Yancy

Introduction: Hello from South East Pennsylvania

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Hello everyone! Dave here from South East Pennsylvania. I have been using this sight frequently as it is arguably the best consolidated reference point on the web.  I appreciate all of the input and shared expertise that this forum has to offer, and all of the people who have taken time away from forge and family to share it. I hope to some day be able to contribute to the community as well. 

About 3 months ago my friend and I decided we were done talking about blacksmithing and decided to dive in head first. We sourced an old 14" Champion blower and a decent 70lbs anvil of indistinguishable origin,  bought some cheap paving stones and made a very basic and amateur forge from it. We designed, built, and fired our forge up and were heating steel to an orange glow in an afternoon.  Shortly thereafter however,  we realized that we had only made a forge capable of heating small projects (predominantly 1/2" rebar). We made a few changes based on information I read here and managed to get our forge to be more powerful. We are now confident that our proof of concept forge was a success,  and are trying to get deeper into the wonderful world of smithing. 

Now down to the brass tax. We would very much like to find the best design for a simple coal forge for bit or anthracite coal. We are seeking good advice for where exactly to go from here. I can upload some pictures of where we are at now shortly but in the meantime I would really love some guidance to a good forge design that will keep us heating and beating.  I look forward to hearing anything you guys have to offer.

Thanks in advanced!

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Bituminous or Anthracite coal; sort of like asking for the best engine to run on gasoline and diesel.

For anthracite you would probably do better with an electric blower.

Now a simple coal forge for working 6" stock 12' long or a simple coal forge for working on RR spikes? You know what you want to do---we do not!  Please share the information.  Will you be forge welding?  Will you need to work items that take up a lot of space in 2 or 3 dimensions (scrolls or helixes for example)? Does it need to be portable? Will it be used inside, outside; or both?

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First of all thank you for your quick response Thomas. We could use either bit or anthracite as both as easily sourced in the area I live in. It really depends on what would be better for the projects we desire to make. Our end goal is to make blades, preferably kitchen knives and smaller knives(no longer than 10 inches for now). We will be working exclusively outside and it does not need to be portable although it would be an added bonus. We do intend to do a lot of forge welding as we are most interested in the beauty and complexity of different Damascus patterns (we are a long way from this I'm sure but it is good to have goals). I hope this is enough information to get a grasp on what direction you would recommend for us. Thanks again!

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No one ever said you had to have only one forge. Find a fuel that is cheap and available in your area and build a forge for that fuel.

I am not sure what you mean by bit coal. If you can get it and it burns, it may be able to be used as a forge fuel.

Spend some time in the solid fuels section of the site and many of your questions on fuel and forge designs will be answered. Spend some time in the knife section and many of your questions on knives will be answered.

We are willing to help but need information in order to make suggestions. Photos go a long way in showing us what you have now and how it can be improved.

Check on the Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Maryland blacksmithing groups and attend the meetings. You will learn more in a few hours than you can ever imagine.

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I'm assuming that bit coal == bituminous coal  the type of coal that was generally used for blacksmithing---depending on the quality of that particular mine/seam.

(Luckily spell check can correct my misspellings of it...)

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Welcome aboard Dave, glad to have you. There is no BEST forge, just what YOU like best or fits your projects best. That's a big difference.

If either coal is easily available stick with one. ( that's . . . Bituminous Glenn :rolleyes:) Why make things more difficult than they have to be? Bituminous is generally better in the forge, it's easier to keep lit and cokes up more easily. Any coal can be made to coke but some is a fight, some cokes whether you want it to or not.

I don't have good coal available without I lead an expedition into the mine map, mark and test the seams so I burn propane, occasionally charcoal around a campfire. Fire is fire makes no difference to me you just have to know the tool and adapt.

I've used fire pots and don't care for being stuck with one size fire, sure you can adjust but it's hard to build a fire smaller than the firepot unless you fill it with bricks, clay, etc. Larger is easy, give it more air.

I like a "duck's nest" for a pan forge. It allows the smith to build fires from the size of a coffee cup up to filling the pan. More air more fire. Stack fire bricks around the air grate in whatever size or shape suits the project.

A side blast trench forge is very versatile as well, more air longer hotter fire. A side blast works better with charcoal than a bottom blast but either will work fine it's about air control. 

For just starting I recommend a JABOD, or heck you can just put a pile of dirt on that old kitchen table that's been out back for years. 6" or more dirt will prevent a wooden table or box from singeing. 

Well, I see Thomas and I were typing at the same time. . . . again.

One last thing. Stop using rebar it's too inconsistent so until you have the experience to recognize what you're working under the hammer you'll have a lot more trouble getting consistent results. A couple sticks from the steel yard is cheap educational help. 

Frosty The Lucky.

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Welcome aboard Yancy, I'm close, just south of Philadelphia in Nj. I use a simple propane forge and it works great. They are cheap to build as a second forge and are efficient when properly insulated. 

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