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I Forge Iron

How do you light your forge?

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This may have been answered before but I can't find any reference.
I've read about how to start a coal or coke forge and the same probably applies to charcoal forges like mine.
I have read, and others have demonstrated methods involving crushed newspapers, charcoal dust, slow air to start, etc etc. Seems to me a hard way of going about it, and I have had many restarts trying.
What's wrong with a good old squirt of kerosene on some dry leaves and sticks, cover with charcoal and rip the air into it. Instant!
Perhaps the traditional smith didn't use kerosene, I don't know. But I bet he would have if he had some.
Maybe I'm missing something, but I don't like messing around for half an hour trying to breathe life into the forge when there's an easy way.
So how do you get fire in the forge?

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Six double sheets of newspaper, not the shiny tabloid paper, laid randomly on top of each other. Start making a TIGHT mushroom shape by crumpling and folding under at the center finally leaving a short mushroom stem on the bottom. Light the stem, place in the firepot and smother it with lots of coke/coal. Hide the paper. Use a whisper of a blast at the start increasing it little by little and tamping the pile lightly from the top and sides with the shovel. Keep feeding fuel when necessary. It'll smoke a lot till the flame breaks through.


In this manner, I avoid fluids and wood chips.


Hey, I just noticed this is my 2,000th post. What fun.

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Charcoal will light if you just look at it hard enough; Industrial coke will light if you look at it hard enough through the welding goggles while plying the oxy-acetylene torch on it and having an electric blower. coal/breeze is somewhere in the middle. I usually use kindling wood and a kitchen match---my wife keeps a box right next to our 50 year old propane kitchen range, or transfer hot coals from a fire; then when I have some glowing coals start cranking the blower while raking the coal/breeze in over it until the chimney starts to sing.

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Same section you posted in, 3rd sticky down


Additional References
BP0048 How to Build a Coal Fire
BP0046 How to Build a Coal Fire
BP0045 How to Build a Coal Fire

BP0042 How to Build a Coal Fire
BP0037 How to Build a Coal Fire
BP0036 How to build a Coal Fire

BP0137 Fire Starters

BP0051 Good Coal
BP0131 Coal, Coke, and Rocks

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I take a handful of dry, used paper towels, soak a bit of used cooking oil into them, light, and slowly apply air.  Then I add a few bits and pieces of coke from the previous fire, slowly, until the firepot is full.  Keep an eye on the fire and be sure there is indeed an actual good fire going under the pile as it's built it up.  Then once it's obvious it's going well, I rake in the rest of the coal and coke to make a big mound, stick the firepoker down into the air inlet to make a clear air blast channel, and in a few minutes, it's ready to go.  If I'm starting it without a supply of coke, I'll use some oil-soaked chunks of wood roughly the length and thickness of a pinky finger in place of the coke.    I haven't measured the total time to readiness, but I estimate about 10-15 minutes.

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I make three balls of newspaper, only one or two sheets each.  Two go in the firepot.  Light the third with a match, hold it with tongs and use it to prime the draft in my chimney, when it's almost burned up I drop it onto the other two, and pile on the charcoal.  The forge never fails to light.

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When I use my coal forge I mostly burn hard coke which is hard to light.   About half the time I use wood scraps  The rest of the time I use my oxy propane to start the forge.  I turn off the propane almost immediately after applying the torch to the forge.  As soon as any of the coke is lit just Oxygen gets the fire going to the point where the blower is enough.

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Many years ago on a forum, it was suggested to use a little flammable liquid or an accelerant to aid in getting the fire started. The next comment was WHICH flammable liquid or accelerant, and was a "little" more or less than a liter? The point was made.


We are visited by 150 world wide countries each month.  A flammable liquid can be anything handy in THAT PART OF THE WORLD. This is indeed a poor suggestion as flammable liquid needs translated into a universal chemical formula so we all are talking about the same flammable liquid. 


It is a universal skill to build a fire, if nothing else just in order to survive.  To suggest an accelerant be used is a questionable practice.and can cause trouble, both in starting the fire and / or in getting it to burn bigger or  better. If they do not know how to start or build a fire in the first place, their blacksmithing will be quickly limited to working metal cold. 

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For charcoal, use a chimney. For coal make a small fire (or use charcoal and your chimney, lol) if you still resort to lighterfluid or a torch ask an old boyscout to show you how to light a fire....


Hard industrial coke is tough to light.  I am very capable of lighting a fire without the torch but time is money and if I can be forging 10-15 minutes quicker using the torch I would rather have that 15 minutes of forging making money rather than messing about splitting wood and waiting for the wood fire to light the coke/. 

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In the first times I, too, lit my fire in the old way. Paper, kindlings or shavings, coal - and matches.

Then switched to this much faster method:

A few flat pieces of coal around the tuyere, one fistful of very fine wood shavings I get from a joiner, 6-8 pine cones, 20-30 ml / 1 fl ounce of grill lighter fluid (distilled petroleum). Lit by a match, I wait for about 20-30 sec then add slight airflow. Immediately I start putting the last fire's coke around the burning stuff. Then I increase the airflow to the max I usually use while forging. I put the green coal in the forge around and behind the burning center. Meanwhile I have to control the fire not to go hollow as the cones and shavings are totally burnt up till then.

This whole process takes 4-5 minutes max and results in a very nice and ready to go fire. Yet I usually let it run for few more minutes on full air and empty to mature the green coal close the center.


Just my 2(euro)cents  :)




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Well, firstly thank you for all the thoughtful responses. It pleases me somewhat to know I am not the only one who's not ashamed of using a bit of accelerant to get the show on the road. I don't use petrol though - kero is much less dramatic.
Fortunately I have a colleague who often has a wood-burning steam engine running beside my forging area, and a long-handled shovel with a load of coals from the boiler is the easy way to get instant fire in the forge.

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If I have wood charcoal, I half fill a BBQ chimney, stuff two sheets of newsprint under it, light and when that is going good dump it on the tuyere and mound the coke from the last fire around it while supply a gentle blast of air with the blower, leaving a hole in the top for smoke.


Haven't been BBQ'ing much lately, so a dry, 3 or 4 inch section of 2x4, split into kindling with a fixed blade knife and gentle hammer taps on the spine, knife edge on the end grain, gets a small bundle of kindling in no time. 2 sheets of newsprint (have to keep it in the house so it doens't get too damp) TeePee pile of kindling, then same as the charcoal. Light, mound the coke around, leave a hole and a gentle air blast.


Starting with either you get a hollow under the coke so its important to knock the burning coke down around the tuyere before getting to work.

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