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I'm pretty new at the blacksmithing play, and loving it.  I have a good propane forge that I built but I am wanting the selective heating of solid fuel, so here is my newbie question:

Is it possible/advisable to use both charcoal and coal in the same forge design?  I've read that charcoal burns clean but fast and hot, and notice it also likes to pop and throw spark showers a lot.  Any advice would be much appreciated.

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Fuel does not make a fire hot, air makes a fire hot.

With the proper forge set up you can use coal or charcoal in the same forge. The forge will be one configuration for coal, and same configuration can be used if the walls of the forge are much deeper for charcoal.  Fire maintenance is a little different but much the same. 

Weight for weight, charcoal and coal produce similar BTUs. Coal is a lot denser so there is less volume. 

If your charcoal fire is throwing showers of sparks, then reduce the air flow and add more fuel. You want a fireball about the size of a melon with extra fuel on top of that. The extra fuel insulates and keeps the fire ball hot as well being replacement fuel for that fuel that is consumed. Once you have the right amount of air dialed in, you will be surprised just how little air it takes to run a forge. You only need just enough air to produce the heat you need from the fuel you use. 

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yes *BUT* charcoal works better with a different design.  When I use LUMP charcoal (NOT briquettes!) in my coal forge I take fire bricks or adobe and make it into a trough forge so I can have the needed depth for the charcoal fire but not waste a lot of fuel on un-needed breadth.  Easy to add, easy to remove and makes using charcoal a lot nicer and more efficient/cheaper.  Also charcoal uses much "softer" air; hard not to overblow charcoal if you are using an electric blower but it works great with hand crank or bellows (single, double, double lunged, Asian box bellows, etc).

If you look around this site you might be able to find a link to a Japanese swordsmith forging a katana in a charcoal forge in the traditional manner. I believe I put one link to it in the "Improvised Anvils" thread

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Sure you can use either in a solid fuel forge. Depending how you make it depends on how efficient either fuel works. 

Both bottom blast and side blast forges can burn either coal or charcoal. The size/depth of the fire pot and on side blast, the heigth of the tuyere to the bottom of the pot are some determining factors on how efficient it will be. Also the amount of air supplied to the fuel since coal needs more air than charcoal would. Having a variable air supply, or choke, waste gate, depending on the blower style. 

There really won't be one design best for both, but either fuel can be used in most designs. 

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JABOD is a good forge that can be reconfigured to use the fuel at hand, or can be reconfigured to produce the size and shape of fire you need for the project at hand.

Thomas: Soft air, a term we should use more often.

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First answer is yes. As far as sparks are concerned, a lot of store-bought charcoal seems to do that.

As mentioned above, Blacksmith Legos give you lots of flexibility. Really good and straightforward info, guys. Thomas, I currently use a a deep, long, narrow firebrick trench on my strange bottom-blast "forge"(see Avatar photo) Yes Glenn, "Soft Air"!

On the rare occasion that I get to light the forge, I start with a wood fire. when the wood "cokes up", I then add coal to the edges (does not smoke ), and the coal adds that sticky goodness to the charcoal as well. The tuyere must be well covered with "coals" to keep air off of your work.

Soft Air is a must. My naturally aspirated fire is almost hot enough for forging, and a little gated blast from the wife's hair dryer brings it right up to temp.

Das Woof, may I compliment you on your presentation.

Robert Taylor

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Haha, ok. I must have had enough coffee. 

I will be borrowing the "blacksmith legos" term. Nice one. 

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A lot of good info here everybody; I really appreciate it. 

"JABOD" is not an acronym I'm familiar with but the forge I looked up is interesting.  Not exactly what I am looking to do though.  I can find coal and charcoal relatively close to where I live, and would like to be able to use both efficiently based on the day's convenience.  

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JABOD is Just A Box Of Dirt. A quick, easy to make forge, that works. Cost is Dirt cheap (pun intended). Also look at the 55 Forge.

Use Google and include iforgeiron in the search string.

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What type of coal There are hundreds of variations and some are almost useless for smithing.  Lack of good coal at a good price is one of the major reasons the propane forge has become so popular.

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I can get "blackmith's" coal and coke from a place in Amarillo.  Seems to be a good price since its basically the only place I've found in three years of looking within 2 hours' drive from me.  But truth be told I couldnt tell you the brand stamped on those bags or the btu rating, or really what exactly btu ratings are good/bad. But I will soon enough.

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I'm not so fussy about the specs rather how well does it work in a forge.  Helps when someone trying it out has used a bunch of other varieties and so can say where it falls in the spectrum.

I've used old house heating coal with visible sulfur deposits and Pocahontas #3  shaft, Sewell Seam and stuff from Colorado.   Wish I could buy a ton of the good stuff before I retire...

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OMG!!!!  Why cant I find the section on coal forge designs... Is it me or this site, takes like 10 years to load a page & I cant get to where I want to go... I suck at typing but I'm typing faster that this page can keep up[ with........................ 

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5 hours ago, Daswulf said:

I must have had enough coffee.

I didn't realize there was such a thing

 

3 hours ago, Glenn said:

 Cost is Dirt cheap (pun intended). Also look at the 55 Forge

Lol. And I still haven't had time to use mine yet Glenn, the build was as far as I got then, the weather came in every couple days since mid last week I'm out plowing the roads again... Another week and a half and I change jobs so I'll have more free time and no standby time :D

 

2 hours ago, Aubrey said:

But truth be told I couldnt tell you the brand stamped on those bags or the btu rating, or really what exactly btu ratings are good/bad. 

The "Real Coal BTU and analysis" post on this site might help some, but you need to find out what mine it comes from

2 hours ago, Silo house Dan! said:

Is it me or this site, takes like 10 years to load a page

See the previous post in this thread from JHCC it will explain

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1 hour ago, Enewguy said:

didn't realize there was such a thing

Just meant enough to be coherent. ;)

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