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I Forge Iron

Hello from New Orleans Area


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Going to be a little time before I attempt any blacksmithing but I've joined the site so I can start researching and read techniques.  My wife decided to let me learn a new craft so here I am.  I'm gonna start slowing piecing together tools.  I want to forge with coal/wood.  Looking forward to learning this ancient craft and any glad to hear any advice.  Will be scrolling through old threads so I don't ask any of the same questions as all new people.

Wife is getting me The Backyard Blacksmith for Father's Day so will also be reading that book soon.

Nice meeting everyone.

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On ‎5‎/‎12‎/‎2016 at 5:23 PM, BigLes985 said:

 I want to forge with coal/wood

any reason for the preference? as in coal do you mean charcoal or dead dinosaur coal?

On ‎5‎/‎12‎/‎2016 at 5:23 PM, BigLes985 said:

The Backyard Blacksmith

I have that book also, one thing is that it is more about projects it seems. It only skims the surface of techniques and tooling. Any book suggestions others?

                                                                                                   Littleblacksmith

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Welcome aboard Les, glad to meet you.

Wood WILL work as a forge fuel but there are problems, the largest in my experience is radiated waste heat. A charcoal fire is much more contained the steel will get hotter while people standing near the forge don't bet BBQed. Same for coal, the fire is contained so the heat cokes the green coal instead of baking you.

A wood fired forge generates large external flames and you're heating the steel in the charcoal generated by the burning wood. My recommendation is to buy coal or lump charcoal, briquettes aren't very good forge fuel. If you wish, a charcoal retort is easy enough to make and you can coal your own wood for fuel. Camping shoveling coals out of the fire is much more workable than trying to use the campfire directly. I've done both.

If you want to try a propane forge, being in contact with your local blacksmithing organization will give you the chance at  meetings, hammer ins or just get to gethers. Heck, that's the way to get the feel of any type forge with experienced help. You'll learn more in an afternoon working with an experienced smith than maybe weeks trying to figure it out yourself.

Frosty The Lucky.

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On May 15, 2016 at 9:11 PM, littleblacksmith said:

any reason for the preference? as in coal do you mean charcoal or dead dinosaur coal?

I have that book also, one thing is that it is more about projects it seems. It only skims the surface of techniques and tooling. Any book suggestions others?

                                                                                                   Littleblacksmith

I just thinking the propane forges would cost more money in the long run.  I'm leaning towards a coal forge which I would buy some coal from a company like blacksmith depot.com.

Just starting out and looking forward to reading advice and trying different things and see what works best.

On May 15, 2016 at 11:45 AM, Frosty said:

Welcome aboard Les, glad to meet you.

Wood WILL work as a forge fuel but there are problems, the largest in my experience is radiated waste heat. A charcoal fire is much more contained the steel will get hotter while people standing near the forge don't bet BBQed. Same for coal, the fire is contained so the heat cokes the green coal instead of baking you.

A wood fired forge generates large external flames and you're heating the steel in the charcoal generated by the burning wood. My recommendation is to buy coal or lump charcoal, briquettes aren't very good forge fuel. If you wish, a charcoal retort is easy enough to make and you can coal your own wood for fuel. Camping shoveling coals out of the fire is much more workable than trying to use the campfire directly. I've done both.

If you want to try a propane forge, being in contact with your local blacksmithing organization will give you the chance at  meetings, hammer ins or just get to gethers. Heck, that's the way to get the feel of any type forge with experienced help. You'll learn more in an afternoon working with an experienced smith than maybe weeks trying to figure it out yourself.

Frosty The Lucky.

Thanks a lot for all the information.  I'm leaning towards a coal forge at the moment.  I just saw the whitlox wood-fired forge online and thought it may been good to start out with and just play around with the mini unit they make.

I'm not opposed to propane just scared that the propane fuel would get costly quick.

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Fuel expense depends a lot on where you live. blacksmithing coal in Alaska is pretty darned expensive even though I can look out the window at a mtn. range of coal beds I just don't know which seam to dig.

Propane is running about $3.70-3.90 per gl. in my general area. It's dirt cheap compared to shipping coal up but it's not very realistic comparing AK prices to LA prices.

There are distinct advantages and disadvantages to either fuel. Coal fires can be made many sizes say from tea cup size to bucket size. Propane tends to get everything close HOT and it's pretty much the size of your forge chamber. Either fuel you can turn the temp up and down but it's easier with coal, not a big deal with propane just not as easy. If you're using propane you can light the fire and take a bathroom break, grab a cup of coffee or fuss around getting things ready for the day's session while the forge warms up. You can also turn it off and go to dinner. A coal fire on the other hand takes pretty constant management you have to tend it and you can't just walk away from it once you turn the air off, it's a fire.

Like I say all fuels have pros and cons to them.

Take a look at the wood forge you were looking at and visualize making it from fire brick or simply digging a trench in mineral dirt. You can forge with wood, I've done it, did it for years off and on. (that's a story I'll spare the gang.) Getting forging, welding or melting heat from wood is just a matter of putting enough air through the charcoal fire under the burning wood. Keeping all the radiant heat from the flames off you is the trick.

Frosty The Lucky.

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2 hours ago, Frosty said:

Fuel expense depends a lot on where you live. blacksmithing coal in Alaska is pretty darned expensive even though I can look out the window at a mtn. range of coal beds I just don't know which seam to dig.

Propane is running about $3.70-3.90 per gl. in my general area. It's dirt cheap compared to shipping coal up but it's not very realistic comparing AK prices to LA prices.

Frosty The Lucky.

Well I just found a local smith that's actually down the road from me.  He sells a 50 lb sack for $20 which is a great price from what I've seen online.  He also has taught at a local college in metal work.  So I'm gonna reach out to him because he's now doing private lessons for new blacksmiths.  I put the specs he listed below for the coal because it doesn't mean much to me.  Thanks for all the advice.

From the Pocahontas #3 seam, mined in SE West Virginia.  

As Received Specs: Size:  Pea 1 x 3/8 or Nut 3 x 1 1/2"
Moisture: 1.48% 
Ash: 7.12% 
Sulfur: .75% 
BTU/lb: 14,373 
BTU/lb: 15,724 (dry, ash-free) 
Volatile Matter: 18.63% 
Fixed Carbon: 79.62% (dry ash-free) 
Free Swelling Index (Coke Button): 9 
Lbs sulfur per million BTU: 0.52 

Coal analysis report by Geochemical Testing, Somerset, PA.

 

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Pocahontas coal has a very good reputation for high quality fuel. The B.T.U. are excellent, The level of sulfur is very low. (sulfur is not good for smithing.). The moisture and ash level are excellent. The volatile matter is very good. The coal is great for smithing. You might be able to get a lower price for it but I suspect you will not need great amounts while you are just starting up. Anyways, you will be learning from the seller. So getting under his skin would be silly. In other words you are off to a good start.

Carry on,   SLAG.

Edited by SLAG
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