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capnroo

Southern Alabama Coal!

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    Hi. I am from south Alabama (Brewton Area) and want to start blacksmithing. The first thing I need to do is build a forge. I have not been able to find coal for sale south of Bessemer (which is a pretty long haul for me). I have tried every option I can think of. I even thought about ordering off the internet, but shipping and handling KILLS me! I thought about a gas forge also. I even built a blower torch and a forge body, ordered 24lbs of kast-o-lite (it was not enough to do my forge, and by the looks of it S&H is going to KILL me again). Also, I like the idea of a coal forge more than gas. Does anybody know where I can find coal around my area? Like I said, I have tried EVERY source I can think of, researched for weeks, and called businesses all around. I even called a company from mobile that deals only in coal, but the manager said he couldnt help me with small orders. I actually even walked about 8miles of RR tracks, but to no avail. Is there anyone on this forum that can help me? Or should I just nut up and make the trip to Bessemer?

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Hopefully someone will chime in with a good coal source for you but if you can't find coal near you consider using charcoal. I don't know if it's the same in Alabama but here is SC we can buy lump charcoal in places like Wal-Mart & Lowes...just make sure it's real charcoal and not the briquettes. You can also make your own charcoal. A lot of folks also use dried corn as fuel. I don't have any personal experience with corn I understand that it works great. Best of luck to you!


By the way, walking the RR tracks is considered trespassing so I can't condone that BUT I used to do the same thing and had great luck! Amazing how much coal spills from the cars.

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Plan on, or make plans to come to Tannehill Iron Works this weekend.  Forge council is meeting.  There will be tail gaiting as well as you will be able to pick up that coal.

 

Oh, and there should be plenty of demo's going on.  For a newb it should be enlighting.  They usually have a hands on area.

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I'd love to go to that convention, but it's too far to drive on short notice...

I guess I'll have to make charcoal if nobody can chime in... and I couldn't find coal on my stretch of RR tracks. I hardly ever see coal cars come through here any more. Whereas when I was a kid, every train had at least 5 cars of the stuff ... I even called the local CSX office to see if they had any spills that needed cleaning up... no. Lol

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I don't even know what ABANA stands for. (Bout to look it up)

Just searched. I'll call them tomorrow on lunch break.

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You researched for weeks but the top item I got when I googled "blacksmith organization" was the ABANA homepage; makes one feel that this newfangled son of multivac might be good for something someday!  We got up a group to carpool to the SOFA meetings from Columbus OH; about a 2 hour drive; but we made it longer stopping at a fleamarket on the way each month; splitting the cost of gas helped too!

 

In general it makes sense to ask folks near where you are where to find stuff rather than those folks in England, South Africa, Australia, etc...shoot when I was last in a coal mine in Wales they wouldn't let me take home any "samples"...

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Back in the seventy's I drove from North Dallas to Birmingham to buy some coke. When the loader told me that was a half ton and did I want more loaded onto my 1/2 ton chevy I begged him to stop! I don't think I paid more than $100.00 for it. I had never used coke before. Little hard to light but it worked good.

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Check out the Alabama Forge Council site I've linked below. Their is a list of all the local forge council groups around the state on the Contact Us page. I was able to buy coal at the Phenix City forge in July and they may still have some available. It was $18 for a 50lb bag at the time. Their may also be a forge closer to you that has coal to sell. Call and see. Good luck! 

 

 

http://www.alaforge.org/

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There's the Bay Area Forge ~ Bill Williamson ( no relation ) is the contact. Sorry but I can't seem to find his info . He goes over to Mississippi occasionally to pick up coal for the group. Try getting his info from the Bicentinal Park in Stockton, and ask them when the next meeting is too !

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Back in the seventy's I drove from North Dallas to Birmingham to buy some coke. When the loader told me that was a half ton and did I want more loaded onto my 1/2 ton chevy I begged him to stop! I don't think I paid more than $100.00 for it. I had never used coke before. Little hard to light but it worked good.

 

 

Hahaha... Yeah most guys don't have a clue how much some stuff weighs. Good news is that most 1/2 and 3/4 "ton" pickups have actual load ratings well above the number values. Last time I looked even a small Ranger had a 2000 lb payload rating. You don't even want to know how much I've had loaded in the "small" 3/4 ton truck before we redid the suspension. I sort of ignore that sort of stuff since I bought the F550 work truck. You know your suspension is heavy duty when the guy at the roofing supply puts in 3 ton of shingles and then asks you what the suspension on the truck is, because the truck didn't even move when he sat it down. :P

 

Rough gestimate. I can get about 13, 5 gallon buckets of coal in a 55 gallon drum. Rough weight on a 5 gallon bucket is between 45-60 lbs. So figure a 55 gal drum weighs in at 600 to 800 lbs. 3 to 4 drums roughs out at about a ton. A 55 gal drum is about 7.3 cf so the math roughly works out right.

 

From a chart I found:

Anthracite coal :   1536 lb / cu yard.  .76 ton per yd.

Bituminous Coal : 1275 lb / cu yard.  .64 ton per yd.

Coke:                     837 lb / cu yard.  .42 ton per yd.

 

Typical skid steer bucket is between 1/3 to 1/2 yard heaped. A typical backhoe bucket is between 1 yd to 2 yards.

 

 

This site has some good rough numbers for bulk materials for those who aren't familiar with stuff like this. I'm often amazed at the kind of loads homeowners put on small trailers. I've seen loads of dirt on 7K and smaller trailers that would have gotten us red tagged by the DOT with the 6 wheel Mack.

 

http://www.harmonysandgravel.com/charts.htm

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You researched for weeks but the top item I got when I googled "blacksmith organization" was the ABANA homepage;..

never searched for organizations. My search terms were "where to buy coal in south Alabama", "Coal Supplier Alabama" etc.

 

Check out the Alabama Forge Council site I've linked below. Their is a list of all the local forge council groups around the state on the Contact Us page. I was able to buy coal at the Phenix City forge in July and they may still have some available. It was $18 for a 50lb bag at the time. Their may also be a forge closer to you that has coal to sell. Call and see. Good luck! 

 

 

http://www.alaforge.org/

 

Thanks for the Info, Neal. I will follow up ASAP!

 

There's the Bay Area Forge ~ Bill Williamson ( no relation ) is the contact. Sorry but I can't seem to find his info . He goes over to Mississippi occasionally to pick up coal for the group. Try getting his info from the Bicentinal Park in Stockton, and ask them when the next meeting is too !

When you say Stockton, you mean just north of Mobile, right? If so, that would be only an hours drive from me! I will definitely follow up on this info also!

 

Hahaha... Yeah most guys don't have a clue how much some stuff weighs. Good news is that most 1/2 and 3/4 "ton" pickups have actual load ratings well above the number values. Last time I looked even a small Ranger had a 2000 lb payload rating. You don't even want to know how much I've had loaded in the "small" 3/4 ton truck before we redid the suspension. I sort of ignore that sort of stuff since I bought the F550 work truck. You know your suspension is heavy duty when the guy at the roofing supply puts in 3 ton of shingles and then asks you what the suspension on the truck is, because the truck didn't even move when he sat it down. :P

 

Rough gestimate. I can get about 13, 5 gallon buckets of coal in a 55 gallon drum. Rough weight on a 5 gallon bucket is between 45-60 lbs. So figure a 55 gal drum weighs in at 600 to 800 lbs. 3 to 4 drums roughs out at about a ton. A 55 gal drum is about 7.3 cf so the math roughly works out right.

 

From a chart I found:

Anthracite coal :   1536 lb / cu yard.  .76 ton per yd.

Bituminous Coal : 1275 lb / cu yard.  .64 ton per yd.

Coke:                     837 lb / cu yard.  .42 ton per yd.

 

Typical skid steer bucket is between 1/3 to 1/2 yard heaped. A typical backhoe bucket is between 1 yd to 2 yards.

 

 

This site has some good rough numbers for bulk materials for those who aren't familiar with stuff like this. I'm often amazed at the kind of loads homeowners put on small trailers. I've seen loads of dirt on 7K and smaller trailers that would have gotten us red tagged by the DOT with the 6 wheel Mack.

 

http://www.harmonysandgravel.com/charts.htm

I find this funny because I have hauled my grampas F350 dually on a car hauler with my 1500 Dodge. I still give him XXXX  about it lol.

 

 

 

 

Thanks for all of the info, guys. I will follow up on everything that I can as soon as i get a free chance!

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I find this funny because I have hauled my grampas F350 dually on a car hauler with my 1500 Dodge. I still give him XXXX about it lol.

 

A bit off topic, but tow weight is a bit different than payload capacity. There's a lot more to towing than just the numbers though. I frequently see guys pulling loads behind single rear wheel trucks I wouldn't even think about hauling with my F550 with the electric brake controller, dual rear wheels with stiffer side walls and heavier load ratings, significantly larger brake disks and almost twice the simple mass to fight the trailer if it wants to get pushy. Then you get into bumper hitch vs weight distributing hitches, goose neck vs 5th wheel and so on.

 

 

A health dose of common sense goes a long ways when it comes to payload loading and trailers. Unfortunately common sense doesn't seem quite as common any more.

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Have you let your fingers do any walking in the Yellow Pages? If you can't find coal suppliers, try furnace or HVAC. Those may not be good searches though so try calling a "farrier". Farriers, (horse shoers) even if they use propane will know who does use coal and probably where to find it.

 

Oh before I forget. If you'll put your general location in the header you might be surprised at how many of the IFI gang live within visiting distance. Seriously, by now your IFI neighbor might have already said something like "Call this # they carry coal."

 

Okay, one last thing and I'll TRY to make it the LAST thing. Don't tell me about shipping, sometimes we pay more than 2x the going prices just in shipping and it's WAY worse if you live in remote Alaska, those guys get to add float plane or river boat shipping.

 

Frosty The Lucky.

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Dsw. My common sense when hauling a huge load is to not drive faster than 15 or 20mph lol.

Frosty -I have a friend who is a farrier. He says everyone around here uses gas. I have done yellow pages also. I will now add my location to the header if I can. Although, I thought south Alabama coal was general lol.

I left the guy from the alaforge websites wiregrass region a voicemail earlier, but he hasn't called back yet. I'll call him again tomorrow.

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I asked around, called and about pulled my little bit of remaining hair out when I was looking for coal in my area, everybody has switched to fuel oil or gas and coal seened to be like hen's teeth around here. I finally called the local radio station during their morning swap shop and asked if anyone knew of a source for coal. Got a call almost as soon as I hung up from a gentleman who had retired from the county and knew of a coal pile that had been sitting in a basement since the building was converted to gas heat 20 years ago. He gave me a name and I called and was told come get as much as you want...take it all.  

 

Worth a try.

 

Mark

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I managed to get a bunch of coal in the same manner. My helper's grandmothers house used to have a coal furnace and the coal bunker in the basement still had coal in it. When they went to sell the house they wanted all the coal out of the basement and I managed to get 4 55 gallon drums full. Down side is it's all anthracite, and around me that's all that is sold for heating. It works, well sort of. It's a pain to start and you need to keep the blower going full bore all the time. You get a really hot fire but it's not as controllable it seems as bituminous. The stuff I got also seems to develop a fair amount of clinker, but some of that might be due to things like wall plaster than may have flaked off the walls over the years and ended up in the pile. It's better than nothing, but if I had a manual forge it would be almost worthless. I'll probably burn it up anyways, but if I find a decent deal on bulk bituminous, I'll dump the other stuff somewhere so I can have my 4 drums back.

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Rusty, that's a great idea! We have a station that does phone ads from noon to 1:00, so I'll try them on lunch break. Thanks for the reply!

Around here it doesn't get cold enough often enough for a "heating system", but I'm sure some CSX guys will be listening, or someone else that may know something. :-)

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If all else fails, you can always make charcoal. Lots and lots and lots of charcoal. 

 

Put some holes on bottom of a 55 gal drum, stand on cinderblocks, light a fire in the bottom. Add wood. Add more wood. (preferably hardwood, but scrap wood'll work, just less dense.) Prop lid open a couple of inches with a brick, a rock, or as the side of the MRE wrapper famously says, "or something".

 

When the smoke (and there's a lot of it at first) dramatically changes color/more or less goes away in about an hour- ish....., shut top, take off of cinderblocks. Put cinderblocks on lid. Don't get burned by hot can or flames shooting out of bottom, especially while taking off the cinderblocks. (alternately, can dig a hole under it instead of propping up, then cover edges later).  Spread sand around the bottom edged to prevent air getting in. And wait a day to open. If it relights on opening, soak it with water.

 

Even if you only end up with around 15 gallons, it's easy to do, and adds up fast. Made around 90 gallons that way this summer for a bloom. Easy peasy. Very little smoke in da forge. Even in a coal fire, I like to toss in a handful over the paper when I light it to get it started easier. Don't like my way, lots of other fun ones floating around the site and the interweb. Retorts are fun too.

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If all else fails, you can always make charcoal. Lots and lots and lots of charcoal. 

 

Put some holes on bottom of a 55 gal drum, stand on cinderblocks, light a fire in the bottom. Add wood. Add more wood. (preferably hardwood, but scrap wood'll work, just less dense.) Prop lid open a couple of inches with a brick, a rock, or as the side of the MRE wrapper famously says, "or something".

 

When the smoke (and there's a lot of it at first) dramatically changes color/more or less goes away in about an hour- ish....., shut top, take off of cinderblocks. Put cinderblocks on lid. Don't get burned by hot can or flames shooting out of bottom, especially while taking off the cinderblocks. (alternately, can dig a hole under it instead of propping up, then cover edges later).  Spread sand around the bottom edged to prevent air getting in. And wait a day to open. If it relights on opening, soak it with water.

 

Even if you only end up with around 15 gallons, it's easy to do, and adds up fast. Made around 90 gallons that way this summer for a bloom. Easy peasy. Very little smoke in da forge. Even in a coal fire, I like to toss in a handful over the paper when I light it to get it started easier. Don't like my way, lots of other fun ones floating around the site and the interweb. Retorts are fun too.

 

 

If I cant find any good sources of coal, Ill look into making charcoal. I have heard that it's you normally  put more energy into making charcoal than you get out of it in the forge. But, if there are no other feasable options, I will go with it. thanks for the reply, man. Just wondering- with you being in marietta, do you have trouble coming across the black stuff???

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Update- I got in touch with Cliff Ohlenburger from the Alabama Forge Council. He is going to send me an email with directions to the Wiregrass region monthly meet in Enterprise, Alabama. They have coal available to members, and membership is only $25/year (I believe thats what he said). I will join the group reguardless. If the coal price is fair, I will be going the solid fuel route. I will update everyone on the price as soon as I can after the meeting, which is on the third weekend of the month in Enterprise.

 

Thanks to all who have replied to my posts and bared with me. You have all been very helpful! I am going to begin building a solid fuel forge this afternoon after work!

 

i will post a thread on what I have in mind for a forge setup shortly. I plan to modify the gas forge which I had begun building.

 

Again, thanks to all!

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Trouble in Marietta?

 

Nope. Like searching for anvils. Took me awhile to find it, then when I did finally find a source, suddenly it was everywhere. I buy mine at a farrier supply about 40 minutes north of here in Jasper, Ga. I don't buy it by the half-ton/ton, so about 120 bucks to fill a 55 gallon drum. 

 

I can get anthracite heating coal at feed and seed around 7 bucks for a 50 lb bag and bust it up, but it's tougher to get lit, takes more oxygen, and burns a lot hotter and faster, so the "more expensive" bitumous is far cheaper in the long run. Plus the anthracite doesn't really coke, so it moves differently, like can't really form a "cave" when you're forge welding and with the extra air it seems more oxidizing, less reducing so more scale, etc. Works if you've got nothing else going.

 

I've also found bitumous at some heating supply places and welding supplies around Atlanta, even occaisionally guys that buy several tons up north and haul it back to sell on craigslist up around Ringgold, Ga. I would bet somebody has to have it in Pennsacola.

 

I've played a bit with charcoal, it's really not that much effort, 'cept for busting up the wood, and breaking up large charcoal chunks, and everything I've put in the drum I got for free. (well, in a couple of cases less the cost of the used chainsaw I used to cut up the free firewood from a tree someone cut down and wanted hauled off plus a little gas.) Watching it burn and drinking a cold one's a nice way to spend an evening, and if you're not in a uber-urban area, you can burn off several barrels at once!

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I didn't try the feed n seed store ... about how much does a loaded 55gal drum weigh??? I may have to use charcoal in the long run if the wiregrass coal is too expensive. At least I have a starting point now, though. I live with my mom n dad because of a lengthy and expensive divorce, so it's really up to them if I can make charcoal lol. xxxx lawyer bills... ugh.

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Got 50lb of high grade bituminous coal from the Alabama wiregrass region forge council meeting today. 2 hour drive for me each way, but Bob sells(I think that's his last name) showed me how to build my own tongs, as a trade for a little material I had. Will post pics Monday. I had a great time out there, and came home with some Metalworking experience. Don't get better than that!

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Got 50lb of high grade bituminous coal from the Alabama wiregrass region forge council meeting today. 2 hour drive for me each way, but Bob sells(I think that's his last name) showed me how to build my own tongs, as a trade for a little material I had. Will post pics Monday. I had a great time out there, and came home with some Metalworking experience. Don't get better than that!

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