MitchellMcLean

Can not keep my coal lit . . . .

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Alright, I will start by saying I am New to the wonder full job of Blacksmithing. I have learned a load of information Rom this particular site and I have heeded every single bit of advicenter. Now that y'all know I'm a boot, I can tell you my problem. This is the 6th day straight I have been out at my forge attempting to bend metal. I for the life of me, can not get my Anthracite (hard coal) to stay at forging temperature. I will walk you through step by step on how I start my day of smithing. 

First I set up my substitute blower system, which is composed of Two low quality air compressors. The compressors have 1/4 inch hoses that run to a duct tape reinforced 50 gallon trash bag, which then has a two inch pipe that leaders to the bottom of my fire pot. Then I start a whole bunch (about 3 very big handfuls)  of lump charcoal with a chimney starter an some newspaper for fuel. Once every single piece of charcoal is lit up I dump them into my fire pot. Following this I spread pea sized hard coal over the charcoal, I wait a couple of minutes while regularly pumping my (blower bag) a once the small hard coal is lit I add another decent amount of pea sized coal. Once again I wait another five too ten minutes while still pumping air. When it is all at a decent temperature I add some slight large pieces of hard coal (these pieces were broken up pieces of nut sized anthracite) After they start to light up I cover the fire pot with my largest coal.

At this point my fire pots center is very hot and glows bright orange all the way up to almost white (anthracite gets really xxxx hot) I continue pumping air and I wait a few minutes to get the core as glowing s possible. Here is we're it goes down hill, I go to add whatever piece of metal I happen to be attempting to work on. The piece sits and starts getting up to temperature, sometimes I can get a one or two cycles through the forge to the anvil. However most of the time the fire just starts to die out. I have wasted countless amounts of coal and headaches trying this. I am one of the most patient people I know and it is even frustrating me.

I consider myself a student of life and would be very appreciative if someone could share some new knowledge with me. Please ask anything that you need to know in case I missed it.  I appreciate it very much.

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Anthracite loves air. If I kill the blower on my forge for a few minutes, I'll kill the fire if I'm burning anthracite. It also takes a bit to get new coal going. I have to constantly add small amounts. If I dump a large volume on, especially if I don't have good air flow, I'll kill the fire.

As You noticed, hard coal gets very hot, but isn't the best choice for forging. If you can find soft coal, you will be worlds ahead. If you can't, I'd suggest a better "fan". My original fan on my forge wasn't adequate with hard coal. My newer fan works fine, but is way overkill with the soft coal I use now.

It would help if you add your location to your profile so we always know where you are located at. You might find someone local here who knows where you can get decent coal, or who may have a line on a better fan for you.

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Ditch the compressors and use some king of blower, even a hair dryer, blower from an old drier, bathroom vent fan etc. add that to DSW's advice and your almost there

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Honestly appreciate it guys. I'm working with a slim budget, but I'm pretty crafty and I think I can rig up an improved air system. Your help is invaluable gentlemen.

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The Anthracite I have used needs a continuous air blast. Work on obtaining a squirrel cage blower, or other  air source first.

You may want to locate some bituminous coal to mix with it or even add some small(ish) chunks of wood to help keep the fire going. Do not worry about wasting fuel while you work at the anvil using anthracite. Just move the anvil next to the fire so you do not have travel time involved. 

Photos of your set up would help a lot.

 

You can forge using just wood. Look for pallets, fallen tree limbs, etc. Use chunks about 2x4x4 inches in size. You will need a deeper fire with just wood as you are making charcoal, burning the charcoal and heating the metal all at the same time. The orange to yellow fireball should be as large as a melon or larger.

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If you know any remodeling contractors talk to them about trying to get your hands on an old bath fan or kitchen range hood. Both are good sources of fans. I've got a couple of old squirrel cage bath fans I saved for new guys that I've pulled from bath remodels. My original blower was a squirrel cage blower off a fire place heat exchanger I saved years ago planing to build a forge at some point.  An electric leaf blower would be another possible option. I've seen those cheap on occasion at yard sales. If you have too much air, you can always plumb in a vent in the line to bleed off excess air or add an air gate to the system.

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Like I said before guys I'm extremely greatfull, you all have led me to dip a little into my saving so I can order a blower (I enjoy the fact that they look like turbos) . Did some research and found the one I think I want. It's 180 CFM blower. I'm not sure if that's enough but like DSW said I can just divert excessive air. 

I'm sorry to say but hard must be the coal for me, I got a call back from a sweet old lady in a town over from me. She had me do some work on her place and she rewarded me with her connection to a half ton of FREE hard coal.

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From my limited experience you would be better off with soft coal. The hard stuff kicks out amazing heat, but it requires a lot of air. It also doesn't coke up like soft coal does and you end up using more coal in an afternoon of forging. I think a coal fire likes High volume LOW speed air. As someone stated an old used bathroom vent fan makes a decent and CHEAP blower.

When i started I used hard coal, then found some soft coal. I mxed the hard stuff in with the soft stuff, its not ideal, but at least I'm using 100 pounds of hard coal up.

There is a Southern Tier Chapter of NY State Designer Blacksmiths in your area. Checkout www.nysdb.org.

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Your fan is probably more than plenty if you got what I think you did. I'd have suggested holding off on a dedicated forge blower due to the price and suggested a less expensive solution.

 

I know what you are saying about "free" coal. I was given close to a ton and a half of hard coal from a friend who was cleaning out his wifes grandparents place so they could sell it. I used some, but once I realized how much trouble it is, I simply went out and bought better coal. I invested a fair amount towards a better blower that probably would have been better spent either on better coal at the time, or new tools as my old blower would have been fine for decent coal.  Sometimes "free" is more expensive in the long run.

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How long is the fire lasting? Are you certain that the coal has caught? Could be the charcoal portion of the fire burning out before the coal lights. Charcoal is very easy to light, coal not as much so.

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Trust me I would love to get some soft coal but I'm not a quiter and I have read that hard coal works just fine. So instead of switching I will just work on it untill I perfect it. I'm sure once I get back to the forge my new blower will do the trick. 

The coal is definitely lighting I have no problem with that. Just keeping it lit after I place the metal in and disturb the fire is where I am screwing up. 

All of the guilds and groups around here are full of some real pompous people. Not really willing to open there arms and help. They say they are but, personal being ridiculed by a " forge master of 6 years" just for asking questions... not my cup of tea. With all of your help I will figure this out.

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Generally we suggest people starting out try to do things the easiest way possible and work their way up to the harder methods.  Trying to get started using hard coal is an example of that type of issue.

Before spending money on a blower; go ask a local HVAC company about getting one of the exhaust assist blowers used on high efficiency furnaces; explain your intended use  and you should get one cheap if not free from the used bonepile they can't reuse them but it would be fine for your use.

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Do you have a dedicated shop? If so you might want to look into finding a source of smithing coal and a pot bellied stove. Use the smithing coal in the forge and hard coal in the pot belly come winter.

On the other hand I can get stubborn about making a thing do what I want it to so I understand. We'll help how we can, we're all like that to a degree. Well, maybe more than A degree! ;)

Frosty The Lucky.

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Personally, I would just start with using charcoal, maybe mixing in some coal to help stretch your charcoal and not waste the hard coal if you are learning to forge. Will work until you can find soft coal or just keep using charcoal. 

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Before spending money on a blower; go ask a local HVAC company about getting one of the exhaust assist blowers used on high efficiency furnaces; explain your intended use  and you should get one cheap if not free from the used bonepile they can't reuse them but it would be fine for your use.

That's one I'll add to my list of suggestions for new smiths along with the bath fan/ range hoods as a possible option. I'd never thought of those before. Thanks. Along the same lines, many of the newer direct vent gas hot water heaters use the same type fan rig as my newer gas furnace, so that would be another possible option. A plumber may have access to those as the burner assembly seldom fails on hot water heaters. Usually it's the tanks that fail and cause them to need to be replaced, so the fan blower should still be good.

 

I've looked at replacing the fan blowers for radon systems as well in the past for customers who felt the old ones were too "noisy". That might be another good option for a cheap blower if you can find someone who swaps them out regularly and can save one for you.

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Just keep your blower on while using the anvil. Move them closer together. Make a dump valve for your blower 

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dSW, the inflatable matrice blowers that wally world carries works well for charcoal and small coal forges, the big one for blow up pools works real well for larger coal (but not ginorius) forges. 

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