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John on Fishhook

Homemade Coal Forge on a budget

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The plans for my forge were from a book by Randy McDaniel's and it was made from steel scraps and material donations from friends. The total cost of my forge was a $40 angle grinder (the $20 angle grinder caught fire) and $10 worth of cut off blades. The blower was from a clothes dryer, and had a rheostat, but the air restrictor on the intake worked much better.  I spent a long time on the clinker breaker, but never used it and it would work better without it.  Five pounds of coal gives me about 45 minutes of heat. If you continuously load it, that time is infinite.  The 600° high-heat paint has never burned off, no matter how hot I run it or how long I worked.  You don't need a lot of expensive tools to start with. When I started, I held the metal with Vise-Grips, then made simple tongs, then cut-off tools, coal working tools, hammers, froes, knives and a giant screw driver, so you make the forge first, then use it to make what you need.  I get all of my coal out of the ground, so it is very economical to run.

forge 1.jpg

forge 2.jpg

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forge 4.jpg

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Good job.

You might benefit from a rim on 3 sides to keep extra coal near the fire for coking and raking in.

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X2 on the rim to retain coal. I'd make it 3-4" high so you can pile up plenty and keep it on the table.  My forge originally had a 1 1/2" angle iron frame, but I very quickly added some 3" sides.  MUCH better.:)

You mentioned you get your own coal.  That's fantastic.  Do you have bituminous or anthracite?  

 

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The area around Sutton was a coal mine or if you ever go down to Anchor River or Deep creek there are coal seams that are exposed along the bluffs and alot has broken off and is lying on the beach. It is mostly sub bituminous and isnt as good as proper smithing coal. Free to pickup off the beach is pretty hard to beat for cost!

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Thanks for the comments about my forge. It is great to talk to people about coal forges. The kind of heat available with coal, opens up so many other opportunities, not only in metal working, but also in aluminum casting and glass working. Some people commented about my forge not having a lip. It doesn't have a lip because it hasn't been needed. The coal I use ignites and cokes up so fast, that a small reserve is enough. On big heats (or big for me), I coke up reserves over on the side that the slide-on hood is on (see photo), but the un-coked coal is easier to handle.  Much of what I have read about coal management did not really apply to the coal that I use. It is A-grade Bituminous coal with a heat value of 15,500 BTU's per pound.  The sub-anthracite I've mined isn't hotter, it just burns cleaner.  To compare the coals: Usibelli is 7,500 BTU's per pound and Jonesville is 11,000 BTU's per pound. Coal sold by Centaur Forge is around 14,000 BTU's ( the heat value changes how you manage it). Also, there is very little clinker in the coal I use, so the (hard to make) clinker breaker I made for my forge proved useless.  Mining your own coal is great fun, but I assure you, in the first loads I brought home, there was a lot of black ROCK that would not burn (I still do bring home rock from time to time).

chimney 1.jpg

 

chimney 3.jpg

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Edited by John on Fishhook
added photo

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Hey Gang, I finally got back on, thanks to Admin's bug stomping!

That's a fine looking forge John. You're digging 15,500btu fast coking coal? Sounds like the Castle Mtn. metallurgical beds. That is some sweet coal, I've just never been able to find the clean seams. I might set up my coal forges with good coal available. Oh BABY!

Where ever you're mining doesn't really matter, you've got the real deal.

Arkie, I can look out the living room window at the Talkeetna Mtn. range, it's about 50-100 miles wide and 300 long, some 10,000' deep, averaging somewhat higher and it's all coal beds. Heck, if I wanted to dig a couple hundred feet we live over coal beds. There's coal everywhere, just no good smithing coal for sale here.

I am so glad you know where the good stuff is John. a Lot of the guys will be happy.

Frosty The Lucky.

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I do this to play with fire and hit things with hammers. Best hobby ever. <grin>

Frosty The Lucky.

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Hey Gang, I finally got back on, thanks to Admin's bug stomping!

That's a fine looking forge John. You're digging 15,500btu fast coking coal? Sounds like the Castle Mtn. metallurgical beds. That is some sweet coal, I've just never been able to find the clean seams. I might set up my coal forges with good coal available. Oh BABY!

Where ever you're mining doesn't really matter, you've got the real deal.

Arkie, I can look out the living room window at the Talkeetna Mtn. range, it's about 50-100 miles wide and 300 long, some 10,000' deep, averaging somewhat higher and it's all coal beds. Heck, if I wanted to dig a couple hundred feet we live over coal beds. There's coal everywhere, just no good smithing coal for sale here.

I am so glad you know where the good stuff is John. a Lot of the guys will be happy.

Frosty The Lucky.

​Sounds like your coal mountains are like Samuel Taylor Coleridge's poem (I think it was The Rime of the Ancient Mariner") which said, "...water, water everywhere, nor any drop to drink", or something to that effect.  Looks like John has a gold mine in the coal!!

Edited by arkie

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On February 28, 2015 at 9:37 PM, John on Fishhook said:

If anyone is interested in making a Randy McDaniels forge, I have the templates for the fire box that I am willing to let someone use.  

 

On February 28, 2015 at 9:37 PM, John on Fishhook said:

If anyone is interested in making a Randy McDaniels forge, I have the templates for the fire box that I am willing to let someone use.  

 

As a newbie, I would love the template if the offer still stands.  Also sorry for the multiple posts, I am still trying to figure this out!

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Welcome aboard, glad to have you. If you'll put your general location in the header one of us might be within visiting distance. I'm assuming you're in Alaska but I'm used to assumptions being wrong.

I don't think the fellow who posted the offer is still subscribed to Iforge nor the Alaska Association's Email list. You can probably find Randy's plans on the web. If not the solid fuel forge section of Iforge contains probably hundreds of posts about coal forges: different types, sizes, building them, using them, etc.

I'm in the Mat Su valley just a bit north of Wasilla and there are a number of Valley smiths. There are quite a few in Anchorage as well and a few here and there spread all over the state.

If you're reasonably close to the Valley our next meeting is the 23rd. of this month in Palmer. Our meetings are open to the public we have demos and open forge stations to try what you've learned or share tips. Lunch is usually potluck with a pot of something yummy usually on hand. PM me if you need or want details. New folk are always welcome.

Frosty The Lucky.

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