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I Forge Iron

Bituminous first fire...

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OK, so I've been blacksmithing for a couple of months now, using Anchracite because it was the only coal I could get ahold of locally.

My results with the anthracite has been acceptable thus far, but my coal source finally got in a shipment of bituminous, so I thought I'd give it a try.

Made my usual mushroom cap of newspaper and surrounded that with a log cabin of dry wood and lit the fire.

I simply could not believe how much of the infamous green smoke there was!!! That stuff stinks! I'm just glad none of my immediate neighbors were home!

I also noticed that there was quite a bit of what appeared to be a black smoke that I can really only describe as "oily". Is this normal? What can I do to reduce or get rid of it?

The coal itself seems to stick together in a kind of gooey mess, and seemed to have the texture and consistency of styrofoam. Is *this* normal?

The heat from this coal was incredible, much hotter it seems than the anthracite. I also did not have to keep my hair dryer blower running continuously (which, I assume is why hand cranked blowers and bellows work so well with bituminous coal).

My projects for today were:

2 simple coat/key/hat hooks
a colonial pipe lighter (cuz I smoke a pipe. might as well use the fire that's right there instead of my lighter. lol)

Also made a 1" wide chisel out of some 1/2" round coil spring just because I was reading some posts last night on heat treating and tempering and wanted to see if I could do it. Hammer-shaped the straightened out piece of spring, water quenched, hit it with the grinder to make it nice and shiney, then held it in a hole in the fire and watched closely.

It was just plain cool! Out of nowhere, the steel suddenly started to change color! I couldn't remember what color it should be for a chisel, so I quenched it when it got just past blue. I'll post a picture in the "Tools" section later.

Any advice someone might have for working with Bituminous Coal? It's kind of wierd, but I like it.


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Everything you describe is normal for good bitum coal. The heavy smoke can be helped a bit by punching a hole in the center of the fuel mass so the flames can get through and consume the smoke. The 'gooey styrofoam mess' was the formation of coke, which is also why the fire got so hot. The volatiles keep the flame going, which is why you can turn off the electric blower and a hand bellows works just fine. All things considered, it sounds like you had a good day...

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Yep, that's normal.

HW's right - get a hole poked in the top o' that fire to knock down some of the smoke. The nice thing is that if you have any "old-school" neighbors, they'll be over to see the forge in action soon . . . that smoke draws em' right in :)

Leave a supply of the coke from today's fire to start tomorrow's - ring the fire with the green coal and feed it in from the edges as needed and you'll have way less start-up smoke.

Have fun!

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So, that stinky, green smoke really bothered you? Congratulations, you have now converted good coal to coke. You will actually get to like the smell, once you have breathed enough of it....LOL.

Good tips from Hollis and Cyancarrek, that light styrofoamy stuff makes nice, white heat. Careful or you will meet the steel burning monster!!

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well, the green smoke was expected. I thought the way it just kinda hovered over the coal looked pretty cool and a bit on the ethereal side.

What I *didn't* expect was the black smoke, not only the presence of it, but the sheer amount. It reminds me of oil or rubber burning.

Is this a normal smoke with bituminous coal? There seems to be quite a lot of it.

My wife seems to think that this Spring (when we completely re-do the smithy), I might be getting to build a side-draft forge (so she can turn the current forge into a flower pot. lol)


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Grey/Black is normal for an all green-coal start-up.

The smoke can really hang over the whole area on those wet and cool fall/winter days - I've had it so bad that I expected the FD to show up in full gear :o.

Just keep going - with practice you'll find it's pretty easy to control.

Have fun on the new shop and post pics when you can!

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