Dakota Dave

How much coal do I really need?

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Hi all,

I have been using a gas forge for several months and enjoying it. I had picked up a coal forge and several hand crank blowers over the last year at farm auctions

and I finally have a large forge and champion crank refurbished and ready to go. The only thing stopping me from ordering coal is not having any idea of how much

I should expect to burn through how quickly. I'm sure as I get some time in I'll get more efficient with it. But I have no idea how much a #50 bag translates to in forge

time. Of course the more you get the cheaper it is. My shop is 14 x 24 so I can store a little bit. Thanks for the replies in advance!

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Really depends  on you and the coal and what you are doing.   Really hard to say. I've always thought about 5 lbs and hour for my self. but never really measured it.   You will use less coal with hand crank than with electric blower. I always tried to keep the fire deep and no hotter than the working temperature of the metal I was using.  Blades will be hotter than mild steel and decorative twists.  Just my personal take

 

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For me blades are cooler as most blade steels don't like the high temps you can work mild at----save for doing pattern welding of course then a welding fire does use a lot of fuel.Real wrought iron likes a welding temp fire for much work.

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A pallet size container 4 feet deep is about a ton of coal. Fuel does not make the fire hot, air makes the fire hot. A hand crank is controlled by you and produces air as long as you crank. The faster you crank the more air produced and the hotter the fire. You should have a fire ball about 6 inches in diameter whether you are running the fire HOT or not so hot depending on your project.

Your coal / fuel usage will depend on how many BTUs you want from the fire.

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I bought 3 tons of coal about 30 years ago and have about 1000 lbs left.  However, I often use a gas forge now so this amount will probably last me the rest of my life.

Hard to say how much you will use - depends on how you work and what type of stuff you make.

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Be sure you like the coal you buy. When I 1st started out I was given 4 big 55 gallon drums full of anthracite that came from the coal bunker in my buddies grandparents basement. Turns out that coal isn't very good for smithing, and I have bought good bituminous to use instead.

 

The point being if I'd paid good money for all that coal, I'd be stuck using that. Since I only have my labor into it, I can easily simply walk away from it and use something better. Biggest issue right now is I have those 4 big drums taking up a lot of space I'd dearly love in my shop, but I have no good place to go with all that coal and it's a lot of effort to empty and then refill the drums so I can move them.

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If you find good coat at a good price, get lots, as much as you can afford and store. It doesn't need to be stored indoors or kept dry. It helps to keep it clean. You can always sell it. It seems harder and harder to find good smithing coal in small [ less than trainload ] amounts.

 I've gone through about  15-20  tons in the last 20 years  This is in a full time,one man shop, using a coal forge  maybe about 10-15% of the time. Propane is  usually more efficient for a lot of things, but there is always a use for a coal forge IMHO

I go through about a full 5 gallon bucket or more per day.

 Right now I'm burning coke, with about  1,500 # left.  I'm thinking I'll retire when it's gone.

 

 

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OK I was thinking of getting about #200-250 of bituminous coal from Centaur Forge as they

will drop it at my driveway for a cost of $232. I can store it in steel drums with lids outside the

shop and only keep one drum inside so I wont take up any extra space. It sounds like it should

last me for a while. And I have thought about going with a electric blower to get a more consistent

heat. That and I have a destroyed shoulder and it takes enough effort to hammer lol.

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Dave - buy the 200-250 worth from Centaur and use it. I've gotten coal from them in the past and really liked it. Use that much and you will get a feel for what your fire management is and depending on the work your doing - how long it will last - then you can use that as a judge for future coal buys. No one can really tell you how much you will use until you use some to get a feel of how you control your fire and what type of work your doing. - Get some coal and get after it!!!!

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I would search local sources, I forget what coal goes for here but I think that is very high to what I can get local.  Ed

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 That's about $1.00 a lb.....to high for me.  I'm paying right at $.065 a lb. But I do have to drive about an hour to pick it up.    Dave

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I live in Bridgewater SD. I do not have any local sources that I am aware of. I would have to either drive to Nebraska which is a several hour round trip or order through the closest dealer that I know works with blacksmiths. And the price includes shipping $231 for 250#

Moisture: 6.0% 
Ash: 8.0% 
Sulfur: .1.5% 
BTU per lbs: 13,000 
Volatile Content: 25% 
Size: 1-1/4" x 3/8" with maximum 6% minus 3/8

Back east I have no doubt coal is more plentiful as are tools and other folks to learn from. Sad to say out in these parts in my experience of the last 2 years I am a very odd duck to say the least. Which isn't all bad. I managed to make a really horrible snake out of a rather large round file for a neighbor and I kid you not it was like I had performed magic before a village full of people who had never seen fire lol. It really doesn't take much to impress apparently. I really was wishing I had another round file laying around to try to make him another snake I thought it was that bad. I am planning on joining ABANA in January and seeing about reviving a chapter for this area so we have a contact person if nothing else. Lord knows I have no clue what I'm doing other than don't pick up the end that's glowing red lol.

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I know that in 5 days at John C Campbell Folk School I can go through somewhere between 75 & 100 pounds.  Of course those are long days.

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On 11/20/2015, 7:24:40, Dakota Dave said:

Lord knows I have no clue what I'm doing other than don't pick up the end that's glowing red lol.

Speaking from past experience, I would add to check that the end that isn't glowing red is cool enough to handle as well.

Also, if you do any welding, make sure that you don't have a hole in your glove where you might grab a piece to manipulate it real quick.  There's an old blacksmith joke with a punchline "Nope, Just didn't take long to look at it!" that I lived about 2 weeks ago at work.  We smell like bacon and stupid, just so you know.

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In my experience, for light forging I burn less than 2.5 pounds per hour when working steadily. I have an electric blower but shut off the air with a slide gate damper when no iron is in the fire. If I'm going to away from the fire for a while I shut off the blower to reduce the shop noise.

In this area I can buy 50 LB bags of bituminus  for $12.49 plus tax. Buying a whole pallet (50 bags) gives you a good discount.

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