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After answering a call at work today as I was wandering back through the woods when I noticed a piece of coal at my feet. As I usually do when I find one piece, I looked around to see if there was any more. Well I found more and more. I brought home about 50 pounds with probably at least that much more left out there.

my problem is im used to using charcoal for forging but really want to try my hand at coal and have not a clue the best way to coke it or if it even really needs to be coked ahead of time. I know the basics of fire maintenance but are there any tricks I need to be aware of? I feel like I'm missing something obvious I need to ask but it's been a long day and I'm tired.

thanks in advance 

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Coal is coked in a n industrial procces, or more comonly in the fire itself, initialy the "green coal is burned untile the impurities are burned off and come is left, then more coal is banked around the burning coke, acting as insulation, as well as structure to the fire. The fire begins to burn of the imurities in the. banked coal, and this fresh coke is pulled in to the fire to replenish the used coke, and more coal is banked. So if y lack coke to start, you creat it by burning coal, just as you can burn wood and tranfer the burning embers to your charcoal forge. 

Clear as mud? 

Dont forget that coal likes a stronger blast of air than charcoal and will self extinguish rather quikly. 

Edited by Charles R. Stevens

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So light and go. Got it. Just to clarify coal likes more air than charcoal? Or is it the other way around?

I just remembered what I forgot earlier. Most of these pieces are quite large (softball size more or less) I know obviously that I need to break it up. Should I be good at about pecan size or should I go for a different size?

Edited by M Cochran

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Brake up enough coal in ping pong ball size (or less) pieces to start the fire. Build a good fire from sticks, charcoal, etc and establish a bed of coals. Add the broken pieces of coal and air. Once the coal is started and going well, put the larger pieces on top to get warm. Whack them with a shovel or poker and they should break apart easily.

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i too use charcoal exclusively, so far. I do have bags of coal that I have not used because my forge is still without hood. I was wondering if blacksmith coal can have impurities burned off in a charcoal retort?

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Well, I spent a little time busting coal into usable bits this afternoon after work. I have a little over 2 1/2 five gallon buckets as of right now. I plan to go back and get more, I hate the idea of it sitting there being useless almost wasted. I did find something interesting while breaking it up, I found a few pieces of small silver something in some of the pieces. I am at a loss for what it could be so I have to ask, does anyone have a clue what it could be?

image.jpg

image.jpg

image.jpg

image.jpg

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So nothing to get too excited about. It is funny theres a chance of 'gold' in it since when I found it i behaved as if I had just found gold lol.

just curious, how long does coal last before its burned up? Is it enough I'll get an hour (or more) out of what I have? I am really looking forward to lighting this stuff this weekend after I finish rebuilding my bottom blast forge but have no idea what to expect. If I'll only be able to get an hour or two of of what I have I'll hold off using it until I have a little more.

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Depending on your forge, blower, coal and projects I'd expect that much (if they are in 5 gallon buckets) to do a 2 day demo.

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Building a fire will answer many of your questions, and provide additional information you never thought to ask. Just remember that coal burns HOT so watch for the metal to go through red, orange, yellow, white, and then a 4th of July sparkler. The difference in color can progress quickly until you get used to it. Hammer at orange and yellow. 

Once you have the temperature of the fire under control, place the next piece of metal on TOP of the fire. It will preheat and go from black to working temperature in no time.   

fire drawing 2.jpg

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That's great news :) Sadly I don't have one of those, just an old fart fan i salvaged during a remodeling job I did last year.

Glenn, thanks for reminding me it's hotter than my char. I've only once ever burned steel enough to sparkle but only briefly. I like the preheat idea, I'll have to remember that.

thanks guys for your help so far. 

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You are going to produce smoke with coal. Poke a hole in the top of the fire to create a volcano. As the flame escapes it should burn a lot of the smoke. You can over fuel a coal fire with no problems. Fuel does not make the fire hot, AIR makes the fire hot. Electric blown air is another factor you have to learn to control.  You want a fireball about the size of a melon or more. See drawing above.

As you learn fire maintenance you can put several "irons in the fire". Rotate from the top of the fire, to the inside edge of the fire, to the center of the fire. It is a dance for sure. Just be careful that YOU stay in control of the dance and not to let the fire control your hammer. The fire CAN have a piece of hot metal ready at all times and kill you trying to keep up with it.

Keep fluids handy and drink early and often. Shade #3 gas welding glasses will help your eyes. Try NOT to stare at the fire. And always wear a shirt even though the radiant heat will suggest otherwise. One size smaller is good as it will get wet and cling to the body. Do not ask how many loose floppy shirts I have caught on fire. As a safety precaution wet down the immediate area with a garden hose, have a 5 gallon bucket of water handy, and leave the hose fully charged and ready to go if needed.

Edited by Glenn

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Thanks, glenn. I'm looking right now at my scrap pile (mentally since it's dark and I don't have lights on the back of my shop lol) to make sure I have what I need to make a decent small coal forge. I'm thinking about using a rusty old farming disc as my firepot with some sheet metal welded to it large enough to make a decent little table around it. It's not gonna be deep so I think I'm gonna have to do some research before i finalize my build.

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Look up the 55 Forge on IFI. Should take you an hour to build the first one and half that for the second one.

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I've seen them mentioned a couple times and haven't looked yet. The last bottom blast charcoal forge I had was a 30 gallon drum with about half of one side cut out and a hole in the top and bottom. The bottom hole had an old metal saucepan and the hole on top had a cast iron collar and a 6 inch chimney about 4 feet long. Still have the body but not the chimney or pot.

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Jacob, give it a go mate, I havn't had the oportunity to try it but it will work if you can make good charcoal in your setup.

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Take the bottom blast concept and make it easier by NOT adding air at the bottom but from the side. Same general set up but put a 3/4 or 1 inch pipe in horizontally about 3-4 inches above the bottom of the forge and about 1/3 of the diameter into the forge. Add fuel, add fire, add air, and be happy.

See air pipe at 5 o'clock in the attached photo.

fire side blast.jpg

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Looking at the chunks you show, it looks like you have anthracite or hard coal vs bituminous/soft coal. Hard coal will work for a forge, but will not light as easily or stay lit unless you have a good air flow constantly. When I had to use hard coal to forge with, I'd get a good bed of charcoal going, then start adding my coal until I got a solid fire. Once I started to add a fair amount of coal, I'd have to run the blower pretty much full time from taht point on to keep the fire lit. I could reduce the air flow some to keep fuel usage reasonable, but if I let the fire die down too much and added too much coal at once, or simply killed the air, it would go out.

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I got a chance to fire up some coal and work with it today and wanted to come back and say thanks again for everyone's help. I have to say that I wasn't expecting the significant difference in heat difference between coal and the charcoal im used to but it was a very pleasant surprise. I had a small billet tack welded together ready to forge weld and was dreading the amount of time and fuel it was goin to take with charcoal but with two heats I was able to get a good solid weld. 

DSW, it's was a little difficult to light (the first time) but after I had to relight it a couple times I found it not too bad. I just had to be patient with it.

i have to say, I'm looking forward to using it some more. I guess that means it's time to find a good local supply :)

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