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Crunch

anthracite or bituminous?

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Total new guy here. Thanks for the great forum. I've learned a lot just reading the various posts.

Building my first forge/firepot and getting ready to buy some coal.

I had always assumed that anthracite would be the way to go because (as I understand it) anthracite has less impurities and is closer to pure carbon.

But I just read something (somewhere) that said bituminous was the way to go.

I occasionally travel to parts of PA where anthracite is available, and the next time I'm there, I plan to buy a few hundred pounds of coal. If you were me, would you buy anthracite or bituminous?

Thank you for any help or advice.

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Bituminous is the way to go. It cokes up. In your part of the world there is alot of good quality blacksmithing coal. I'm sure someone will chime in and let you know where to get some.

Here are some coal companies that are in Pennsilvania.

I got this list from the Blacksmith's Gazette.

Clem Malot, HCR 80, Box 549, McConnellsburg, PA 17233. TEL: (717) 485-9314. E-mail: [email protected]

Brumder Ornamental Iron, Inc., 40128 Industrial Park Circle, Georgetown, TX 78626. TEL: (512) 869-2830.

Penn Keystone Coal Co., RD 1 Box 557, Claysburg, PA 16625. E-mail: [email protected] TEL: 814-244-3140.

Liberty Forge, 40128 Industrial Park Circle, Georgetown, TX 78626. TEL: (512) 869-2830.

Bradford Coal Company, Inc., PO Box 368, Bigler, PA 16825. TEL: (814) 342-0529. Contact: Terry Swanson.

Nolt’s Mill, 360 Mount Sidney Rd, Witmer, PA 17585. TEL: (717) 393-1369.

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You want to get your hands on actual 'Blacksmithing Coal'. It is a specific type of bituminous coal: high-coking, low-sulfur, low ash, proper sized lumps, etc. There is a lot of talk about the 'Pocahontas' vein in West Virginia, but you probably won't be able to get too choosy.

So, definitely bituminous, but not just any coal. Make a few phone calls to try and find blacksmithing coal and that someone can deal with you. My coal supplier has one guy who deals with that and he's out half the time. There aren't a lot of small individual customers in the coal biz anymore, so call first to avoid frustration.

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Bituminous- for a number of reasons. As already said it cokes up better but also anthracite is very difficult to light. As you get closer to pure carbon the fuel gets harder to light and to keep going as there is a lower proportion of volatiles- so wood is about the easiest to light, then bituminous coal, then harder and harder grades of coal and finally coke which is very difficult to light and will go out without a forced air draught almost continually. I suppose the ultimate would be to try to forge on a fire of diamonds which are pure carbon- but don't tell the wife I said you could use hers.

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Another aspect in the porous nature of the fuel. Bituminous coal "grows" a bit as the volatiles are burned off and transforms into a porous sponge of fuel. Also the "impurities" of bituminous coal help to glue it together so it is easier to form a cave to weld in inside the fuel.

Just for the curious, when I ran a cam grinder, which I ground formed multi diameter drill bits with, I used a diamond faced tool to face the grinding wheel with. To make a long story short the track of the facing tool was no good and before I really got the hang of that tool I faced half of a grinding wheel off. Then I began to smell urine! I had to check my self to see if there was any "leakage", there was none, then a bit later thinking that I was loosing it I asked a guy working at a station beside mine if he could smell it too. He could, so it was definitely real. When the day was done I started asking around and an old hand told me that what I was smelling was the diamond burning! Some how that makes all the sense in the world. . .

Caleb Ramsby

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Im starting out new as well. Ive went along the railroad tracks near a coal burning power plant and basically got all the coal i could ever want for free. my question is, will it work? I dunno how to tell the difference between coal types, and since its free its kinda hard to pass up.

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Yes it will work. It won't be ideal but any coal will work up to a point. Just try it and see how you get on. Especially when starting don't get too hung up on what you have got. Just get some metal hot and hit it.

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Chia,

The only way to know for sure is to burn it. Power plants almost always burn a bituminous coal. Even really bad coal will work in a forge, you will just have to clean out a lot of clinkers, the clinkers are the silica, ashes and other bits melting into a mass that clogs the air supply of the forge and can influence the ability to get a clean welding heat in a forge.

One way to tell if you don't have a forge is just to get a good wood fire going, with a solid bed of coals and toss on a handful or two of coal, if it is anthracite it will burn with almost no smoke, if it is bituminous it will emit a greenish smoke and smell like charcoal briquettes(which have powdered bituminous coal in them).

The main difference between good blacksmithing coal and bad is how many clinkers they make, anthracite and coke will make almost none.

I don't know about the legal issues involved with using coal fallen from trains, but when my grandfather was a kid he picked it up for his father who was a blacksmith.

Here is a piece of advice that I wish I had gotten when I first started out, don't worry about if something will work or not, just give it a try. If it doesn't work, so what, one way to figure out what will work for you is to figure out what won't work for you. On these forums there is a lot of knit-picking that is often counterproductive, but there is also a lot of solid advice and experiences(good and bad) that a LOT can be learned from.

Have fun and stay safe!

Caleb Ramsby

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Ramsberg's advice on free coal is right on. My more specific recommendations were in response to Crunch's request for information on a coal purchase.

The worst thing likely to happen with free coal is that you have to work a little harder to get enough air to it and spend a little more time cleaning out the clinker.

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If your going to buy anyway, and Bituminous coal is as available as Anthracite you might as well buy it. However I have available some free Anthracite which I have used successfully. I have forged with Charcoal, Bituminous, and Anthracite. I think each of them have advantages and disadvantages. The Anthracite burns almost as clean as the Charcoal, which is important to me as I work in a suburban area. But it burns much longer than the Charcoal, with much less sparking.

Bill

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After using a good deep vein(called Black Magic) bituminous coal from Western Maryland for many years and also some anthracite from PA, I recently bought about a ton(in 50 lb bags) of WV Pocahontas vein coal from Penn Keystone in Claysburg, PA. This coal is the best I have ever used with virtually no clinkers insignificant "green" smoke at start up and excellent coking and caving properties. It is worth the extra cost to me.

Anthracite has high heat capacity and is good for heating heavy sections of iron and casting applications but fire needs continued air to stay alive. This coal takes a toll on your cast iron forge more so than bituminous because of the hotter fire.

I have used homemade hardwood charcoal.
Charcoal gives a clean and near smokeless fire and works great but it consumes too fast to be able to sustain(you have to tend the fire frequently) a good fire. If you have close neighbors they will appreciate the charcoal over coal. All my neighbors are more than 1/4 mile up wind so it doesn't matter here.

Ted

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Bituminous is much better. I do use a lot of Anthracite though only because it is easier for me to get a hold of. It works great but it wont clump like Bituminous does.

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