Sign in to follow this  
buddha

Is Coal worth it? charcoal burns so fast..

Recommended Posts

new here, first post, been reading some of the forum and such...really like what i see here, love the forum and thanks for all the great info already posted here...

Issue is i am seeing that i burn through charcoal so fast. used both hard wood lump charcoal and home made charcoal (fallen tree limbs and 2 x 4s) and both go so fast.

I built me a Break Drum Forge, well its a rotter (still looking for a drum)...i already clayed up the holes and shaped it to a more of a V. i am using a 2" black iron/steel pipe as the blower channel/pipe/ash drop and have 3/4 of the opening covered with tape to reduce the flow, using a 9.99$ hair dyer on low, from target. every time i turn around i need to throw another handful of charcoal into the forge.... i hear that coal will last longer, it this so or i am i missing something with my set up...should it burn this fast, the blower too fast, not sure where i am going wrong...

thanks all

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Do you turn off the blower when you don't have metal in the fire? this will help save a lot of fuel although it can be aggravating at times. I have a foot pedal from an old sewing machine on mine to control the blower. It is a cheap blowdryer set on low. I rarely use full power on the low setting even with coal and it puts out way more air than needed with charcoal.
Back to your question, I don't know where you are but YES, coal is worth the money if you can get it. I can get 50# of coal for about 15$ through Blacksmith Association of Missouri. A 50# bag of lump charcoal is about 20$ and the coal lasts me about 4x longer in my brake drum forge. If I was good at fire management it would last even longer.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Well your coal does have more BTU's than charcoal... thus a given amount of coal ought to produce more heat than a similar amount of charcoal. Just as a very general idea I will burn about 5 coal shovels full of coal in each forging session (about 3 to 4 hours). I can burn more if heating larger pieces or forge welding. I get by on a bit less if just making nails. I have not used charcoal so I can't give you a direct comparison. So I figure that each 50 pound bag of coal will supply me for about 3 forging sessions... 10 to 12 hours of forge time. In addition to the lower heat content in charcoal it also gives off more radiant heat, which is wasted in warming the smithy, so there is slightly more work doable with the coal than the charcoal than the ratio of BTU content would indicate.

Pretty hard for me to advise you about the actual fire control at your forge when I cannot see it. It is a fairly complex subject as depth of fire, air supply, fire shape, heat levels, clinker or ash content are just some of the factors that can have effects.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Depending on how long the session is, I go through maybe 5-10# of new coal, and maybe another 5# of coke (that I've saved from previous fires). I pay about $20 for 50#, and at this point I wouldn't consider using anything else. Can be a little tough to get started (usually that's operator error) but coal is worth it, for sure. IMHO, of course. :)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Ya I live in Austin, Texas. Not much coal down here, but was looking to maybe order some. I think I saw something like 55$ shipped :|

And yes I was leaving the fire on while nothing heating up. Will have to look into getting a petal like noted, as well as a dimmer switch. See if that helps.

One more question guys/gals, what size opening (hole size/amount) should I use, currently I have it opened 100% with a screen to keep things form falling...

And not sure if it's me and my fire or just the limitation of the same forge, I can't seem to heat anything over 4" long.. Looks like I might need a better forge if I want to do much... Anyone with a drum/rotter forge do any 12" size knifes/dagger/tongs?

Thanks again for all the ideas and understanding...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Coal and charcoal have similar energy content POUND FOR POUND. Energy content by volume has significant differences, with coal being more dense.

A 4 inch length of heat is suitable for many projects. You can try deepening the fire with a couple bricks along side your rotor/firepot and see if that helps any, since you are using charcoal and charcoal likes a deep fire with a light blast.

Phil

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Charcoal really goes well with a hand crank blower or bellows. Pretty much any electric blower puts out way too much air for most charcoal fueled forges and so you have to waste or meter it severely!

I like how SOFA had their forges set up where the air is only on while you are standing on the foot switch---keeps new folks focused on the forge and burns up much less coal and *steel*!

As to if coal is worth it---well some coal isn't worth it if they offer to pay you to haul it away! Other coal is the stuff you dream about when you have good dreams. A different fuel is a different learning situation though. Propane is probably the easiest fuel to learn on as it's more of a set it and forget it situation with a decent forge. Charcoal is next easier and coal the hardest as it often takes more "messing" with the fire as you forge.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm using a brake drum forge, and I generally keep the drum full of coal/coke, and pile more coke on top of stuff as it's heating up. I have a couple of slots cut in the edges of my table so I can work on longer lengths of material and have them stick out the ends/sides.

The higher fuel height helps get the heat to those things that I can't actually fit lower in the drum. Seems to work for me.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Yes the problem with charcoal is you must keep adding new charcoal.
But for me I would have to drive 100 mile one way to buy coal.
I make charcoal out of scrap 2 X ? wood that I get for free with 55 gal barrels and a lid so I only have some labor involved filling and emptying the barrels.
I dont see the difference between hard wood or pine charcoal you have to keep adding buy the handfulls every heat.
I have a forge with a small electric blower that I shut off or close the air intake between heats.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Coal will last much longer than charcoal. When I first started, I was using charcoal in my forge. I got some coal from the same organization Elemental did and it has lasted me much longer. It's also made blacksmithing more financially feasible, considering I'm not blowing through 20 bucks in charcoal a week.

The tradeoff is that you'll have a (some say smelly) smoke that you won't get with charcoal. If you're somewhere that it won't bug anyone, see if you can get some coal. I would check with any local blacksmith organizations to see if they sell it.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thank you all, I think I'll do both, slow my blower down and get some coal. I have found some for cheap about a 180mile away, might take some time off and go pick a bag or 3...since shipping will be 30$ a bag, I can just put that in gas and get a few..

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I use Walmart's Royal Oak lump charcoal because it is cheap and available. If I could get a good quality, clean, low sulpher, bituminus, at near the same price and availability I would use it. If I was still a full time professional smith, rather than a hoby-smith, I would use coal and also gas forges.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Sign in to follow this