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swapping bottles is the higher cost method allright.  Using a small forge with one of Stephen Gensheimer's burners a bottle seems to last forever.

 

And I guess I do get a bit of a boost as my propane dealer counts the 100# bottle fills on my BBQ tank cards (100# bottle for the kitchen stove---the joys of country living) On the other hand our propane dealer came in on a Saturday once just to get me a couple of bottles filled!  Small town living...

 

If you have a good coal source close coal is DEFINITELY cheaper!  If you have a good chimney set up you usually don't get smoked out with coal.  A lot of people seem to have neither though. Coal smoke is NOT good for you---just the radiation aspects are not good deep in your lungs...

 

All my propane comes out of my $25 weekly allowance + random sales and donations so I do track it fairly well as the allowance also covers books, fleamarkets, scrapyards and other vices and vises!

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I have solid fuel and propane forges. I use whichever one best fits the task at hand (or my mood) and forge away.......I use 100 lb propane tanks or coke. Oh, forgot to add that cost of fuel gets lost in the rush of things. YMMV

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Okay, so after my first weekend of solid fuel I'm ready to buy a propane forge!  The romance of solid fuel didn't last very long. :unsure:

 

I was working with a small forge and on very small pieces (think keychain size) and I struggled with several aspects of coal versus the propane we used in classes.  One was literally losing small pieces in the fire, I had one small piece burn up because I couldn't find it.  Another issue was pulling pieces out and because of the way my forge was built the act of pulling a piece out also inevitably pulled live, hot coals out of the fire too, so I was losing heat on my piece whilst rounding up errant coal pieces (they were mostly landing on concrete, but some rolled off into the grass and I had visions of the whole yard going up in smoke).  Third was my newbie astonishment at just how much fuel this thing ate!    I alternated fan on and off, so that wasn't the issue - it just ate up a lot more fuel than I would have imagined.   I had NO trouble keeping the fire going - I'd purchased a small in-duct fan that I wired to the fire and it was perfect for the application, quiet and at the end of a run of clothes dryer ducting gave just the right amount of air to the fire.  I had a great fire going the whole morning long - it was just an enormously HUNGRY fire.  

 

So... all that said, I'm ready to switch to propane.  My work will almost exclusively be small pieces and I really did not like struggling to literally find them in the charcoal/wood pieces.  I also, in hindsight, think I'll enjoy the ready availability of the gas, which will mean I can wander out to my shop in the evening, after work, and spend an hour forging without a lot of setup beyond wheeling my tool cart out to the anvil.  

 

Hey, live and learn.   I'm a bit girly-tentative about propane (things that potentially EXPLODE cause me some concern), and I'll have to learn how to even light one, but it's part of the process I suppose. 

 

I did still IMMENSELY enjoy my first home forge day!   I struggled with a very small 'initial" key chain, but also learned a lot in the process.  Discovered big curves = easy... small curves the size of keychains?  Hard!    Made some very basic hooks using old rusted out oversized nails I bought for a nickel.  Played around with adding texture to some pieces.  Built myself a jig to help the next time with small curves in key rings.  All in all a good learning day....   with hopefully many, many, many more to follow.  

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Ain't it wonderful? About the huge hungry fire for making key chains. Why? How about making an itsy bitsy fire for key chains? Say something smaller than a teacup? Of course small fires have the down side of being harder to hide our mistakes in. <snicker>

 

Seriously, this is probably my best argument for a duck's nest forge. I could reduce the air grate on mine to one or two 5/16" holes and close it in with fire brick till the fire was teacup size and the air grate is too small for the work to fall through.

 

That said, I'm a propane forge guy, good coal is expensive or a lot of digging here and charcoal is a boatload of work. Buying it is WAY too expensive compared to propane.

 

I have one word of advice if you do indeed make the switch, do NOT get rid of your solid fuel forge! A smith can't have too many forge you know, gotta have options.

 

Frosty The Lucky.

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Get rid of it?! That's blasphemy!!! Who gets rid of tools or equipment? !


The fire was in a mini forge, pretty small by any standard, but doing a softball size fire never occurred to me, nice tip. I'll hold onto it for larger work, I was working with both this past weekend, the keychain size and some "normal" size stuff.

Frosty, do people REALLY get rid of tools? Say it isn't so? I think I don't want to live in a world where that might be true.... Sad.

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Spanky has been my nickname for decades, friends recently started poking fun at me by adding Smith to it, thus SpankySmith

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Spanky has been my nickname for decades, friends recently started poking fun at me by adding Smith to it, thus SpankySmith

 

ARGHHHH! You got me good Spanky and I thought your avatar looked familiar. <sigh> I'll have to give the Smith part some thought, fun poking is an old Frost family tradition. . . Hmmmmmm.

 

I'm afraid it is true some ingrates do get rid of tools but I try to be kind IF they're asking a decent price.

 

Frosty The Lucky.

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ARGHHHH! You got me good Spanky and I thought your avatar looked familiar. <sigh>

 

 

 

I'm taking a certain amount of pride in getting one over on Frosty - this may be resume'-worthy!     :)

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I'm taking a certain amount of pride in getting one over on Frosty - this may be resume'-worthy!     :)

 

Oh sure, take pride in fooling the brain damaged guy. I can appreciate a low sense of humor, if we meet in person I'll show you the head dent gag.  <grin>

 

Frosty The Lucky.

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Used all types of forges.

Coal forge is romantic, but not practical unless you're in an industrial setting, or away from folks who will complain of the smell.

Sucking down coal smoke for extended periods will shorten your life span. Works on your nervous system after several years.

I like working on a coal/coke forge if I have something heavy duty and I want to be a boss with a hammer.

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If you are using an Alabama mined coal that may be the reason it ate so much. I used to buy coal mined in Brilliant, Al and while it burned hot it would quickly turn to blazing hot dust and fall through my grate.

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Gas forges are like pottato chips...
You will end up with a coffee can for small stuff, a two burner, a 3 burner, a open sides one....
Gase can be very good for a small dange of projects and stock sizes, wile solif fuel with a few bricks or some mud can be made of diferant sizes and shapes, and unless you need welding heat you can throtle back on the air.
The ither thing with gas is it is much harder to isolate the heat, so a stand alone burner or gas torch are nessasary for medium and high carbon steel, as localized quenching isnt a good idea. The truth is both are nice to have. I a ualy prefer sold fuel for most of my "rat killing" and my gas rig for "geter done"

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I have always used a solid fuel forge. I can get coal for $130 a ton, and propane is pushing $4 a gallon. I can scrounge free wood if necessary, but I cannot make my own propane. If I had shop, and the funds, I would love an induction unit. I use them at work,and love them for their speed of heating, no fumes, no excess heat,quietness,and ease of use.

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