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Hello I am new to this forum and am just getting started in blacksmithing. I have taken a few classes here and there and enjoy it very much... Anyway back to the topic, so I received some coal for Christmas (haha) and I tried starting it up for forging but the coal did not want to catch, I even built a fire before adding the coal and had it going for an hour straight while adding coal every so often, but with no success... Can anyone tell me what I am doing wrong or how to fix this?

Thank you very much,

ACforge

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What type of coal is it?  If you were in the USA I might guess that it was anthracite coal from someplace like TSC and so very hard to light and keep going.  Bituminous coal is usually used by smiths who burn coal.   What's you forge like and how do you supply it air?

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What is you're forge and blower setup? Like Thomas points to, That is a very open ended question with little detail. Pictures? a bit more explanation? Details! we need details to help!  it is like asking, " help, I have a car that runs on gasoline and it wont start.".... spark, air, fuel? we don't have a clue without details. 

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Welcome aboard AC, glad to have you. If you'll put your general location in the header you might be surprised how many of the Iforge gang live within visiting distance.

We need pics of your set up or we're just guessing. Coal isn't terribly hard to light and get a forge worthy fire going but there are different rules of thumb for different coal and forge types.

Frosty The Lucky.

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Thanks for the quick responses! Not sure the type of coal, all I know is that I was told the coal the company sells for Blacksmithing said they were out of, but they got what they say is similar, and I have used smithing coal in some classes and this looks and feels different. As to my forge it is a wheelbarrow with a hole cut in the middle and a brake drum inside, and I have an electric blower hooked up to the forge via bendable conduit to a Y conduit so ash does not fall down the blower... It gets good air supply but not too much that it would cool down the steel.IMG_20170121_084801634.thumb.jpg.2c1b639f30f9e348c073c312ebd770ec.jpg

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Is the coal hard and shiny looking and does it pop and crackle while your trying to light it? Bituminous is more dull and softer and will have alot of dust with it, no crackle pop, just lots of thick smoke until it cokes up.

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Yes it is shiny and hard coal, after I try lighting it, it does pop and crackle... And it doesn't glow red from coke, it just kind of turns white, no flame.

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Looking at your setup the only thing that stands out to me as a bit of an issue is that you may not be getting depth in your fire. I'm wondering if you are putting enough fuel in there over the rotor to get a good "fire ball".  

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i agree with Daswolfe. firemass is key. anthracite coal (what you seem to have) will work, i have used it extensively. HOWEVER---- you need a firepot that holds the coal like a bowl. your current pot holds the coal above it like a platter. this will not allow for proper firemass, which means your coal will not burn properly if at all, and your steel won't heat right either.  air supply could also be to low. 

 

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So search out the threads on using anthracite coal in the forge.

And be aware that coal varies quite a lot: My favorite bituminous coal is black and shiny and has no dust but cokes beautifully!

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The ash dump is open, and I originally had a cast iron pot but I had no way of attaching the Y conduit to the 10" pot.....any Ideas?

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Close the ash dump at the bottom. Remember to clean it early and often as the ash can build up. 

Now that all your air goes to the fire, disconnect the flex metal pipe from the blower. Leave a 3-4 inch air gap and aim the blower toward the pipe for more air, and not so much aim to the pipe for less air. Fuel does not make the fire hot, air makes the fire hot. Adjust the air as needed for YOUR fire and forge. The fire ball should be about the size of a melon with additional fuel over that. Your metal should go into the fire ball about 1/2 to 2/3 of the way up the fire ball. 

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There are many ways to attach things. One of the problems you may encounter is trying to attach a 3 inch diameter flex pipe and Y to the brake rotor. I would suggest a piece of heavy metal (1/8 inch is plenty) in the bottom of the rotor. Next get some auto exhaust and form up a T .  Attach the flex pipe to the branch of the T, and leave the down pipe 12-16 inches long. Drill a 1/4 inch hole about 1 inch down from the top of the T, insert it into the hole in the plate, and put a piece of 1/4 inch rod, or metal through the hole to hold it in place as well as act as a grate.

gallery_1_534_2504.jpg  gallery_1_534_13194.jpg

Bricks can be used to make the fire deeper.

I can use coal dust with this set up. 

 

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I like the idea of of using bricks to make the forge deeper, with the cast iron pot, I have a 2½" hole and the Y conduit at the top is a 6" hole.  With that flat brake drum the Y fits perfectly, so I will try using bricks, and definitely will close the bottom!

Thank you very much!

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Ok, here is the update... I live in the city so coal will be a problem, so I switched over to propane because of neighbors. The coal will probably be used for melting aluminum or brass.

Thank you for all your help!

ACforge

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I don't know how anyone can forge with that cursed anthracite, surely you'd freeze to death if you had to heat with it. Like trying to burn rocks! I have been spoiled with good pocahantas and sewell coal. I beleive I'd switch to charcoal if anthracite is all I could get. Really would be a joke to get that coal for Christmas

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3 minutes ago, David R. said:

I don't know how anyone can forge with that cursed anthracite, surely you'd freeze to death if you had to heat with it. Like trying to burn rocks! I have been spoiled with good pocahantas and sewell coal. I beleive I'd switch to charcoal if anthracite is all I could get. Really would be a joke to get that coal for Christmas

Boy, all of us who forge with anthracite must be the most deluded and unhappy lot around. Or maybe we just don't know any better!

In my time, I've forged with charcoal, anthracite, bituminous, and gas, and found each to have its advantages and disadvantages that took some time to learn. No doubt I'd find the same if I were to forge with wood or corncobs. However, I would not confuse my own lack of knowledge of their idiosyncrasies with some intrinsic fault on their part, let alone on that of their users. 

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My hat is off to you anthricite users. I didn't mean to stir any ire, and I am sure there are differences in a coal as there is in b coal. The sack of anthricite I had I ended up burning in the coal stove but even then had to have a roaring hardwood fire going first and had to keep the air wide open and got very little heat output. I was glad to finally get rid of it.

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Don't sweat it we get much stronger opinions come through here. It sounds like you got a bag of bad coal it's frustrating to get poor goods. I used to burn anthracite first in a barrel stove then a coal stove and it lit easily burned well even with the draft almost closed. It'd go out if I shut it off completely but it was good even heat. I've never tried smithing with it though, maybe I'll get some of the guys together and go up to the mine where I used to dig it. The seam we used to dig was like black obsidian, shiny with a reflected rainbow sheen when the light hit it right. 

If you buy stove coal locally it's only okay at best from what I hear, lots of shale in it. The stuff they're selling retail at the Healy coal mine is sub bituminus, I know a couple folk who've used it in a forge with little success but I don't know if they know how to use a coal forge. The Healy mine is under contract to China so we're lucky to get anything from them. 

If I had the B coal you're using I wouldn't mess with other stuff though the propane forge has it's uses I still like a fire to manage. It's like keeping pets, feed em, clean em, stroke em and they do what you want. 

Frosty the Lucky.

 

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Not to worry; I'm just flexing the curmudgemuscles.

I use rice coal from Tractor Supply Co, which is anthracite about the size of small green peas. I've tried the nut coal, but as you say, it's hard to light and keep lit. I suspect that my better luck with the rice coal is on account of its much higher surface-to-mass ratio, which means more of it is actively burning. It starts fairly well with a good kindling fire and a steady blast, but (as Frosty notes) it goes out without some degree of forced air. It doesn't coke, so you can't build a cave-shaped fire, but it gets more than hot enough to burn steel.

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I have similar experience to JHCC.  I use anthracite and have used rice, pea and nut sized.  The nut sized is tougher to get started  and the resulting fire is easily disturbed by inserting steel.  I currently use mostly pea sized but mix in rice along with the remnants of my remaining nut coal.  I start with lower volumes of air to get it going and then crank it up to suit the fire size I need.  When I have the air up high it actually extinguishes the coal right at the mouth of the tuyere (I use a side blast forge so this area is on the side of the fire.). It is conceivable that your air is too high in volume and you are putting out the base of your fire.

 

I have no experience using anthracite in bottom blast so my advice is limited to what I've shared already.  It most definitely works when you get your air and forge tuned properly.  Once you get it running right you will be impressed with the heat and flexibility offered.  Simple air adjustments are all you need to shape and size your fire...no need for coking or using water.

 

Lou

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We were getting a real high quality met grade coal locally, picked up at the mine. Pea was NICE to forge with but nut worked good too. Mine closed. Recently found some of near the same quality, but what I call bug dust. (Size of bugs down to dust) with a little water it cokes off good but troublesome clogging up tuyre in bottom blast. Got access to some met grade nut coal, works real nice, will burn almost at forging heat with a natural draft. I have had fire go out on lunch break but with this stuff it will burn right on. A little higher ash content so have to pick clinkers more. Found mixing it with the bug dust works good. Most of my forging done with traditional forge set up, bottom blast and bellows or rivet forge and crank blower.

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I knew a knife smith who was actually quite good.. He only used Anthricite coal as he could just go to any of the local (walking distance) hardware stores and buy a 50lbs bag for cheap money.. He forged strictly with hard coal and it made all sorts of really top notch knives and swords.. 

Anyhow, he gave me a few pointers.. His forge was cement lined and it had an electric blower with a slide choke on the side.. To start it he would start it with wood and then pile the fuel on.. He used nut coal..  The secret was a very deep fire (firepot 8") and a funnel shaped affair.. He would pile the coal on till it was about 12 or 15" deep an throw the air to it.. 

The front was bent downwards like in the sketch and it was all filled with cement to create the firepot/bowl..  His forge looked like a used wheelbarrow he just hammered the side of it down to form the side lip.. Filled it with cement using salt water as a very dry mix..  The fire would get hot enough to melt the cement and even had pieces of what looked like glass where the cement had melted from the high temps.  Like a glass furnace.. 

Anyhow, I asked him about switching fuels or his expereinces with different fuels..   He laughed at me, took a puff of his cigarette, a drink of whisky and said " When you have come to the conclusion so many are doing it wrong..  It's time to start doing it right"..       Then added why would he want to use anything else? It's perfect, its cheap and I can carry a 50lbs on my bicycle..  Amen..   

Last ton of smithing coal I bought would not fit on my bicycle.. and for the level of equipment I have  he had 2 hammers , the forge , one electic blower from a car heater, a set of 12volt batteries and a solar battery charger..   he eventually had AC electric brought to the area he called home the outside Indian tepee he used as a shop..   Was awesome.. 

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