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Lighting a Coal / Coke Forge


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Are there any tips on lighting a Coal or Coke forge please

So far I have simply used a small rag soaked in oil and then built up the coal around it. I have also tried soaking the Coal in BBQ fluid and lighting it - that worked quite well too.

I was interest in when I should start introducing the air (electric fan with speed control). I started adding air as soon as the fire had taken hold and seemed to get a good fire going quite soon.

Once I had a good fire, I added more air

I would be interested in the proper way of doing this as I am probably making you cringe

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One option is to go to the hardware store and purchase a "coal chimney" or to make one. It is basically a metal tube about 6" in diameter with holes in the side. You put newspaper in the bottom and then an inch or two of charcoal then fill the rest with coal. Sit the device in a safe place within the forge. Light the newspaper. No fluids necessary. The fire travels up into the charcoal then the charcoal lights the coal. :D

Or you could do it the traditional way, newspaper with kindling, with coal on top. Light paper and slowly crank the air. Again, no fluids.

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I use newspaper, small pieces of dry wood kindling, coke from the last forging session and a gently increasing air blast, per the blueprint. Don't be afraid to use plenty of newspaper. I usually use four or five sheets. I've never had any troubling getting the fire to take since I learned this method.

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This is how I start a fresh fire with green coal.

I cut a strip of cardboard between 1 1/2-2" wide and a couple feet long, coil it up, place it over the air grate and let it spring open a little bit. Then I pile screened 3/4" coal around it to hold it in position and mound it up till it's a crater with an inch or so of the coil showing in the bottom. I then pack the wetted fines around the outside of the mound. I give it a gentle blast and drop a couple stick matches in the center of the coil. Once the cardboard is burning I cover it with more 3/4" coal slowly enough it maintains an open flame. As the flame grows I add more coal till the mound is full and increase the blast.

A couple notes:

#1. On the rare occasion I burn coal I coke it up before starting to use it. It gets all the smoke out of the way early and greatly reduces the time I have to spend managing the fire.

I screen my coal to help control how it burns and cokes. The 3/4" screened coal allows air to pass through it reasonably easily so the entire mound cokes uniformly. The wetted fines on the outside contain the fire within the mound, directing the volatiles up to the top where it can burn cleanly. It makes the whole process a lot less smokey and dirty.

#2. I break all my coal up and screen it on a 3/4" sieve and a #4 sieve. I keep the fines wet and once the fire is going will use it like cement if I'm having trouble keeping the mound in tact.

#3. The cardboard coil acts like a blow torch directing flame up through the coal and naturally leaves a bit of a void over the ari grate which helps keep the air moving well. Cardboard burns about 300f hotter than paper which speeds the process.

#4. If I'm starting with left over breeze (forge coke) I do it the same way but surround the coil with the breeze. This results in a much faster fire of course.

#5. Once my mound is burning fully with flame covering most if not the whole thing and starting to become plastic like hot asphalt, I use a short handled shovel to shear it loose over the air grate and turn it over to finish the coking. This only takes a few more minutes of moderate blast.

Then I break it up with the shovel and quench with water and storing it around the back of the forge behind the duck's nest. If I plan on starting right away I leave the fire going over the air grate and rebuild the mound right away.

I do NOT water the duck's nest or fire pot if I'm using a forge with one.

This seems long and drawn out but in practice the fire is ready to forge in (if you're using a green coal fire) faster than you can read this. Coking up a 5gl. bucket takes about 15 mins.


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I like to use a wood shavings, kindling and scrap wood. A couple handfuls of charcoal can be used to replace the kindling. Kerosene-based firelighter blocks can be used but I find that they don't burn up by the time I'm raking the coke and tend to produce nasty fumes.

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just had my first coal burn expernace today. and something i have noticed. charcoal burns best starting the fire with the fan ON to start

Coal on the other hand dosnt like to start its burn if its too windy. it likes to start calm and once it catches youll hear a *POOF* wich is when you know it cought fire and its time to hit the "turbo" then those puppys get nice and hot!

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Sounds like you need to control your air blast Dan.

Coal isn't going to light well with the blower going full blast. It isn't going to do what you want at all running full blast all the time.

An air gate after the blower or choke plate on the blower intake will give you control. You have to be careful to make sure the motor isn't cooled by the blower. If it is you need to keep the air flowing or chance burning the motor out.

To do this, make a waste gate which is a valve that redirects the air rather than blocking it.


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