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I'm stuck. I can't decide which one to build. Been weighing the pros and cons and it seems like it really comes down to operating cost and from what I've gathered a coal forge is a lot less expensive to run. Am I missing something? Why are so many people running propane forges?

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Gas forges have advantages over solid fuel in that the fire is usually cleaner, the heat is set it and forget it, you can have multiple irons in the fire with less risk of burning them, etc, etc.

Of course with solid fuel you can more easily heat a spot instead of the whole piece. You’re able to heat pieces that are large or irregular in shape. The list can go on. 

It depends on what you need and prefer to use. I have and use both depending on what the project at hand needs. 

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30 minutes ago, Michael Cochran said:

I have and use both depending on what the project at hand needs. 

Same here, small jobs usually go in the propane forge, larger ones we use coal.

I just filled our two portable propane tanks (20lb & 30lb) cost me &48.00... for &48.00 I can get 300 lbs of good coal through our club.

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Pro pain to be efferent realy  requires more than one forge. Small medium and large so to speak. It is generally cleaner and you can set the tempature.

coal, on the other hand is simply a mater of more or less air to build a larger or Waller fire tuyere size dose limit exactly how large and small a particular fire can get)

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  • 2 years later...

understanding what we all pay for fuel in our own areas,,,,,,is there a consensus on which fuel cost more to use per forging session,,,,

coal verses Propane

,,,here's a picture of my brake drum forge,,,, thinking about building a small propane to compose for myself,,, welcome your comments!!!

 

received_219893265431960.jpeg

received_219893268765293.jpeg

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Some time after the model “T” folks started in with break drum forges. My opinion is they are more expensive and difficult to build than other designs. Look at Glenn’s bottom and side blast 55 forges. Even an old river forge was only about 3” deep and intended to be clayed to creat a fireball the size of one fist.

Add to this the cost of 2” pipe fittings and curing and installing a bottom plate.  

Fuel efficiency has everything to do with design of both solid solid fuel forges and gassers. As well as how they are used. 

Now that said, I know many Smith’s who do beautiful work in brake drum forges.

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Generally I rate propane as at most US$2 an hour for my most used gas forge.  MUCH cheaper than my time!  (Cheaper entertainment than going to the movies!)

Coal is a conundrum as I have to drive over 4 hours to get any and try to pick up a couple of bags of "the good stuff" when I attend Quad-State. 

My charcoal is free.

Going to a hand crank blower or a bellows sure helped cut down on solid fuel use---and ruined steel for that matter.  Keeping the gas forge fully lined and in good shape cuts down on propane use.  Getting skills so it doesn't take as long to forge something saves for either fuel.

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Coal is a more versatile fuel. Propane is more convenient. It doesn't take very long for a scroll to not fit in your gas forge due to size limits. You have far more temperature control with coal. You can build a small fire for heat treating or build a fire hot enough to handle large stock and anything I between. 

If you are near a mine, or near a good source and can store a ton or so, then coal is less expensive than gas.

Lol, can you tell I like coal?

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If you add an oxy-propane set of torches to your kit you can work on damaged wrought iron fences in place.  I have coal and propane forges almost side by side and use what is best for the project at hand.

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The problem with a lot of smithing questions like this is that there is no "best" answer. It depends on You, what you want to do and your personal situation!  I bet coal is the single highest cost forge fuel in Hawaii for instance; but you could probably make charcoal yourself there from free stuff. (I've always wanted to try coconut husk charcoal and the shell should make some really nice charcoal!)

Just like so many people seem to want to build "the one true forge" and never bother with it again. Well in the blacksmith's shop *EVERYTHING* is a consumable---some just take longer than others.  I've lost count of the various coal forges I have used or have built and used.  Some for spur of the moment demos---hole in the ground or campfire or adobe. Or custom designed steel ones, each version dealing with issues of the previous one---next one will be easier to take into sections for transport! Gas forges get built smaller to conserve fuel or larger to work large projects, they get relined as needed. (one class of college students will do at least a year's worth of wear and tear on a liner.)

So new folks, relax, build something to forge in and get to building your skills and narrowing down your thoughts on what the NEXT one should look like!

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