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JustinJ1982

life of coal in forge

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Im really just now getting started smithing, or trying to smith lol. I was wondering what the lifespan of coal is. I see people with forges that have a looooot of coal. I guess what Im trying to figure out is if it can be relit and does it just burn up or do you have to clean out the "used" coal in a forge? Hope Im not confusing anyone but myself.

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I know what you are trying to ask, but let me answer you questions as presented.

A Little History of Coal, and Pocahontas #3 coal
The time frame is the Carboniferous Period, which spans the period from 360 million years ago to 286 million years ago, about 70 million years before the dinosaurs. The bottom half of this period is known in the U.S. as the Mississippian Period, the top half as the Pennsylvanian Period, and coal formed as the Mississippian Period ended and the Pennsylvanian Period started.

Coal seams are fossilized accumulations of plants which lived and died in swamps that were so devoid of oxygen that few microbes or other critters could survive to feed on their remains. The first phase of coal known as "peat" thus developed. These swamps were interwoven with intricate, meandering river channels which eventually covered things with mud and silt. Subsequent deep burial by more sediments in succeeding geologic ages resulted in heat and pressure which transformed the peat into coal. Generally speaking, every 12 inches of coal thickness represents approximately 10,000 years of continuous peat accumulation. Coal seams in West Virginia average 3 feet in thickness, although they occasionally can be as thick as 25 feet.

When the swamp stretches across 2, 3, or more states, one part of the swamp can easily be different from the other, and form coal that, although in the same seam, is different in composition. That is why Poca 3 in Ky, Wv and Va may give 3 different analysis results.
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The size of the work being done determines the size of the fire. What you may be seeing is a supply of coal off to the side, reserve coal that will be used to replenish the coal that has been burned.

The coal is burned to produce the heat needed to bring the metal up to forging temperature. As the coal is burned it releases the volitals (smoke), and in the process forms coke. The coke is actually what produces the heat. There is material that does not burn (ash and clinker) that needs to be removed from the fire to let air get to the fire. This is usually allowed to drop into a ash collection part of the twyere in a bottom blast forge, or just moved to the side in a side blast forge.

When the forge session is over and you are trying to kill the fire, rake it out of the forge. Empty the ash dump and place the ash in a 5 gallon bucket of water. Then shovel what used to be the fire in the forge into the 5 gallon bucket of water. You can sleep well at night knowing that everything that used to be hot is now covered by water. The coke and coal will float to an extent, and the ash and clinker will sink to the bottom. Recover the coke and coal and let it dry out for future use.

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What Glen said.

First: Learn to manage a blacksmith's coal fire. This is a basic skill that, when mastered, will enable you to take advantage of most of the other techniques of hot work.

Second: How long the coal in your fire will last depends on what you are doing. If you are working with small stock, less than 3/4 inch and just drawing, punching, cutting, shaping, or upseting you will use much less coal than if you were welding billets for a pattern welded sword.

More heat more coal.

You cane be frugal but don't be stingy.

My Father-in-law had a plow mule when he was young. It ate so much mule feed that he decided to wean it from the mix of corn, cane syrup, and oats. Just about the time his mule was weaned... it died. Some mules are stubborn-to-death.

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"You can be frugal but don't be stingy" Words to live by! And I do mean live, I had a friend who wanted to use hot dip galvanized pipe fittings to avoid having to buy blackpipe ones. he died of complications to Metal Fume Fever.

Trying to save coal by running a shallow fire will often result in ruining of your workpiece; taking even more coal to re-do it than it would have taken to do it right the first time.

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