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Was wondering if buying coal online was worth it?Until I can get setup to make my own charcoal, (which may be awhile yet).  I'd like to get a bit more bang for my buck. I'm getting about a hour per 15 pound bag using store bought charcoal.  Which may sound off I don't really know, and as Im trying to learn tapering and some other basics ( not as easy as it looks, it turns out).  Im not really moving much metal in that time period.  So I found where shipped I can get 50lb bags of coal to my house its $50 per bag, goes down if I buy more at once. Also can get just coke at the same weight for the same price.

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Although I have never really kept close track of exactly how fast I consume coal, I think I must get at least 20 hours of forging time out of a 50 lb. bag. of smithing coal.

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charcoal and coal have about the same BTU content per pound they just vary greatly in density.  Charcoal works better with less air than coal does otherwise you burn it up *fast*.

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Compared to my 3.3 hours of charcoal time out of the same weight, thats not bad.  Also the air may be a problem for why I'm burning so fast.  I'm using a blow dryer it has two settings.  So if I understand right the coal would be better lasting for the amount of air Im using?  Currently paying $7 a hour to learn this isn't really acceptable. 

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So you are wasting most of the air right?  Many charcoal forges you would run with the ash dump propped open if you are using an electric blower.  Or like SOFA does it and have a foot switch so the air is on only while you are standing on the switch.

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The way mine is setup I just remove the electric blow dryer and use the flexible heater tubing to dump ashes and clean. the tube is actually 8ft but when its in its folded, shortened position its maybe 3ft`.  I could easily stretch it out and cut a section off for later use.  would it be worth it to drill holes in the shorter section to allow some air out and not over burn the charcoal?

 

KIMG0158.jpeg

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`I'm looking now to see how that can be done.  I have a car rear rotor, with E brake drum for the forge part.  with a 2 and 1/2 ft, or so 3 inch pipe welded to it, then the flexible heating duct tubing coming off of that inside the barrel.

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You are going about it the hard way, lol. Many smiths started out (and many still use) brake drum/rotor forges, but the truth is they are more difficult to build and often more expensive than a side blast. Besides charcoal likes side blast much better, and charcoal just doesn't care. 

Look at the "side blast 55 forge" or is that "55 side blast"? You will only need a peice of 3/4" schedual 40 pipe (ok a peice of pipe, a couple of nippels and a valve are nice) and some dirt

With this setup you can have a very nice 6" fireball and eek out the most effecency from charcoal. 

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Coal doesn't care?  I did some research after your post and like the idea. I didn't find the 55 side blast, I did find your thread. I would do that but there is no clay here, and if I could figure out how to use sand I'd have to buy bags of play sand? I'll do more searching tomorrow after work. I have a engine install and a jaguar heating issue so I'll be to tired to want to do much outside lol. I started with a brick pit in the ground with a pipe going into the side if it, you can see it below my current one in the picture above. then built this brake drum forge so another build won't hurt.

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gallery_1_534_61343.jpg

Do not over complicate simple.

This is the 55 Forge. The side blast is just a 3/4 inch sch 40 pipe of an available length put into the fore from the side. I lay a house brick on edge and cut the side wall of the pan to the top of the brick, fold the tab inward, and lay the pipe on the tab and brick. Get a piece of flexible aluminum dryer vent pipe and crush one end around the end of the 3/4 inch pipe. Stretch the other end to the air source. DO NOT connect the end of the pipe directly to the air source but leave a gap between the two. If you want more air, aim the air more directly into the pipe, if you want less air do not aim so directly which will spill some of the air off to the side of the pipe.

Fuel does not make the fire hot. AIR makes the fire hot. Only use as much air as is needed to get the heat you need from the fire..This means that you can over fuel the fire and not worry. Look at the above photo and see that only the fuel that is getting air is burning, not the excess fuel in the pan.

gallery_1_534_21953.jpg

You want a fire ball about 6 inches in diameter or the size of a large melon.  Your metal goes into the fireball about 1/2 to 2/3 of the wat to the top of the fire ball. You should have 4 to 6 inches of fuel on TOP of the fire ball.

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Sand and clay are available everywhere and it's usually priced as cheap as dirt. 

1 Clay. Every supermarket sells non clumping kitty litter .  It's fine for use building forges. Clumping kitty litter is a completely different product and isn't suitable. 

2 Sand. You can find sand any place where construction is being done. It's used when they mix concrete. A polite request will get you all you need, and usually free. Masons and landscapers always have sand, as does the Department of Public works in whatever city or town you live in. Once again, a polite request helps. 

Not sure if "play sand" is the right product anyway. 

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I used clay because it was under my feet, clay and coal are not a good mix as the clay vitrifies and slag sticks to it. Traditinal side blast forges are filled with fly ash and cinders (clinker) clay coverd by a thin layer of ash works well, as dose sand and ash. 

This isn't rocket science, we are talking about a hole in the ground to contain a fire, everything else is an improvement on that. 

One of the other members put up this illustration, Glenn mistakenly posted the bottom blast. 

image.jpeg

Don't worry about a water cooler tuyere at this stage of the game. 

Now, what Glenn said about fuel is true for coal, for charcoal excess fuel is just wasted, charcoal being less dense will happily burn with out air wile coal will slowly extinguish (most of the time)

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Have you connected with the local blacksmithing group? 50 USD$ for 50 lbs of coal is a ripoff. I only go as high as 10$ for 50 lbs, but that's even a little steep. If you contact your local group, they might have bulk coal for much less than online. The side blast forge is simple and effective, and will not break the bank. 

If you even just angle the hairdrying at a shallow angle so that not all of the air goes into the pipe you can vent it that way. 

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Thank you,  I've tried to find one there isn't a very local group at all it seems, which isn't to say I haven't just been unlucky in my searching.  I've also talked to a couple of local welders and one fella that frequents the shop who shoes horses.  I'd whether use the coal either way the forge is setup, just because everything I can find says it lasts longer, and more bang for my buck is great.  I'm checking other sites and places, the coal was 29.94, shipping brought it to 49.94 per bag to my door.  I will try to vent the air first and see if that helps with the rapid consumption of charcoal, until I can try a side blast. in fact when my blow dryer slips out of the tube a bit it doesn't cut all the air, but lowers the amount by a lot.  I checked the only local store that might have the pipe and fittings, they don't so I'll have to make the hour and half drive to Wichita Falls for the supplies to build one, minus the non clumping kitty liter that I can get here :).

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Steve, did you check with Saltfork in Oklahoma...their coal is MUCH cheaper but membership is required (I think we went this route before....??)  Might be worth joining.

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I checked and the coal they have for sale is 4 or 5 hours away from me, which with family there is all good, I was looking for a until that happens solution.  One could look at those illustrations and completely see it as rocket science btw :)  I have no problem building a side blast style forge.  I do want to wait on even a semi permanent fixture, or one that is difficult to move, as we are getting ready to buy a house soon.  This one is a rent house.  That's one reason I built the brake drum forge.  It looked like the easiest to put together and the easiest to move at the time.

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Try your local tractor supply. 

Las to blower a cheep air matrice inflator will hook up to a peice of 3/4" with a bit of finagling

Works ok as is but I now think a "T" to vent the exes is better as I don't like the noise, grates on my nerves

image.jpeg

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That's a great idea, especially as I happen to have a cheap air mattress inflator.  I was just thinking I'd hook a rheostat up to my blow dryer and turn down the power to control air flow.  Yes I was going to call tractor supply today there is one 30 minutes away in Vernon.

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The dimmer switch may or may not work, depending on the type of motor, I've mostly had good luck. You can also build a manual air gate (block either the air going in or out partway). 

Texas can be a pain to find coal in. Have you called nearby farriers? They might know where to find it, even if they don't use it themselves. $1 a lb is a very steep price for coal. I'd also call farrier supplies on both sides of the Tx/Ok border. There's also farrier supplies in Ft Worth, near OK city, and a farrier school north of Gainesville. Bit of a drive, but....

Also, Qanah's up near Wichita Falls, no? Kinda rural, lotta mesquite?  You may want to consider making charcoal yourself. All you need is some dried hardwood and a 55 gal barrel or three. Mesquite makes great charcoal, although I shudder to think what you'd go through in buying/sharpening saw blades.  Maybe some live oak up that way....

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I can see in the pict. Glenn posted, that I have been using my fire wrong from day one, I will have to change the way I have been working the forge (fire) I have been keeping my coal even with the top of the rotor, and my metal going down to the bottom of the drum.

april fire 2.JPG

forge top done.JPG

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I teach my students that generally you would like the metal to be close to horizontal in the fire to keep it in the same general part of the fire: oxidizing, neutral, reducing; and try to stay away from the oxidizing part down near the tuyere!

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I use anthracite coal from Tractor Supply.  Not the same as bituminous but I've found it to be much better than Charcoal.  40# bags are about $6.  I haven't really run a clock to determine time vs coal consumption, but I know I get a few hours out of each bag.  With the anthracite, you have to keep some air moving or it will go out, but it doesn't have to be much, and then when you crank the air up, it gets the steel up to forging temps very quickly... so quickly, you better not turn your back on it.

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