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I Forge Iron

Help identifying coal...


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I have a problem. When I went to MS for the week learning with Brian Brazeal it was the first time ever I got to use coal (bituminous). I started the fire with either newspaper balls or pine cones. (I almost always light it with newspaper just to do it a little harder and get the practice) but never was hard. It almost lighted as easily as the mesquite lump charcoal I've been using all this time.

So I came back and have been trying to find coal. A friend of mine works in a company that gets the coal for the iron and other industries in northern México so I asked him if he could get me samples to find out what was the best (the name for it here in México) I said I wanted bituminous coal with so and so levels of ash, sulfur, BTU's etc. He comes back after a time with a 50lb bag of "something". Big chunks and it feels different that the one I used in MS.

Meanwhile I built a 55 side blast forge, following the BP (thanks Glenn) and a book that Frank Turley mentioned in the "Metal Artist Forum" while discussing side blasts with John B. Great book by the way, maybe I'll write a review in the "Book Reviews" section later. It's "The Blacksmith and his Art" by J E Hawley.

I had to break the chunks of "the fuel" to small pieces, being my first fire of the forge I had to use firebricks to make a firepot while I have enough ashes.

First try I only used newspaper. Nothing. Strange because that was easy with good coal. Next few tries I built a fire with newspaper and firewood... enough firewood to keep running a flame, sometimes bigger that in MS for 15 minutes through "the fuel". Nothing, not even a little amber nor coal smoke. When the wood was out because it became ashes, "the fuel" is as black as if it was never in contact with the flame, it was not affected. It was as if I was using stones for fuel. I'm thinking I have either anthracite or coke; but being so heavy, I'm thinking the first. I'm including pictures of "the fuel" :) my 55 forge, and the info from the book I used.

I hope it can be identified with the pictures.

Thank you for your patience with this long post and for the help I might get.










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Looks like industrial coke to me. Very Hard to light and needs an electric blower to stay lit as it can go out in the time it takes you to work the piece on the anvil.

OTOH it burns VERY hot and with little to no smoke.

The folks I know who use it (and love it) use Oxy-Acetylene torch to light it. I have found it on the train tracks and used it by adding it to a regular coal firge that was burning well---coked up.

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Ok, so it may be some kind of coke then. Then I made matters worse by moistening it first thinking it was coal, hehehe. I'll try again tomorrow with a dry batch. I'm using an electric blower, and the last 3 times I tried, I had a wood fire going strong, then covered it with the stuff and it continued to burn for at least 10 to 15 minutes through the coke/whatever until the wood was consumed to the end, i.e., turn to ashes and it was out with no effect to the coke.

Thank you for your answers


PS. I'll ask the guy who gave it to me, what he gave me because I had said specifically I wanted to try coke, either pet coke or metallurgical as my last try; not the first ;)

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To my way of thinking your fire is a bit small. Try to make it a full brick length square. The fuel looks like some Pa industrial coke I got one time. Burns only with constant air. Stay away from the exhaust though as it will give you a head ache that aspirin will not cure.

See if you can contact Buddy Leonard or Garey Ford in MS for some good blacksmithing coal.

Till then, use chunks of wood (pallet wood) about 4 inches long for fuel. The radiant heat can get intense, but you wear a leather apron when you forge so no problem (grin) The forge will eat wood as wood is not as high in BTU per pound as coal or other fuels.Pallets are free so it equals out at the end of the day.

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Now I'm quite sure it's some kind of coke. I did the same as yesterday, i.e., newspaper and small wood pieces but used dry "fuel" it took a while but it ignited; no smoke at all (that's what made me think it must be coke)(Also no smell but I used for just under 1 hour... I didn't got the headache yet. Just trying to be cautious Glenn). I run the blower for almost 45 minutes just studying the behavior of this fuel. It got VERY hot but never got to the top of it. I had to introduce a piece of 1/2" round to see what happened, it got to yellow in about 2 minutes, from cold. Then from dull red to yellow again in 30-45 seconds or so; but the fireball was located about 2 inches down. Then I stopped the blower; 5 minutes later it was still glowing red, restarted the blower and it started again. Then I stopped the blower again and waited 10-15 minutes. This time the fire went completely out

I know, its the first fire, with new forge, with unknown fuel. I'll have to tweak it but I might get there quicker if you look at what I'm doing so I enclosed more pictures. How the fire looks; the size of the "firepot" (it's 4 1/2" x 10" x 5" deep or so); the "sacrificial tuyere" and the tuyere's diameter air hole (3/4"). The good thing is I can forge different sizes from the same tube and just reforge and move it forward each time it burns up until it disappears ;). I also included pictures of the complete setup although I still don't know how it will end looking after tweaking everything. You can also see how the fuel looks after burning for 45 minutes and is cold. No clinkers yet :)

Thank you again.










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I ran into some of that stuff last fall while doing a demo in a ghost town in Pierce, AZ. They had a whole bin of it. I wondered what it was it looked like coke but none like I have ever seen. I threw some in the green coal fire I had going and did not really liked the way it burned. Sounds like from the other post it might be industrial coke, it would be nice to know for sure. To me it looked like pumice.

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I used to have a large chunk of it that I found on an abandoned RR siding. I used it when welding to cover the top of the fire when I had burned it out and needed to get just one more weld in my cave fire and smoohed the coke from the top and sides in and covered it with my slab of industrial coke.

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Order a sample of GOOD coal from Kayne and Sons. See what you wanted to see in Mississippi. I never saw anything at ARTMANIA that is better than we are forced to burn down here in the South. We just dont get the finest bituminus coal here. I am pretty sure Steve hit it "lava rocks" you should have at least smelled the petroleum coke stink.

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