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I Forge Iron


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    Monroe, WA

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  1. I built a retort based on the Hookway design and wrote it up here. There are other links in this thread that may help you. I haven't used the other method. My retort (named Burnie) also uses the gases from pyrolysis---as does Hookway's---to continue the charcoal process. Basically, I start a fire in the rocket stove (named Rocket J. Stove) with small lengths of wood. After about an hour, the pyrolysis gases start feeding this fire and I don't have to add fuel for about an hour and a half. I then add small pieces of wood to finish the charcoal process. If you look at the pictures in the linked thread above, you should be able to see how the gases are fed into the rocket stove. Rocket stoves burn very hot with little smoke and you can use small pieces of dried materials. I also added a 3-foot length of stove pipe to the top where the rocket stove exits to ensure draw and it works great, though it roars fairly loudly. It's a very clean burn with very little smoke. But there will be smells. Anything on the steel parts (paint, oil, grease, etc.) will burn off and stink. Sealing materials often smell as they heat up. The area around the barrel may get singed and smell, though you can always put the barrel in sand. Just keep cats away or you may heat up sand that gives off a completely different smell you weren't expecting. When you open the main drum to empty the charcoal, which you do the next day otherwise it can explode, I find the smell from inside overpowering, like being stuffed into a chimney that hasn't been cleaned since Charles Dickens was alive. I wear a respirator that also protects from the dust because charcoal is VERY dusty. I wear dispoable gloves and clothes I throw away because you will not get the dust out of your clothes. This is a messy and not fun process. Varying the size of the feedstock (the stuff that goes into the main drum) and how long you let it burn affects the end result. I don't use this charcoal for cooking or smoking food, so I'm looking for full cooked charcoal for smithing. You can get less than fully-pyrolized charcoal by using bigger chunks of material or less burn time. For example, I did a cycle with larger hardwood pieces for 3 hours. All of the material is usable, but some is not fully pyrolized. I now do everything for 4 hours before stuffing the rocket stove opening with mineral wool insulation to put out the fire. You can buy Hookway's design drawings off his website and it may help you visualize how the design works. The key is insulation. I've also found that some smoke is unavoidable. You can lessen it somewhat, but there's always going to be some. I use a clay mix to seal openings because it's cheap and works surprisingly well, and that gives off steam until everything is fully dry. I think there are also variations of this design that use smaller (5-gallon) drums and amount of feedstock that may work better for you---less smoke, less dust, etc. Hope this helps.
  2. Welding tips and tricks Jody isn't just a great welder, he's a great teacher. He goes through troubleshooting techniques as well as every other possible welding topic you can think of. Hope it helps.
  3. Heh. I'm good making charcoal for my own use. I got a chainsaw, machete, and Burnie the retort. I still have to do a couple batches before summer is here---don't want to burn anything outside when it's dry. Re: Chunkers, Inc. My neighbor/pal wants to build one because he loves crap like that. He has a rock crusher already (which is pretty fun, I will admit) and this is his thing. He, of course, is the same neighbor who set himself on fire a couple years ago---dude's over 70, you'd think he'd have some sense, but nooooo. Anyway, it'd be fun, but I had to impose a rule about only buying and building stuff I'll actually use. I know---insane, not normal, and clearly a sign I'm a communist or something.
  4. Frosty, my dude, there is so much feedstock it would make even you weep. And I have my tree guy who chops and chips and a firewood operation just over yonder (end of the gravel road, take a right and there they are). It's the building of a chunker to chop the stuff that people don't want as firewood into the right size that gives me pause. Could I build one? Yes. Could I buy one? Yes. The chunked material would go through a series of screens to get the crap out, and into the retort/charcoal cooker. Cook it all up, back through the screens to sort, and bagged. All doable. But who do I sell it to? I'm not kidding when I say every blacksmith I know uses propane out here. Those of us that don't are few and far between, so I don't see breaking even trying to serve this market. But I might be able to make the other products to even it out. I've even thought that given the wildfires we had last summer---air quality was horrid---I could even pitch the idea of making charcoal as carbon capture and wildfire mitigation or prevention, which is a good message out here in hippie land. But the smell of the retort when you open it up. I don't barf easy but that smell seriously makes me want to and watching people barf is only funny if it isn't you. arkie, in one of my lines of work, we call that Hoss situation an opportunity. He's making the market and having to pave the way tog et people to consider cooking with mesquite. You follow behind. Your overhead regarding marketing would be considerably lower as you surf his brand and sell at a lower price, making your margins healthier. You're not competing with Hoss, you're competing with Kingsford. Hoss is just going to break ground for you.
  5. That mesquite stuff is a dang fire hazard, more than usual. I bought some to give my crappy blacksmithing projects the lovely flavor of the Southwest and it fireflea-ed all over the place. I made some biochar. I won't tell you how I inoculated it because some things should be Left Unsaid. I used a little electric chipper shredder I had for some other experiment and it worked really well except for the dust. I was trying it to see if I could get the charcoal even smaller for another product idea, which didn't work, but I went ahead and used the stuff I had for the biochar. I ended up adding it to the acreage around the apiary when I was fertilizing with composted manure. What I learned was that it's way easier to chunk up the feedstock before tossing it in the retort. I actually drew up a production line that would screen out the blacksmithing bits from the biochar bits and the really small bits used for other products. It's fun to think about that kind of stuff but oy vey, there's no way around how much work it would be on such a small scale. Irondragon is so right---it's the chainsawing and hauling that is brutal. Loading the retort isn't so bad but emptying is torturous.
  6. Sorry, I missed this earlier. That you are complaining about not being able to get the product you want without doing extra stuff...well, there's profit in pain. That's what I was thinking about: selling locally-sourced sustainable charcoal in the right size for blacksmithing to whoever wants to buy it. I did a bit of research on what it would cost to start up as well as to make a variety of charcoal products other than for cooking or smoking with it. There are several other things I do/can/could manufacture, I'm in a good part of the country to sell specialty products (and already do with our apiary), and I have experience with that kind of stuff. But honestly, I don't think there's enough money to offset the un-funness of making charcoal. Maybe I'll change my mind when I start Burnie the retort back up. I like the pyrolysis part---that's neato---but I don't like the mess enough to do it for money.
  7. Where do I get these minions of which you speak? Out here in the sticks, people who are interested in blacksmithing (they all wants to make knives and swords---which should be pronounced with the "w" just to annoy) all go propane. They try forging something and then quit. It's sad, actually. I try to be supportive by telling them, truthfully, that I am the worst smith in the history of fire. Doesn't seem to help, though. I understand why someone would look for fuel other than charcoal, I really do. And I understand why someone would want to order a truckful of charcoal rather than make it themselves. If I thought there was an actual business opportunity (and not just more backbreaking work) in making and selling charcoal, I'd consider it, but there isn't.
  8. With you there, Irondragon. Last winter we had a windstorm that took out a neighbor's large cherry tree that brought down some alders when it landed. We're slowly beavering away at getting it all bucked up. I have some stored for woodturning, another pile for chipping, some for firewood, some for turning into charcoal for putting in Christmas stockings, etc. Oh, my aching back. I make and use charcoal to forge as part of a woodlands forest management. We have a five-acre parcel and have left two-thirds of it as lowland forest with primarily native species. I have harvested deadfalls and fallen brush for Burnie, my charcoal retort. I also have a neighbor who gave me 200# of black bamboo, most of which is split and chopped for retorting---and he has another 300# for me to turn into charcoal as well. (Yes, it's been split as well as chopped---don't want any unintentional explosions.) The challenge is to find a way to "chunk" the feedstock into the right size for the retort. I keep pondering building a wood chunker so I can chunk the pieces directly into the retort and then fire the retort. Haven't done it, not yet, at least, not only because of time but because it requires an investment in machinery I'm not sure I want to make. Regardless, I have plenty of feedstock stored up for this spring's charcoalification all done with small chainsaws, machetes, and bad language. For me, charcoal is a viable forging fuel because I Iive where there are a lot of trees. There's always a tree that has, is about to, or just did come down. TP makes some excellent points about coppicing, etc., as a means for getting feedstock for charcoaling. The raw material is there, but the amount of labor to go from feedstock to charcoal...see the aforementioned backache. So I get why someone wouldn't want to make the charcoal for their forge: you want to heat steel and smash it with a hammer, not grub around with stupid tree parts.
  9. Excellent. When I had to do the electrical in the Wonder Hut, though comparing the Wonder Hut to your project is like comparing mooning somebody to the moon landing, I found once I got going on it, everything flowed---it was quasi-Biblical in that And Then There Was Light. Regardless, good for you and I salute you. Good thing I'm wearing sweatpants, makes the saluting easier. Look, the moon is out. I accept your challenge. But first I need to buy a million feet of flex duct. And a HF anvil. Srsly, dude, this is helpful stuff, even in a small shop. I was thinking of installing a small fume extraction and/or metal dust control system but I didn't want to half-moon (get it?) my way through it. If nothing else, the 20CFM per person guide is a place to start thinking about what I want to do and how. And I'll bet I'm not the only one thinking about a shop build/re-build while following along here.
  10. This Latticino fellow sounds like a useful guy to know. You can tell because he uses terms like "backpressure" and "duct friction" but not in the form of a question, i.e. "What in all that's sacred is backpressure?" or "Do ducts have more or less friction when they quack?" This has really been an interesting build to follow---thanks, jlp. Are you still on schedule for a grand opening? Should I get a beverage ready for toasting? Truthfully, I'm getting a beverage ready, regardless, but congrats on your continuing progress.
  11. Ohio

    Show me your Lathe

    If you want to roll around in jello or mud, or wear a singlet or whatever, no judgment. While you and Nodebt are doing your thing, I will glide away with that South Bend. It's a win-win for us. Not so much for mountmyfish.
  12. Ohio

    Show me your Lathe

    For some reason, I am reminded of this:
  13. Ohio

    Show me your Lathe

    I will fight you for it. And I'm a kicker.
  14. Ohio

    Show me your Lathe

    mountmyfish, that is a terrible lathe and you will be very sad if you try to use it. Because I am kind and thoughtful, I'll swing by from Monroe and take it off your hands, cheap. That way you won't have to worry about it anymore. Just joshin ya. That's pretty and I want it. If you come home and it's gone, well, I won't say I stole it, but I will say that there's a good chance I would be in the vicinity of the stealing. <---This is also a joke, but only kinda.
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