Jump to content
I Forge Iron

Recommended Posts

As I get nearer to having a forge of my own, I've considered fuels. We have a sizeable woodpile in the backyard, so I'm left to wonder, will I be able to get a hot enough fire to work metal? Or should i really start looking into coal? I've made some rudimentary charcoal before, if that helps. I appreciate any information or tips!

Link to post
Share on other sites

It's money or time.   I make charcoal every day during the winter in my airtight stove, then let it burn to ash.  There is a large online community that discusses this subject that would be a good source of information on how to build an air tight retort .    But  making  charcoal takes time that could be spent forging.  Coal is a better choice for fuel and it is not excessively expensive.  By all means, if you want to make your own charcoal you can and should.  However if it is the iron work that is your main interest coal is the way to go.   

 

Making charcoal is a time consuming task.  When forging with charcoal, it is consumed faster than coal.  Use coal if possible.

Link to post
Share on other sites

In and around Louisville, KY coal should be easy to obtain.

 

You can use wood to fuel a forge. You need 2x4x4 inch size chunks for better results. The fire needs to be deeper as you are making charcoal as you go.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I have been using strictly coal for the last 4 years. It works great. I still have about 150lbs of coal from my current coal purchase. I have however made my own charcoal retort and now make my own charcoal. It is a little time consuming and as with most everything else there are pros and cons. 

 

I almost strictly use charcoal now. If someone comes over to the smithy and wants a coal fire, I oblige them. 

 

Pro: I really enjoy the fact that I can make my own.

Con: It does take prep time that could be used at the forge. 

Pro: I also use it on my BBQ grill.

Con: You will use a lot more charcoal than you will coal. A lot more. 

Pro: IT IS FREE!

Con: You need to learn to manage your fire differently.

Pro: It has a more accepted odor than coal. I like the smell of coal but some don't while at demos.

Con: IT IS FREE! Oh wait, thats a pro.

 

There are a lot of people that have a hard time getting or affording coal and charcoal is the better way to go. I set up my retort as I find time so it doesn't conflict with forge time. When I am ready to light it off, I do so and then go forge. I can do everything with charcoal that I can with coal. It all boils down to a personal issue. Find what works best for you. Just remember, charcoal briquets are not good for forging. 

 

Did I mention that by making my own charcoal it's free? And I should never run out. 

 

Mark <><

Link to post
Share on other sites

In and around Louisville, KY coal should be easy to obtain.

 

You can use wood to fuel a forge. You need 2x4x4 inch size chunks for better results. The fire needs to be deeper as you are making charcoal as you go.

 

 

I forged with charcoal for a couple of years before moving on to other fuels, but never tried using direct conversion of wood to charcoal in the forge.  Seems like it would result in an uncomfortably hot work environment not to mention a lot of smoke .   But of course if no other choice were available ---.

Link to post
Share on other sites

In the cold North, I used to make tons of charcoal by just pulling it out of the wood stove in the shop when it was embers.  Needed to keep the shop warm anyways and lots of scrap wood around the farm.  I have also used wood in the forge when the shop wasn't warm enough and didn't feel like getting it warmed up for a small project.  

 

Like it was said before: Time vs Money.  For me, I needed to heat the shop anyways so it didn't take much more time anyways.  Wood heating was also cheaper than gas on the farm.   

Link to post
Share on other sites

Well charcoal was the only fuel used for forging during the first 2000 years or so of ironworking---started switching to coal in the high-late middle ages in Europe, (Cathedral, Forge and Waterwheel, Gies & Gies) and of course charcoal use continued in parallel to coal use until this day---Japanese swords are traditionally forged using charcoal.

 

When I use charcoal I like to have a separate fire to make the charcoal, I built a shovel out of rock screen to transfer hot coals from the fire to the forge while NOT bringing over ashes or fines.  Also the heat of the conversion fire is kept farther away from me---charcoal throws off more heat onto the smith!

 

It helps to have a forge tweaked for it's use as a deep narrow fire works best for charcoal, (especially for blades!)

 

Charcoal and coal have quite similar BTU content PER POUND; but as charcoal is much less dense you go through a lot more of it for the same heat input.

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 2 weeks later...

We use raw wood for blacksmithing. It's true that it can make a lot of heat while the flames use up the wood gas, but you don't need to stand next to it while its burning high. It actually smokes less than a coal fire, at least when managed carefully (not too much new fuel piled on at once.) My hubby is making forges designed just for wood, allowing the deeper bed of coals and insulated to keep the heat in.  You can see his design (Whitlox Wood-Fired Forge) and some possibly useful videos at whitloxhomestead.com. post-40398-0-34494400-1367655671_thumb.j

 

 

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.

×
×
  • Create New...