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Laertius

Coal Price? NW Ontario Canada

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Hello There,

 

Throwing this out there for opinions / advice.

 

I am currently forging with charcoal, it costs me ~15$ for a 17lbs bag of royal oak at Canadian Tire.  Which I can stretch for 10 hours of forge time (my average hobby session is about 4 hours)

 

I have contacted my local home hardware who can get 'Virginia' Blacksmith coal in 70lbs bags for 69.99$

 

Now this leads me to believe doing the rough math that I can get the charcoal cheaper pound for pound......and from what I have read around here -- pound for pound I am getting the ~ the same BTU's from coal or charcoal.

 

What do you guys think -- minus the fleas, I enjoy the charcoal for how clean it is, I have learned how to mange it well and can achieve welding heats no problem -- but then again I have not forged with coal so do not know any better?

 

So I have 3 questions:  

 

1)  Does anyone in the Thunder Bay Ontario area have a better/cheaper source of Coal?

 

2)  Since I live very close to the american border (Minnesota) I could have coal shipped to 

Grand Portage, MN 55605 border store -- Does anyone know a good midwest supplier that would be cheaper than the above price?

 

3) Is coal 'that much' better pound for pound for me to spend the extra and use that?

 

Thanks for your comments,  I cannot say enough good things about this site, its members and the continued patience of its more senior members for the 'little' questions from people like me!

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The "Northern Minnesota Metalsmiths" are about the closest to you I think. They get in coal for their members at a much better price than that. I think the coal is stockpiled at a members place close to Bemidji.

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Only able too answer #3.

3) I don't have exact numbers and I know it varies a little bit dependant on type of coal. Generally speaking pound for pound I've always heard coal to roughly have twice as much BTU pound for pound than hardwood charcoal.

I used charcoal the first few weeks of forging. Once I got my hands on a 55 gallon drum (400-500 pounds worth) of WV coal, I never want to go back. Coal can actually hold your work in the fire.

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I have burned many pounds of that coal that is available through home hardware. I believe the vein of coal is called Crown Jewel. I love that coal, hot and clean burning. One member of the Ontario Blacksmiths said on a scale of 1 to 10 he rated that coal an 8. Coal is different from charcoal for sure but as said above, coal has alot more btus per pound than charcoal.

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I am very surprised at how high the  cost of coal is up there. $1/lb is very expensive. I get my coal for $0.18/lb down here in Virginia. I get it by the pallet, but even if you don't buy in bulk it is still only $0.19/lb. When I started buying coal it was around $0.11/lb. 

 

If I were you I would contact heating oil and gas companies, they usually carry coal. I don't believe I have ever seen a hardware store that carried coal. 

 

I know a smith in New York who used to buy coal in 20 ton truck loads. Due to his locality the only coal he could get was the hard stuff. I mean if they left it under the ground for another day or two they would have been mining diamonds. He wanted the good stuff and the only way he could get it was by ordering large amounts of it. He also did not get coal, it was industrial coke bound for steel mills and blast furnaces. This stuff is what every blacksmith dreams of forging with. It burns as clean as your charcoal without the ash, but burns for much longer. If you have the means you could look into this and sell some with a mark up if you are ambitious enough. 

 

Another method I have heard is to hang off a bridge with a broom as a train goes by and brush the coal off the tops of the cars. The problem is that more often than not the trains are loaded with anthracite headed to some power plant. I would advise against this method. 

 

I don't know how much you have read in to it, but there is a difference between coal and charcoal. When you burn coal, you are actually heating the metal with coke. coke is more or less "pure" carbon after all the volatile stuff has been burned/boiled off. Coke chemically is nearly identical to charcoal only denser, The advantage to using coal is that because it is denser that charcoal it will burn longer. I have used charcoal before and it is an amazingly clean burning fire, but it burns so quickly and the ash gets everywhere I usually don't bother. I kind of covered the basics, there is much more information out there on this topic. 

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Thanks - I have tried a couple of the local heating companies with no luck thus far. The price reference you noted is good as well --gives me hope that I should find a cheaper source.

 

I have done some reading on charcoal v coal -- and understand the coking process (as much as one can understand from reading-vs doing) I guess what I was getting at is IF my source of coal is roughly the same price per pound (not volume) as charcoal, then is it more efficient /economical to purchase the coal? Will a pound of coal provide more heats / forging time than charcoal...on average?

 

From what has been posted above I am seeing some of the advantages of coal (burns longer) , but am still weighing my options and hoping for a cheaper price for the coal :)   given that I have not yet constructed a flue/ chimney for my forge - I like that charcoal is relatively clean- but again, having not played with the coal, I don't have the best comparison. 

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I hate to ask but have you considered propane. I would never go with propane, I like playing/managing the fire. I have not done the math but I am fairly confident in saying that I am getting a better deal burning coal over propane. I do not have enough experience with propane to tell you how much propane = one pound of charcoal/coke. If you read up on it you could probably find out.

 

I have heard nothing but good things about propane by those who use it. The one downside is that you can not concentrate the heat with propane like you can with coal. But for the most part the guys who use propane typically have a rose bud torch for specific heating. 

 

I reckon I am to much of a purist to switch, but the I heard one comparison that I thought was interesting. Propane vs coal is equivalent to campfire to oven. Propane is available everywhere, but If you are happy with your charcoal then why fix what is not broken. 

 

As long as it heats the metal at an affordable rate then you are doing fine. 

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Just FYI, the coal from Home Hardware is actually from Robb Martin (Thak Ironworks) in Floradale,ON. He distributes via HH. The advantage of using their distribution network, is that you pay the same for it in Thunder Bay, as someone in London or Kingston ... You're not paying extra for shipping.

Yes, it is a bit on the expensive side. However, it is good quality smithing coal.

Edit: just to add, it's all economy's of scale, right? If you were going through a lot of coal, charcoal, whatever - you'd be far better off buying in bulk perhaps from a different supplier. But for a hobbyist, buying by the bag - it's not too bad.

I'm mostly using propane these days. I probably pay more to fill a couple of 30 Lb tanks for my small gas forge, than if I had 100 Lb tanks. But for me, dealing with the smaller amounts is more convenient - even if more expensive.

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Yes, I do. Although its the same as what he's currently paying for charcoal (by the bag).

You pay a premium (often a significant premium), buying something in small quantities, through retail.

If buying a ton, or two, I wouldn't pay that. But if I were buying a bag or two, and wanted it delivered more or less to my door in a part of the country where coal is hard to come by...

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Check out local companies you have to ask but some do use coal or coke I get some from an insulation company here for a case of beer big stuff but quite useable, power companies , mines for smelting, last check out Duluth may be some down there.

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As Neil Blythin has said above; Home Hardware coal comes from Robb Martin (Thak Ironworks) in Floradale,ON. Check Robb's website "http://www.thak.ca" or specifically for the coal http://www.thak.ca/supply/blacksmithing-coal" If you see yourself going through several hundred lb's of coal in the next year or two it may be worth your while to order directly from Robb. Also consider contacting other 'smiths in your area and combining orders. Crunch the numbers, pros/cons of coal vs gasser forges and make your decision. Best of luck. Don

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I'd say buy some on e-bay and have it sent to the Minnesota store.

We've all seen it cheaper but it seems a heckuva lot better deal than you're getting up there.

Stuff I've bought from there has always been good stuff of high quality.

 

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I'd say buy some on e-bay and have it sent to the Minnesota store.

We've all seen it cheaper but it seems a heckuva lot better deal than you're getting up there.

Stuff I've bought from there has always been good stuff of high quality.

 

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Thanks Guys - All good advice,  I think I will order a bag -- just to see what it is like to forge with.

 

@ EWC  I plan on building a gasser,  and am slowly gathering some pieces to do so, but I  do love to build and maintain a fire so look forward to trying the coal. When I first told my father I was doing this as a hobby -- he laughed and said it was a natural progression being the fire bug I was as a kid!

 

 

@ any Minnesotans -- I would like to know where you get your coal, because as stated I am close to Grand Portage and could have it shipped there  - It was noted above that the Northern Minnesota Smiths would be a good contact:  does anyone on here belong to that organization?  

 

I am in process of contacting the Duluth Metal Smiths and the blacksmith at North House Folk School , so I will  keep you all posted on my progress.

 

Also -- I looked on ebay and did not come up with many hits for smithing coal....  at least nothing much better than the price I can get locally.

 

On a side note -- I think I will finally get out to my shop this weekend as the weather is finally warming a bit! The temperatures have been around the -25 c daytime high, with -36 c overnight lows...without windchill!   

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i used to get my coal through the hardware when it was about 23 bucks a bag, and switched off once they jack the price up so high...  In my opinion it is not worth it !!!!

at that point i switched to propane forge with blower ( at 32 bucks a 30lbs tank )

-one of these days i'll get back to coal when i can get a big order from a supplier  ...   and avoided getting skinned by the middlemen

 

I'd look to gettin it from the states....  they got the good stuff down there

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They do -- I hope that I can find a good price getting it shipped to the border -- Now top find the right supplier!  But Like I said -- I will buy one bag of the Home Hardware coal -- just to try it!

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the home hardware coal comes from Thak (Robb Martin) in Flordale I have used it and it is nice, if you buy direct form Thak it is $40/bag with cuts for larger quantity, do a goggle search for Thak The Blacksmith. Or there is Frank Cipriani from ERI Trading, he is in Hamilton and has coal or coke by bag, truckload or ton. It is just as good as Thak's and i got 10 bags for $18 each but it is smaller pieces.

 

Hope that helps

 

Josh 

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Thanks for all the replies guys: After a 3 week wait (I am 15 hours away from southern ontario) I received my coal from home hardware:  79$ with taxes for a 75lbs bag.  I have only used it twice, but it is a whole new experience compared to charcoal, I would not say better in any way just yet, but different.  I now understand all this business about coking and clinkers lol -- It was fun to make my first cave!

 

Also,  IF I stay with coal, I have found that the Minnesota metalsmiths guild will be my best option, I just hope the quality is as as good as the home hardware coal (clean, even size, right on for weight).

 

Thanks Again

Jon

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I have that same coal, but I picked it up directly from Robb while I was up in his neck of the woods. I don't have a lot of coal experience but its real good IMO. I priced it through HH and its way too much for me to pay. I want to find a bulk supplier, I'd consider switching from propane. 

 

That is another option, I built my own propane forge and love it! Just light it and go, no fuel to add, no fire to tend. Just a thought.

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I live in Oshawa / Bowmanville area and got my coal in Hamilton, I believe its the guys mentioned above. The guy was really nice was $140 for 4 - 50lb bags and a 35lb bag of coke. If anyone is in the area of Oshawa shoot me a message. Would like to know some other blacksmiths in the area too.. Maybe we can do a bigger order at same time to save some travel costs.

Frank = 905.545.2311
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