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I Forge Iron

Charcoal or coal, which is best?

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It depends on lots of factors. Relative cost of each remembering you are likely to go through 3x the amount of charcoal as coal. Do you have neighbours that might not enjoy the smell of coal? Do you have to worry about charcoal throwing embers and starting a fire somewhere? Are you trying to match a time period?

I use charcoal at home that I make from the scrap lumber around the farm because it's free. I use coal when I'm at the museum. I burn lots more metal in coal and don't like cleaning the clinker all the time but I like the speed of heating and not having to have to continually add fuel to the fire. Either one is fine for me and both work well. Charcoal is a much cleaner fire and easier to tend if you're starting out without anyone to teach you how to work with coal.

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What are the particulars of your forge. While both are solid fuels there are some forge particulars that may make your forge better for one than the other. Charcoal likes a side blast better. Coal works fine in a bottom blast. Charcoal also likes a well insulated forge.
There are differences in the fuels themselves. Charcoal, I find easier to start, not as much smoke, the ash tends to be fine enough to fly out of the forge, less clinker and it requires less air. Coal is denser therefore less feeding of the fire, you'll use about the same weight but less volume with coal. You can get hot enough with either to melt steel.
Then there are neighbor issues (or not), personal preference, which is the better deal.


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