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I Forge Iron

My problem is ... Fire....


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I need to take this from the MOST basic perspective. I have a three legged pan/rivet forge with a hand crank blower. I'm not getting enough heat out of it to take a RR spike up to cherry. Could someone please lay out what the coal strategy/system is for using a pan forge? How should the coal be arranged? How deep, and where? Should there be a grate of some sort over the tuyere? Should I insert my stock into the base of the coal fire or the on top? (Shoving it into the bottom seems to disperse my fire. Maybe my fire just isn't big enough.).

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Pictures would be a big help to start.  Mind you, I'm a rank amateur next to some of these guys.


1. What kind of coal are you using? Lump charcoal burns differently than coal, and bitumous is a lot easier for a beginner than anthracite. If you're using briquet charcoal, don't bother, it doesn't get hot very well.


2. You don't have to have a grate per say over the tuyere, but you should have something to stop coal and clinkers from falling in. Some people use a piece of metal on a rod, sitting in the top of the tuyere, which turns and breaks up clinkers. You can also put a couple of small metal rods through the tuyere. I've used a screen, made by drilling some holes in a piece of stainless, but be warned, it can clog fairly easy or get lost when you clean out the clinkers.


3. For regular coal, it goes in the middle as it cokes, (the stuff that crunches and sticks like styrofoam) and hard coal goes to the outside while it cokes.  The firepot should be ummmm 4 or 5 inches-ish deep.  Coal goes over it in a fairly generous pile.  Don't stick your stock in the very top, nor the verry bottom. In the top, you'll be out of the main heat of the fire, in the bottom, you'll either block air or get a lot of oxidation, and likely won't be in the warmest part of the fire anyways.


4.  Are you covering your stock back up? Try to insert it in a quick smooth motion, that doesn't tear apart your fire, and then use your rake to move coal back over it. 


5.  Are you getting enough air?  Assuming you're burning coal, and you're getting the fire lit properly, impurities in the coal will form glassy slag, that then drops down and congeals, blocking your air. It has to be removed periodically, or you'll get next to nothing out of your fire. Easy way is either break it up and push it out the bottom, or what i like to do, which is try to catch as much of it as i can on the end of your coal rake in lift the whole thing out.


6.  There will be 10 people on after me with suggestions, and reasons I'm wrong.  I'm not the next Vulcan, just a guy that can make a fire, so listen to them, they're probably right.  Varangian huh?  Go you Constantinople Vikings......... Good luck.

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So what books have you read on smithing?  Most of them have a section on coal fire maintenance.


Seems you are asking beginner's questions that have been answered hundreds of times before; try the search function.


If you are in the USA an afternoon spent with a smith that knows what they are doing should save you about 6 months of fumbling around on your own.  Most ABANA affiliates will have someone willing to help or they might even have classes for new people.


If you are in another country; several of them have similar organizations.  Not knowing your general location prevents people from offering to help.


A coal fire has layers in it: near the tuyere it's oxidizing---generally a bad place to put your metal atop that is a neutral layer---good for metal, atop that it's reducing---good place especially if you are working with high carbon steels and then the layers can reverse as atmospheric Oxygen starts playing a part.


Most beginners build too shallow a fire 

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  • 2 weeks later...

I am located in NW Iowa. I burn bituminous coal, which i light with a very small paper and wood bundle. Clarify this for me. Green coal cooks down to coke, which is light and styrofoam-like. Is it done burning still that point, or has it just cooked off the other worthless junk and us now just a more purified fuel source? How do you know Shen a piece of coal has been fully depleted and is worthless in the fire?
Next, what is the point of watering your coal? I have a cast iron pan, so it's not recommended anyway. But I don't understand the principle behind watering in general.

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Two other things - are you getting much air out of the blower?  Insects (dirt daubers, spiders, etc) love to build nests in the outlet pipe.  Also, does the ash dump seal reasonably well?  The small forge I use sometimes has a round cover that pivots over the bottom of the ash dump and has a spring to hold it tight against the pipe.  The spring is worn, so I had to make a wedge, otherwise most of the air was going straight out the ash dump instead of up into the fire.  

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