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Is it worth it to buy coke online, instead of coal locally? I see that it’s much more expensive. I locally bought a ton of coal a few years ago for the museum where I smith and it came to about $8/50lbs. It’s probably more expensive now.   

One website has coke around $20/45lbs, one has it $43/50lbs, and one has it $55/50bs.  Shipping is probably extra.  

I’m sure it’s better for the lungs, having already been processed, so there is a long term cost benefit in the form of healthcare. 

I did a demo for the museum with my DIY dirt box/rotor hybrid forge at a street festival tonight and I’m sure the neighbor vendors didn’t appreciate all the sulfur in the face.  But I also doubt my lungs appreciate all the sulfur in my face.  

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Posted (edited)

I tried to figure this out about six months ago. I settled on charcoal.  I was looking at a supplier I think called coalbarn and it got me thinking about the difference in the cost between the two.  I think if I remember correctly it was the shipping that made it too expensive to be viable. I can get coal or Coke for about the same price if I want to drive an hour and a half away. When I added the shipping cost to the price every website seemed to be within a few dollars of each other.  I would try to find a coke supplier within driving distance. The website you said that has coke for 20$/45lbs. I'm sure when you add in shipping it will be on par with the other prices you listed. 

Pnut

With shipping it ended up costing about 65 bucks for fifty pounds of coal or coke across all the websites I could find. Give or take a few dollars. The thread I started asking about this is in the solid fuel section at the top of the page. It's titled questions about ordering coal vs. coke

Nearly forgot to add, anthracite isn't anywhere near as smoky as bituminous and you can probably find it for sale near you. You have to have continuous airflow or it goes out though and it's harder to light.

Edited by pnut

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Coke also requires constant air and is much harder to light.

Now is it suited to you uses?---Well you didn't tell us how it needs to be used so Yes, NO, Maybe!

Note too that the fums emitted are toxic; but not being as noticeable can lull you into a false sense of security.

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Im not sure if you guys are aware of this, so heres my two cents.

Blacksmith coal burns from coal to coke. You have "green" coal around your firepot and this is where the change to coke happens. Also when this happens, all the impurities, ash, moisture and other such things are removed.

What you have in your firepot around your work should only be coke.

If this is the case, you should not have a smokey fire other than when you first start up. If its smokey, you have green coal mixed with your coke 

So, what you get when you buy or make coke is a light porus coke that has already been "coked" and the impurities etc are already burned off.  

It is far lighter than coal by a magnitude. So when you are buying by weight, think of a pound of iron and a pound of feathers.  A pound of iron will fit in your hand, a pound of feathers may fill a pillow!

Now think of it in terms of volume. The same volume of coal that would fill your firepot may produce enough coke to fill your firepot 3 or 4 times!.

Long story short, if you are paying the same per pound for coal vs coke, buy coke!

As for buying on line vs driving, ive always found a drive for quantity beats on line buying.

As for air, Thomas is correct.  I will add that the needed air for a coke fire vs a fire using anthracite are far different. You need a substantial volume to keep anth burning. If not, by the time you are finished forging and your iron is cool, your fire may very well be out. Not so wirh a coke fire. As an example, if you want to take a 2 hour lunch break with a coke fire, just crack your ash dump and poke a little hole thru from the top of the coke. When you return, just add a little air and you are back to work.

This applies to all coke, altho commercial coke is more dense than coke made from met coal and is manages a bit different, including air needs, as Thomas referred to.

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2 hours ago, anvil said:

Long story short, if you are paying the same per pound for coal vs coke, buy coke

In a prior thread this is the very thing that had me asking questions. I couldn't and still don't understand the reason coke would cost the same per pound as coal but lo' and behold it does. Lower demand was one reason put forth. Then another question arose, shouldn't I be asking why the price of coal is as high as coke. I guess a chicken and egg type situation.

In the end I have decided to go with whatever I can get with as little hassle as possible which is charcoal, anthracite and feed corn. Im not picky as I'm only doing this for my own enjoyment and not trying to sell anything or worrying about filling an order so I use what is easiest to get. One pro of this strategy is I'm learning to use a wide variety of fuels.

Pnut

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4 hours ago, ThomasPowers said:

Coke also requires constant air and is much harder to light.

Now is it suited to you uses?---Well you didn't tell us how it needs to be used so Yes, NO, Maybe!

Note too that the fums emitted are toxic; but not being as noticeable can lull you into a false sense of security.

In what way should I explain how I intend to use it? In a brake rotor with a hairdryer on low, with a Harbor Freight rheostat low-medium, and for stock less than 1”. Mostly 1/4-1/2”.   No chimney, so the coal smoke will be in my face off an on, and in the faces of guests when I do the occasional demo out and about. 

I thought coke burned clean once the periodical table of yuck burned off. I also have heard a lot of people say coal doesn’t light well, to use coke. I start with shavings and twigs and add coke on top. 

How is charcoal cost effective?  Most of what I’m seeing in a search is approaching $1/lb, and maxing at 20-30lb bags.

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Anvils response was right on.. 

My Experience with commercial coke was different but I was using crushed up coke used in a blast furnace for melting cast iron that came in 3-4" chunks.. 

The fire would die in only a few minutes if no air supplied.. 

soft coal that has been converted to coke, on the other hand, can be left for hours and will smolder a lot like charcoal..    If left for hours I just shove a stick or two of wood in it just before walking away (leaving the dump closed) and can come back and a few cranks and it will roar back to life.. 

Anthracite will do the same thing..  The secret is to be sure the wood can turn to charcoal as the charcoal will stay smoldering for hours... 

One long term problem with such behavior is the coke will get used up once or twice coming back to nothing but ash/dust in the firepot where there once was beautiful coke.. 

commercial coke depending on type can be nearly as hard as a brick and this is tough stuff to keep going with no air..  Pretty easy to light with a kindling fire.. Same with Anthricite.  A little kindling fire and it's going in no time.. 

I have videos on starting of a green coal fire and a regular fire (with bituminous coke,  and they both come up to temperature and start times are nearly identical..   what does vary is the time for a green coal, freshly made fire to come useful for forge welding..    it needs to create coke plenty before its used for welding.   This can add a few minutes to the overall time as the coke is produced. 

The fire started with green coal and coke (from previous fire) though will be ready for forge welding in about 5 minutes..    

charcoal is the best fuel for all forging details and is the fuel of choice for nearly all historical aspects..  The only problem is the rate of burn..  Which is nearly 3 or 4X as much depending on what operation is done in the forge.   (forge design has a lot to do with it).. 

Commercial coke is the hottest and cleanest fire with the most bang for the dollar in terms of BTU/per pound vs volume..     The smoke while not very much if any still has the attributes of a dirty fuel source as such as coal.. 

I have used soft coal that burned completely clean with no clinker at all.. If left by itself would burn down into a white residue..  YUp no clinker..  This stuff burned pretty fast but was clean.. 

When the charcoal historically was replaced by coal.  The original forge shops had vents at the gable ends of the roofs..  charcoal smoke is lighter than air smoke and will go out the vents..  It's one of the reasons shop fires were so prevelant..    (yes, there were some that used smokestacks) but again before coal came on the scene many just used the vents.. 

coal smoke is heavier than air so will sink and I have shown this on several of the video beginnings.. 

Anyhow, my choices of fuels in order.   Charcoal,  Great quality soft coal,  Coke,  hard coal, wood..   Wood takes a different design of forge to get a useful enough fire for forge welding and such..   I will demonstrate this once the shop is up. 

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3 hours ago, WoodFireMetal said:

How is charcoal cost effective?  Most of what I’m seeing in a search is approaching $1/lb, and maxing at 20-30lb bags

I use a small metal barrel and make my own. I use yard waste, downed trees from behind where I live, pallets from the four wheeler dealership up the road and construction waste. It only costs a little time. I only spend money on store bought lump charcoal when I get lazy,run out of wood,or it's been raining. The charcoal I make is better than the royal oak from the store but every once in a while I have to buy it anyway.

Pnut

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1 hour ago, pnut said:

I use a small metal barrel and make my own. I use yard waste, downed trees from behind where I live, pallets from the four wheeler dealership up the road and construction waste. It only costs a little time. I only spend money on store bought lump charcoal when I get lazy,run out of wood,or it's been raining. The charcoal I make is better than the royal oak from the store but every once in a while I have to buy it anyway.

Pnut

How do you make charcoal? Is there a good source online to learn?  I made charcloth when I was a kid, for reenacting, but I assume charcoal is made differently.  We have a good bit of downed wood. Splitting will be difficult, though, as I am rather petite. 

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There are many different ways..  The main concept is to heat the wood just like in charcloth but not to let it burn up. 

I will be making a double burner setup out of 2 55 gallon steel drums stacked one on top of the other as a test platform gas recirculation units. 

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I believe that commercial coke is produced from or a byproduct of  oil, not met coal. Thats the reason it is more dense and less porus than coke made from coke in your forge. That also may be the reason it is less expensive than met(metallurgical) coal.

Personally for me anthricite is not an option. It takes too much air thus tending to cause an oxidizing fire, it is a pain to maintain because it doesnt do the other thing good coke does and thats to make a nice coke ring that keeps a nice fire intact instead of it continually filling in your sweetspot with unburnt coal. Thus every time you take your iron out of the fire it collapses and must be rebuilt. This type of fire maintance is far too time consuming for me when im working. Lol, when sliding say a 1" square bar out of your coke fire, and when done forging it, just slide it back in the sweet spot vs having no sweet spot, and having to deal with building a cold red fire back to a nice yellow envelop is a very big pita! Finally and most important it is far dirtier forging wise than any other fuel. Why when it may have say a lower % of sulphur than met coal? When you make your coke,,, out of your firepot and in the ring of green coal, for all practical purposes the coke is 100% carbon. The impurities are removed. Every piece of anthracite touching your iron still has all those impurities still there. Thus there is actually far more sulphur etc around your iron when burning anthracite than when burning any kind of coke, no matter the chemical analisys. And thats unacceptable to me.

And yup, learning is good. We all have been there done that. In hindsight my first experience with a real smith and his turning me on to some good met coal so I could experience the difference fell on deaf ears, you might say. Took another few years for me to learn that lesson. When I did, well lets just say, anthracite just aint on my list of fuels. Even a days drive or an overnight to the mine to get a ton of good or even good enough met coal for ~$100 makes me feel real fine and gives me an ear to ear grin!

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Posted (edited)

You make charcoal the same way as charcloth just a bigger scale and yes there's lots of videos online about making it. I use the semi-direct method. 

As for splitting wood it's more about technique than brawn. I'm only about 135-140 pounds and splitting wood is one of my favorite ways to meditate. When I want to get it done quickly though nothing beats power tools. I started making it in a metal five gallon bucket that I put inside of the landlords burn barrel. I filled the bucket up put the lid on it after I poked a few holes in the middle of it and built a fire in the burn barrel, put the bucket inside the burning barrel put wood around it and when white smoke stopped coming out of the holes in the lid I took it out covered the lid with dirt and waited till the next day and opened it up, Viola charcoal. It's easy. I started small and am scaling up. I want to make a 55 gal drum at a time but I don't know what the  landlord will think about it. There's a lot of smoke in the beginning. 

Pnut

The easiest wood to use is two by fours and pallet wood. No splitting just cutting it up into ten or twelve inch pieces. I break it up more after it's been turned into charcoal.  I nearly overlooked mentioning that you need to be sure the wood is untreated.

 

 

Edited by pnut

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Anvil, the last time I used that coke was back in the late 80s.. From what I understood at the time. the coke was shipped in from one of the steel plants that was still using the old fashioned method of heat chambers and the coke was processed that way..  Or I should say.. the bituminous coal was coked under pressure and made the denser product vs what was or is created on the hearth of the forge in my shop.. 

this stuff was really tough to break up even with hammer.. 

Anyhow, this is kind of intesting.   I remember years ago doing a websearch for such information and there were hundreds of videos directly linked back to a steel producer or coke producer.. LOL..     

:::

Since 1875, the United States has been one of the world's main steel producers.  Steel has been an important factor in the American economy for over 100 years, providing jobs to many generations of American families, and it continues to be a booming industry today.  Production of steel takes place in two different ways.  One method uses integrated smelting involving a blast furnace, followed by a basic oxygen furnace, and the other involves an electric arc furnace.

Steel production is dependent upon coal and coke in steelmaking.  Metallurgical coke, or met coke, is manufactured from blends of bituminous coal in a heated distillation process resulting in a non-melting carbon.  Coke is made by one of two processes: by-product or non-recovery, also known as heat recovery.

In by-product coke making, impurities are driven off the coal in order to leave nearly pure carbon.  This is done by heating the coal at about 1800-3600 degrees Fahrenheit in large slot ovens which are connected by a shared heat source.  The ovens are devoid of any oxygen in order to drive off other compounds and leave a purer form of coal.  When the coal is "coked", it softens and turns into a liquid.  When the coked coal resolidifies, it becomes a small and porous lump that is cooled in either air or water.  The gases that are produced in the coking process are sent off to a by-product plant, where they are collected for reuse.  It is for this reason that the process is called "by-product" coke making.  After the coke has cooled, it is ready to go to the blast furnace or it can be stored and shipped to steel mills. 

In non-recovery or heat recovery coke making, ovens are stacked in a "beehive" form.  The ovens are heated from the top, and air is fed through the bottom for combustion through chambers located in the oven wall.  The waste gases are not sent to recovery plants, so this process is known as "non-recovery" coke making.  In other instances, the excess heat and gas are sent through a waste recovery boiler where the heat and gas is converted to steam in order to create power.  This type of coke making is then called "heat recovery" coke making.

Once in the blast furnace, the quality of the coke comes into play.  Iron is combined with steel and flux.  The coke plays a main role in driving off the impurities of the steel when it is being created within the blast furnace.  The steel, flux and iron melts in the oven and impurities are driven off, resulting in liquid steel.  Higher quality coke results in higher quality steel. 

Rotary Coal DumperAnother well-known process of steel making is completed with an electric arc furnace.  Unlike a blast furnace, an electric arc furnace uses no iron in steel making.  Coke and coal are not required during this process, as it uses electricity instead.

Coke is often produced away from the steel mills, and is often delivered via railway.  It is the job of rotary railcar dumpers made by Heyl & Patterson to get the coke quickly and safely out of the car and deposited at the steel mill.  Railcar dumpers tip an entire car upside down in order to dump out all of its contents.

Coke is sometimes considered to be a "dirty cargo" by many companies, which is anything comprised of crude oil or any type of heavy, viscous petroleum products.  Any type of cargo known to stick to the interior of railcars and other types of shipping containers is known as "dirty."  Although coke is not a viscous or heavy petroleum product, it is a chore to remove from surfaces.  As a result, railcars that carry coke are destined to always carry coke.

 

Pnut,  The method I was talking about uses the volatile smoke and this becomes the gas that gets burned in the production of the charcoal..  

Sadly I lost the link to the furnace but basically is just 2 55 gallon drums with gas vents at the bottoms using the bungs to fill 2 pipes that run under each barrel.. 

you start by lighting a small fire under the bottom barrel which in turn starts to produce the gases, which in turn catch fire and start the process of gasification of the upper barrel.. the gasification of the wood in the upper barrel then feeds the gases down thru a pipe back under the bottom barrel and these ignite creating a full circle of self-sustained charcoal making. 

the amount of unused gases from what I read are very small so there is very little smoke.. 

when the wood has all the volatile gasses driven off the cycle is complete and the contents should be only charcoal with very little if any wood uncharred left behind. 

I have the barrels and the wood..  I just need to find the time to go make the unit..  I will post back to it's own thread when I have completed the unit and testing.. 

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When I was growing up I remember seeing unit trains going by my house carrying coal or coke that seemed like they would never end just car after car full. I haven't seen any like that in a while.

Pnut

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https://activerain.com/blogsview/1568833/se-colorado-part-2---coke-ovens-of-cokedale--colorado

A large cokeing setup for CF&I Steel out of Pueblo, Co. Garry Colter had Colter Carriage Works here back when I first went full time around '80. I did some of my early forgings for him. Im pretty sure he had bought the whole town!

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Redstone_Coke_Oven_Historic_District

Beehive coke ovens in the Carbondale/Redstone Colorado area.  They coked it here, then shipped it to the CF&I steel mills in Pueblo, Co. Lol, I got excellent met coal here until the mine closed 15+ years ago. Free unless you wanted them to load it, then it cost a 6 pack! They liked blacksmiths. A days trip over 6 fine high mountain passes, unless I spent the night with friends or camped out. Thus the reason i kinda smile when new smiths seem to feel an hour and a half drive for coal is not appropriate.  In and around the mines in the Rocky Mountain west today, coal at the mine is ~ $100./ton

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