Jump to content
I Forge Iron

Fire you are truely a fickle lover......

Recommended Posts

Well gents, the wife took my son out for the evening and left me alone at home with nothing to do but smith. From 6 till 9 I had free reign. At no point throughout the process did I even get the two pieces of junkyard stock to turn color.

Prior to lighting everything off I drilled several additional holes in the fire grate as recommended by you guys in a previous post. I then went ahead figuring that there may be problems with clogs, etc towards the end of the evening. Well the evening never got off the ground. I tried everything throughout the evening. I tried shifting the coal around. I tried using less coal. I tried using more coal. I tried using wood to really get things started. And at times I employed charcoal started (bottle was empty by the end of the night). Absolutely nothing. I've attached pics of the my outdoor smithy, with forge, anvil and pictures of the stock I used. I couldn't even get the copper strip to a point where it was fully maluable. I'm on my third beer at the moment as I ponder what went wrong. If you guys could take a look and maybe direct me to some more info on setting myself up with a good fire I'd apprecaite it. In fact any info on the average time it takes for a forgeing fire to get going would be appreciated and or direction to a forge fire 101 faq would be great.

Thanks a ton guys.







Link to comment
Share on other sites

I've learned not to put the air below the fire, it usually doesn't work that well, the sides work really good for me. use charcoal. yes, i said charcoal. cheap but effective. make a pile of like 5in tall, 10 in wide and so on, and that should get plenty hot enough for copper. Put tyhe charcoal on, then suffocate it in lighter fluid. then put some on the end of a stick, light the stick, and touch it to the fire, it's a mini bomb, but it gets it going. then turn the blower on about 30seconds to 1 minute after that, if inside, make sure that all doors and windows are open...for ventilation. if that doesn't work, well it doesnt, but it should that's what i use, and i've left a piece of steel in it to long and i melted it in half....hehe.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Newbiesmith.........Is there an ash dump on your forge? I studied the picture you posted ,but I couldn't tell for sure. If you don't,ash and cinders will stop up your air inlet pipe after one or two short fires.
Without building a fire at all,.....turn your blower on and check if there is air coming up through the fire pot.

By the way, be carefull about using the 'lighter fluid' thing to start your fire.
there are lots of safer ways to build a fire.
Light a couple balled up sheets of newspaper....add a handfull of dry sticks....give it a minute or so to catch up ......turn on some air....gradually add some coal.
That's how I do it most of the time.
Good Luck! Happy smithing.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

in your picture it looks like there are two elbows I think you need a Tee and bring your air in from the side with the bottom rigged as an ash dump with a nipple and a cap to start with. I use about three pine cones inside full sheets of newspaper in a tight ball then light it off and add some coal then turn on the air...Also you didn't say what kind of beer you were drinking!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

This is a small pic of my coal forge. I apologize for the vise blocking the view but it's the only pic I have as I sit here at the PC. The nice thing about this is that it is a complete Buffalo forge with original blower, rheostat, firepot, etc., so you can see how much flame there is from an average fire with a factory forge.

I can't tell a lot from your pics but will make some comments:

1. I assume the coal is a coking type. If you don't know for sure, crush some into about pea-sized pieces and heat the pile with a propane torch. It should coke into a "button" which means it sort of flows together in a mass. The volatiles will make a yellow flame and with a little air, the coke should burn yellow or white. There are some other variables but let's stop there for now.
2. I don't think you are getting enough air. A typical blast without a damper in place should be capable of blowing fuel or a ball of burning paper out of the firepot. Anything less will not give you much of a fire. Light a ball of paper (no lighter fluid) and put it over the grate then give it full blast. If you don't get a raging flame pretty quickly, you don't have enough blast.
3. Some people can get by with grates but I have never liked them. A better way IMHO is one slot in the bottom of the pot about 1/2"x3". This can be poked out with one stroke of a poker - multiple holes cannot be cleaned effectively while you have a fire going. Once you do get going, you'll probably want to work longer than the few heats you get until a clinker forms.
4. Once a fire is going, it will typically be usable in less than 10 minutes. Some of this is based on how the coal is prepared (with or without water) but don't worry about that at this point. The average fire will have a ball of burning coke about the size of a grapefruit with a slightly cooler area toward the outer edges. Yours might be a little smaller but should be able to heat at least 1/2" stock.

Hope this helps...H


Link to comment
Share on other sites

Some people can get by with grates but I have never liked them. A better way IMHO is one slot in the bottom of the pot about 1/2"x3". This can be poked out with one stroke of a poker - multiple holes cannot be cleaned effectively while you have a fire going. Once you do get going, you'll probably want to work longer than the few heats you get until a clinker forms.

Very true HW. I always cringe when I see someone making a firepot with a bunch of drilled holes in the bottom for the air blast. I like two 1/2"x2" slots about an inch apart in a fabbed pot. The old Champion pots had three similar slots in the bottom.

BTW, I use an old Buffalo forge also. I just picked up a like new replacement Vulcan firepot for it as mine is just starting to crack. I don't have the original rheostat for mine though, I'm running a dimmer switch on it. I can't remember if mine is the 2E or the 3E blower.
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I begin by breaking any lump coal to around 3/4", about acorn size but I don't get too fussy if it's a little larger, 1" or walnut's fine. Depending on how much I'm prepping I'll screen out the fines with hardware cloth 1/4" mesh or roll it down a piece of plywood to separate it out.

I start the coal with a strip of cardboard about 1 1/2" - 2" wide and 12-18" long. I roll it into a tight coil and place it over the grate. My grate is a piece of 3/4" plate with a pattern of 14, 5/16" holes tapered wider on the underside so junk pokes out easily. I've never tried a slotted air grate but will. I'll also say 14 holes is more fire than I usually need but dropping flattish round headed rivets in the excess holes works nicely to reduce the grate and it's easy to lift them out if I want a larger fire.

Anyway, I place the coil of cardboard over the air grate and pile coal around it then allow the coil to open slightly. You want a little space between layers of cardboard 1/16" is plenty. This is to allow the air to blow through the coil making a flame like a torch. I then continue piling coal around and on the coil till all that's left is an inch or so visible in the center.

The first layer of coal is all pretty clean so air can pass through it easily. Around and over the initial mound of coal I pack my wetted fines, leaving the crater in the center open.

When the mound is ready I light a couple stick matches and with the gentlest of blast, just enough to keep the matches lit I drop them into the center of the coil. There's nothing wrong with giving it a LITTLE squirt of charcoal lighter fluid, kerosene or diesel but don't tell any traditionalists I said so. :o Once the cardboard is burning I slowly increase the blast till I have a torchlike flame showing. At that point I fill the crater with clean 3/4" coal and increase the blast a little.

In a minute or less there'll be a healthy plume of smoke and the center may slump a little as the cardboard burns away, time to increase the blast again. Once the mound flares off I cover all but a little bit of the center for a vent with wetted fines and let it have the blast. Don't go crazy, use a little judgement eh?

Once the smoke dies down the fire is ready for use. Or if you have good coking coal you can do what I do and just coke up a bucket's worth for a smoke free rest of the day.

Coking a 5gl bucket takes about 15 mins and is rather smokey to start with. I prep the mound the same but it's considerably larger being around 5gl. of 3/4" coal. Covering the outside of the mound with wetted fines really helps, especially coking a larger quantity because it contains the heat better and lets me control where it goes.

For instance if one side of the mound isn't heating, you can tell because the whole mound should be seeping smoke evenly, even after it flares. If one side isn't seeping smoke it isn't coking so, poke a hole through the fines there and close the top vent a bit to force the fire to the part of the mound that isn't coking.

After a bit the mound will start sticking together and after a bit longer it'll start to slump like hot asphault. At this time I take a sharp shovel (that's one with a sq point. Yeah, and I call a spade a spade too;) ) and turn the mound over for a couple more minutes of blast. You'll get a goodly flare of orange and yellow flame and black smoke when you turn it but it won't last long.

When this last flare dies down it's ready. Using your shovel and rake spread the breeze (forge coked coal) and extinguish it with water. There'll be plenty of fire left in the pot to rebuild the dome and start forging.

I prefer coking up the day's coal in the morning to get the smokey part over with. Also, if you do it at 0'dark:30 in the morning the neighbors are less likely to notice and complain.

Outside of prepping the coal this takes way longer to read than to get a good fire going with this method.

One last thing, I don't hold my methods as being superior to anyone elses, they're just what work best for me. There are other ways of doing almost everything and some work better some not. Coal differs place to place, it's age, your altitude and the day's weather all contribute to it's burning characteristics. So, keep an open mind, try new things, even when what you're doing works fine and have fun.

Play safe but have fun.


Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks a ton Gents for your advice. I think I will start with redoing the whole air intake mechanism (tyere i think). I also found a pretty sweet piece of circular steel that I may put to use in a new redneck forge design once I find some legs for it and something to bring up the walls of the fire pot a little. I'll post a pic of it later on when I get home.

Glenn, I saw all the BP#s you referenced and I am at a loss for what they are and where you found them. Are they supposed to be links to somewhere?

Also, I have no idea what I have to work with as far as coal. All I know is that the guy I rented my house from said that I had free reign to all the coal that was in the coal bin that the guy that moved out this past summer left. So I'm thinking free = sweet. Well thats what I thought until it looked like it wasn't coking or burning consistently. I mean I've run the gambit as far as size goes, using tiny chunks, to using larger chunks. Soooo I may have to look for some other type of coal. It's sad because I'm living in the coal state of West Virginia and I'm having soo much trouble.

I actually took the hair dryer out of the vent port and blew it on the fire. The only thing that turned white hot was the wood that was burning and sparks started flying everywhere. I was running around with the garden hose, putting out the lawn. So needless to say I need to figure out a good way of catching that stuff in a hood or something.

Well I'll be going a festival this weekend that has a huge flea market/yard sale with a reputation for having smithing tools. Maybe I can find some honest to god tools, blowers and anvils to choose from.

Thanks guys for all the help and I'll catch you later.


Link to comment
Share on other sites

The two twyeres I have use are explained in BP0133 the 55 Forge and BP0333 55 Forge with a Supercharger. Nothing more than a piece of 1/4 inch rod across a 2 inch pipe. Yes a little coal (very little) does get past, but so does a LOT of air. The BP0238 Simple Side Blast 55 Forge is an even simplier design.

Build a fire from sticks that would make a Boy Scout proud. Add a little coal, a little air and as the coal catches, more coal and more air. It is not unusual to go from the first match to a forge fire in about 20 minutes.

IForgeIron.com > Lessons in Metalworking > Blacksmithing is a good review and explains a lot about getting started in blacksmithing. This is located on the opening page of the site on the left column.

A hammer will reduce lump coal to any size you want including dust. Anything the size of a walnut, ping pong ball, down to the size of a marble is good for the forge. If you have a lump the size of your fist, place it on the edge of the fire and when it gets hot, hit it with a poker and it will break up nicely. Many blacksmiths use coal dust or fines. Just wet them down a bit. The wet fines will then coke up on the fire. BP0384 Using Coal Fines.

As to the quality of your coal, Blueprint BP0131 Coal, Coke, and Rocks may be of some help.

A reminder: The blueprints above BP0200 are available to those folks that register to the site. There are over 500 Blueprints on file currently, but that is just one of the many benefits of becoming a member.

Link to comment
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.

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...