 miles further, the route would have added too much time round trip, and didn't have time today.  May hit them next time if I'm headed that way for something.

 

Kid's birthday tommorow, looking forward to trying this stuff out Friday. Looks great, and I don't have to bust it up for once.

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What Dad and I used was a pipe with a grate in the bottom that was sized for the coal we wanted to burn. The hammer was an old car axle. The studs did a great job of busting the coal up.

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