castewart86

Gas forge vs. Coal/coke forge?

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I am new to this group and new to blacksmithing. My current set up is a home made coal forge and I have made 2 knives with is so far (not really pic worthy) anyways I am wanting to invest in a gas forge and I would like feedback on what is good and is cheap or should I only stick to my coal forge? Any info would be great.

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Welcome aboard castewart, glad to have you. If you put your general location in the header you might be surprised how many members live within visiting distance. 

How much do you have to invest in a gas forge? Good is NOT cheap but Okay and Adequate are reasonable where commercial propane forges are concerned. If you have basic shop skills and basic tools you can build a propane forge to suit for reasonable. If you're good scrounging and have good PR skills you can build one for pretty darned cheap.

Propane forges and burners are commonly discussed subjects here. Do some skimming through the, "Burners 101" and "Forges 101" subjects. If you skim the thread titles and skim the post titles when you find one that interests you you won't have to spend a few days reading them all. Take notes including the names of folk who know what they're talking about. It'll take some reading to develop a handle on things so you can sort through them for stuff to read and ask questions about. 

Make sense? I'm not trying to tell you not to bother us but virtually anything you want to know has probably been answered many times. We love good questions and you want to understand what folk tell you without having to have it explained word for word. Yes? ;)

Frosty The Lucky.

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Thank you I will definitely look into the burners 101 and forges 101. Also if anyone else reads this I'm in the Tulsa, Oklahoma area of anyone cares and wants to let me contact them. 

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Skim both threads first. Then read them closely to answer the " but, wait a minute" questions until they go away by themselves.

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As far as which forge to use, I suggest using both. Each has it's own benefits and draw backs. We have both and use the one best suited for the work at hand. If you are set on purchasing a gas forge this thread may help with the decision.

 

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I built both of my first two propane forges at forge building workshops put on by my local ABANA Affiliate; I don't know how long they will last though it's only been around 20 years so far!  So my suggestion is to check to see if your local Affiliate offers a forge building workshop anytime soon.   https://www.saltforkcraftsmen.org/

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If you are not already a member you should consider joining.

You are in the Saltfork Craftsmens’ NE Region. Their next meeting is at Josh Perkins’ shop in Chelsea on May 4. It is just an open forge day, so no trade item is needed. You would want to bring your own tools. Unless you wanted to just talk to the guys/gals.  

You being in the NE Region is not of great significance. There is only one club. The regions are just to make it easier for folk to find meetings near them. The next SFC meeting in April is at Rory Kirk’s shop in Elk City on April 27. Elk City is in the NW Region.  The trade item is a dinner bell, preferably stamped with your maker’s mark. Elk City is pretty far from me, but assuming my wife doesn’t notice me sneaking out of the house that morning I plan to be there. I drew one of Rory’s chains as a trade item at a meeting last year. Talented smith. I am looking forward to seeing his shop. 

Almost forgot. Meetings are free for anyone to attend. Membership is not required. But you would want to bring a few bucks for the jar to pay for the food you eat at the meetings. 

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I love my coal forge - there is just a primal connection to the craft I feel with it, but sometimes I do long for the ease and simplicity and cleanness and predictable even heat of a gas forge. I know one day I will get one, but it will not replace my coal forge, only augment it. 

 

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Of course coal has only been used for smithing less than 1000 years; charcoal has been used more than double that!

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True, but similar could be said of steel (maybe 1300 years?). I'm okay with only going back 1000 years ;-)

In all reality I would almost prefer charcoal for cleanliness, but coal is easier and cheaper to source, IMHO. That said, I have never worked with charcoal, so my opinion is speculative. For that matter, I have never worked with a gas forge either (only gas burners to heat armor pieces, no actual forging done on gas). 

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You're close enough to make Quad State and give a wide selection of forges a try. I assume there will be induction forges available too. If I could scrape up the lucre I'd do 90%+ of my heating with induction. Keep the gasser handy for need and the coal forge for demos but . . . No fumes, fast, Fast, FAST heat and as localized as you wish. Sounds like heaven to me.

Charcoal is always available and making an air blast is silly easy, a paper bag works a treat.

Frosty The Lucky.

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Thomas: Mainly for normalization before cold work, but I have started dabbling with raising, which seems to work better with some heat. So far it's just practice exercises with raising, not actually making anything. I've used everything from MAP torches to a large burner for boiling homebrew kettles (80k-130k BTU) for heating a larger area. 

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One of the neat things about using a charcoal forge for armouring---besides being "traditional"---is that you can localize heat by placing the area of interest over the hot spot in the forge and putting a shovelful of hot coals on the upside right in that area and it will glow and the rest won't so much.

The downside is that most armour is curved and seems to make an excellent IR emitter that is focused on your tong hand.  Having some weirdly bent tongs---like wagon tyre tongs---can help a lot.

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When I started out there was a controversy about whether fan-blown or naturally aspirated burners were better; than as now the real answer turned out to be that well built burners were best--of whichever kind.

It would be easy to lean into our preferences for solid or gas fuels. After all, this is the gas forge forum. But preference is the answer here. What serves a person best, shouldn't be pressed on others.

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I prefer coal. It is easier to heat just a small section of what you are working on. But the main reasons I prefer it are the same reasons I am going to be making a gas forge. It is dirty and smelly. I love the smell, but my wife and neighbors do not. 

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So many factors to consider with coal vs gas.

Safety: Do you have an adequate vent system to keep the coal dust out of your lungs? Is the gas forge made with adequate materials to prevent airborne particles?

Purity: Do you want to add carbon to your steel? Are you forging stainless steel? 

coal smell..yes, wonderful! But it also announces your presence to the neighbors. Great for craft fairs, every visiting blacksmith will know you are on site.

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Gassers are effecent in only a nerrow range of work, and can be a real pain (often requiring the use of rose buds on a torch set) working with scrolls and such, many smiths have more than one gasser for difrent jobs. Wile others have one or two gassers and a solid fuel forge. 

As to ventilation, contrary to popular belief gassers aren’t much “cleaner” as they produce plenty of CO and CO2 and often don’t have hoods. 

A side blast forge is easy to build, inexpensive and will burn charcoal and coal. Construction cut offs and yard wast make exelent forge charcoal. 

Charcoal making can creat a lot of smoke, unless one builds a kiln type charcoal retort. But they arnt hard to cobble together. 

My side blast happily burns soft and hard coal along with charcoal, and will effecently heat 1” thick stock. 

 

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I like to hear the other guy's views, since the other guy may just be right after all :)

The only thing worse than an unused tool is an untried one.

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I think having both is a great idea, as a gasser can be dialed in to keep you from burning up steel wile solid fuel forges are easer to adapt to special projects.

 

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When you burn bituminous coal you KNOW you shouldn't be breathing that stuff it puts off!  When you burn charcoal a lot of us have had the "never in an enclosed area" pounded in from other uses.  Propane is a "silent killer"  as you are not warned by the nasty smoke and most folks have no experience with it.  I've even gotten a CO headache at a SOFA Demo where a storm blew up and they closed the sliding doors a bit too much...

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