Chelonian

Is this coal a usable size?

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Hi, I just found a place to get bituminous coal in my area, so I bought a 50Lb bag to try it out. When I cut the top off the bag to take a look at it, I saw this: (6-inch ruler for scale)

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I know basically nothing about what it should look like, but this looks REALLY fine to me. It's almost like dirt. WIll it still burn okay? Is this the normal size for bituminous coal? I tried digging around in the bag to see if it was just this spot, but it all seems about the same size.

Thanks!

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That coal will burn fine, you just need to work with it a bit. If you have any coke from a previous fire,, set it around your paper ball, lay some small wood splits around to make a campfire. Get your coal wet in a bucket, with enough water so there isn't free water in the bucket, pack hand fulls of that around the paper and wood with an opening on top. light the fire and as the wood burns slowly push the coal towards the center, without blocking the fire. It should start to coke up- the loose coal seems to be a more solid mass, break chunks off the mass with a poker or rake and work it to the center of the fire. add more of the coal to the outside of the fire, and work it in to the center. Lather, rinse and repeat.

If you have no coke to start with, just make a regulation boy scout campfire with wood,, and add in the wet coal as above. It'll be smoky for a while, but once it starts coking, it won't be as bad.

Depending on your source, you can get coal graded to a particular size- I can get pea or nut. It looks like your grade is gravel (actually that size is probably 'rice'.)

Steve

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Yep as stated I’d with water so it’s like thick oatmeal.

I like to first seine out any bigger pieces. If I don’t have coke from a previous fire I put those lumps in with the paper an kindling I start the fire with. I often use a closed fire, so once I’ve done as Stash recommends with moving the banks inward, I start also plastering the “oatmeal” on top of the fire like an igloo. You have to crank the air up then, and poke a hole in the top for steam and smoke/contaminants to escape. Once it starts burning and coking you keep pushing the sides and top in, while adding new oatmeal to the outside to keep the external dimensions somewhat constant. If it’s packed too tight it won’t burn proper so stick your poker in there and lever it gently to make gaps between the formed coke so it can burn an you can insert your workpiece. Sorry if I’m not describing this in an easy way to understand, if you watch someone do it in person, then do it once yourself you would totally understand.

Actually when I’d get coal that was all chunks or nut, I’d sift the fines out to a different tub to use for this, and if there wasn’t any I’d use an old axle with hub or my hammer to make rice.

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Okay, great! I'm glad that it's usable.

Is the purpose of wetting the fine coal just so that it doesn't get blown away by the air,  or does it help the burning process in other ways too? I'm using a JAPOB side-blast forge, if that makes a difference.

Thanks!

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Yes wetting it lets it clump together. In my case I'm using a bottom blast hand cranked blower so air blast while getting it to coke really isn't an issue. With a side blast I would definitely wet the fines (dust).

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Che it will keep them put, they will combine also as they burn into a bigger piece of fuel, it won’t stay those little fines. Also I feel it helps with driving out the impurities as it steams etc before and during initial burn. I can’t prove it tho. Just make sure it’s not too wet, and that as you collapse the fire into itself you are pushing in CLEAN DRY coke, not green (raw) coal. That way your fire will burn hotter, stay cleaner, etc. I’ve never used a side blast so must defer to others as far as how that might effect things. Just like the coyote above me, I used bottom blast with clinker breaker and hand cranked blower. 

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Screen the dust from the rest of the coal using say 1/4 inch hard wear cloth.  This will give you coal pieces that you can start a fire with easily. 

Put the coal dust into a bucket and cover it with water, or wet it down well. 

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You can then add this black mud to the edge of the fire so it can coke up and be used as fuel for the forge. Fuel does not make the fire hot, air makes the fire hot. The water just helps the coal dust stick together until the heat from the fire can drive off the water, and turn the fuel to coke so it can be used in the forge.

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Be sure to collapse any hollow caves that may form as the fuel burns. You want a compact group of coals, or embers, to transfer heat to the metal.

One mistake a beginner makes is trying to save on fuel and then not having enough fuel on fire to product the heat they need. Fuel does not make the fire hot, air makes the fire hot. You need enough fuel to produce the embers you need to heat the metal. Fire maintenance is a dance keeping burning fuel heating the metal, producing coke to replace the burned fuel, and adding new green coal to make coke, all being done at the same time. Small fires are used for small projects and large fores are needed for large projects. You will learn quickly how to make your fire work for you and your project. 

 

 

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Great information, thanks!

I did just think of another question though: since my forge is made of plain old red bricks, and I was told to make sure they were completely dry before use (So that they didn't crack when I heated them), will putting damp coal on them and then heating them be a problem?

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The damp coal is placed on top of an existing fire, dries, cokes and burns. You are not pouring water onto the fire. You use just enough water to hold the dust together. 

Use two 5 gallon buckets. The first one with coal dust under water. When ready, transfer this wet coal dust into another 5 gallon bucket with holes in the bottom for any excess water to drain out. Capture the drain water and pour it onto the next bucket of coal dust to wet it down. This should leave you with a bucket of damp, not wet, coal dust ready for the fire.

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It depends on the construction of the forge.

I get this kind of coal as left over in my forge (side blast), and I hate it. The small particles block the air pasage between the larger pieces. And as I crank the blower up, I get a geyser of burning coal (looks cool thou).

In a bottom blast this did not occur.

I suggest you just go ahead and try.

Frankly, I have so much to do, an so little time, that I would never consider the extra work of  treating the coal dust.

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its perfect. just keep it wet. the purpose for water is that it seals the coal so air can't get out and to control the burn. 

I got my coal from the mine from below the toke and it was always fines or smaller. I wouldn't separate out a anything, just use it and keep it wet.

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Thanks for the answers! I think at this point I just need to try it and see what happens. I'm hoping I'll be able to try it later today. :)

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I just finished trying the coal, and it seems quite good! It coked up into large puffy clumps, which I assume is a good thing. It consistently got the metal nice and hot, so I'm happy.

Thanks for all the help!

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Nothing like taking information to the forge, and testing it out. LOL

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Those on the forum want you to succeed. If you get more than one answer it is up to you to try them all and see which works best for you. The rest then fall into the other choices category which may well work for other projects. Now all you need is an excuse or encouragement to build another fire. Till then get some modeling clay and practice your forging technique.

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"Large puffy clumps"---- excellent!   If you have trouble starting a totally green coal fire.  Use the larger chunks to get it started and then add the wet small stuff after the fire is going good.  The local coal I get is all fines and I store in a plastic bucket of water and I have a "dipper" that I scoop coal out with and let it drain against the side of the bucket before adding.

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