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OK GUYS, information needed. Upcoming re-enactment. Can somebody please tell me WHEN coal was being used in relationship to the Civil War (documented please). Historically and period correct works for me. Politically correct, I could care less. Charcoal was probobly used, I don't really know. I will be using coal. Also, if you have documented information on when crank blowers were introduced (past industry level) this will be good too. I like to have accurate information and I'm at my wits end to find it. Event should be posted here on the Forum (thank you Glenn). Short notice I know. THANKS A BUNCH !

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I briefly went thru Bealer's book and he indicates coal/coke was in general use by the time of the Civil War and that blowers started appearing by mid to late 1800's. Electric blowers were in use by 1890's. I have seen a couple of photos of Civil War era soldiers using bellows and coal but I don't think I have ever seen a picture of a blower from that period.

As you stated, the other thing to consider is how common anything was until the technology eventually made its way out into the hinterlands. Even if coal and blowers were in existence, it is quite likely that charcoal and bellows were still in use in most places - especially the South since blockades would have stopped many commercially produced items. Jay Reakirt (who I think is now deceased) used to have an historically accurate traveling forge at Andersonville. Although he had an electric blower hidden in the wagon, the premise was that it used a bellows and he would pull the handle periodically to make it look real - I also believe that he used coal for fuel.

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Coal Production

The first reference to coal ( in what is today West Virginia) was in 1742, when John Peter Salley reported an outcropping of coal along a tributary of the Kanawha River. By 1817, coal began to replace charcoal as a fuel for the numerous Kanawha River salt furnaces. The total coal production in 1840 for the State was about 300,000 tons, of which 200,000 tons was used in the Kanawha salt furnaces.

BTW the Mason-Dixon line is the boundry of West Virginia/ Pennsylvania, and Maryland/Pennsylvania. This boundry was the division like between those in the "North" and those in the "South" during the war. Therefore Pa was a northern state and WV and Md were southern states.


Reference IForgeIron Blueprints BP0051 Coal
Additonal references at the bottom of the BP.

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Another thing to keep in mind is your audience. For me, a general public audiance will mean an automatic switch to coal (and I bring lump coal along for the young to pick up and see). Having tried using charcoal in a general re-inactment or demo of other sorts, I was amazed at the amount of spectators who could not grasp the thought that "the blacksmith wasn't using real coal?????" and "maybe he's just pretending" and of course
spectator "are you Bar-B-Qing?",
me "no"
spec "well then why are you using charcoal"
me "because 300 years ago it was the primary forging fuel"
spec "well my grandaddy used to be a coal miner and them blacksmiths used coal then"
me "yes, coal became quite popular around the beginning of the 19th century"
spec "well, I still don't see why you aren't using coal, after all, they had it back then"
me "wow, you're grandaddy sure lived a long time eh?"
spectator usually does some quick math at this time and realizes that his grandfather would have had to be about 150years old to have seen the beginning of the 19'th century

After a while that same say it became
spectator "what's that stuff you are roasting?"
me "it's a slightly different type of coal and was very popular in the earlier years"
spec "oh, sure looks neat, is it hot... yada yada, the usuall"
but, like magic, spectator is happy because the smith is doing what fits their common knowledge of what a smith should be.

besides, who doesn't like the enticing waft of coal smoke in the morning air?
:wink:


(BTW, yes, Jay Reikert is deceased)

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usually provides for a good chuckle if nothing else. Often though they'll realize that you just might know what you are talking about and shoot, they start to listen,

then they go off happy to have met someone new :)

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I have found that everybody has Grandgrandfather, or grandfather that was a blacksmith. The question I get ,,, "Is that hot" :?:
Cheers Barney

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I have found that everybody has Grandgrandfather, or grandfather that was a blacksmith. The question I get ,,, "Is that hot" :?:
Cheers Barney


That's when you reply. "No, it's not hot, it is just painted to look that way, and the sweat on my forehead is fake too"

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I find ignorance and misinformation unacceptable:-)

And therefore try to stamp it out whenever I can, politely, even graciously:-) But I think even boneheads need to be enlightened... I will let a fool have his way, if I realize he cannot learn, but I think it is worth it to teach, even if it is hard. Wrought Iron and Charcoal are very different from people expectations, but they can be taught most of the time:-) If I am doing a demo and I am using more modern tools and materials I try to explain to the crowd what would have been used as a part of my demo. I have an idea for a small portable sideblast bellows blown medieval demo forge:-) and I can get chunk charcoal at Rural King for 8.95$ for 20# we will see...

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I have a crank blower that is supposed to be circa 1850. It is having new bearings put in it and runs on 2 leather belts to turn the blower. Once I get it back, I'll put up a picture and see what everyone thinks.

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i havent gotten a question in a while but i have gotten the same rude statement alot

"THEY MAKE HORSE SHOES"
i tell them i dont
and if they insist i say "alright ill make a horseshoe, (turn around put a peice of metal in the fire) face them and say HEAAAA! HEAAAAA! get a here."

they tipicaly leave confused or laughing

what a hot summer demo day does to the head

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I am a reenactor in The Tennessee Valley Battalion. I can't give you documented info because all my books are in storage.:mad: I can tell you that coal was used, but charcoal was PROBABLY used more often because of short supplies. (charcoal could be made as needed.) This would hold true with the portable wagon forges because of storage and weight. The artillery forge has a box to carry coal. Hand crank blowers were used. Once again no documented info, but I have seen photos of forges with hand crank blowers in them. Also I believe Champion and Buffalo blowers were being made at that time. Also belows would be harder to keep in shape, were as a hand crank could be left in the wheather and still last a while.
Don't worry to much about authenticity! I did a living history program once and used a brake drum forge. 400 middle school students and not one questioned authenticity!:) I now have a better set up!:D

The kidsmith,
Dave Custer

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Now I will disagree with David; a bellows does need some care taken of it HOWEVER you can compleatly rebuild a bellows from the ground up if it has problems with supplies that were commonly available. Knock over your hand crank cast iron blower onto a rock and see how long it takes you to get it back in working order!

My canvas "leathered" bellows spent several winters outside in OH and were still usable in the spring. It was about 20 years old when I gave it away still working! It was actually nicer to use than my hand crank blower and I have a nice hand crank blower---three full turns after you let go the handle.

Blacksmiths first started using coal in the high to late middle ages, (cf _Cathedral, Forge and Waterwheel_, Gies & Gies); but as has been noted you can make charcoal anywhere you can cook your rations and coal has to be sourced and hauled. Why charcoal has been continuously used since the start of the iron age until nowdays as a forge fuel.

When doing period demos DO NOT USE Briquettes! *real* charcoal will solve some of the misinformation issues.

Also it's handy to have a sample of real wrought iron and mild steel notched and broken to show the difference.

And for my demo's I always bring an unwelded billet and a welded one for when folks want to argue about patternwelding, folded steel, uber-katanas, etc. (I also try to bring a piece of bloomery iron that I was in the smelting crew for).

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Here is a bit of info on the Civil War Traveling forge that was used by both sides. I pulled this from Our Blacksmithing WIKI that the Blacksmith Guild of Central Maryland has on the web. All info there is public domain and I know Dave Einhorn, who is constructing his own traveling forge won't mind the posting.

You'll notice that it carried a coal box with 250 pounds of coal and it's air source was a bellows.

The artillery mountain forge, also used by both sides, was also bellows operated.

Also at the bottom is a picture of a forge, air supplied by a bellow that was a Petersburg, Va. during the war.


Civil War Period Traveling Forge
By David Einhorn
The Traveling Forge combined with a Battery Wagon, and Limbers, formed a complete blacksmith shop on wheels. These wagons contained all the necessary tools and supplies to shoe horses, and repair wood, iron, and leather equipment used by both northern and southern American armies during the mid-19th century. Whether it was a horse needing new shoes, a broken leather harness or saddle strap, a smashed 190 pound cannon wheel, or a damaged or destroyed cannon carriage, these smiths had the necessary skills and tools to provide quality repairs and/or replacement parts as needed.

Around the 1850's Captain Albert Mordecai was commissioned to go to Europe, research the military equipment being used at the time there, and then to create measured drawings and specifications, such as those drawings reproduced within Field Artillery Traveling Forge Book No. 61, that could then be given to manufactures. The intent was to have standard equipment that had interchangeable parts that could be readily replaced, stored, stacked when not needed, and maintained. Captain Mordecai's version of the Traveling Forge evolved from those used in Europe at that time. Fortunately, drawings of equipment used by the British Service circa 1845 were documented in a six volume set of books, and included valuable information and drawings of the British 1840's period Traveling Forge.

The Traveling Forge and the Battery Wagon were designed to use the same limber as No.1 cannon carriages, and to have the same turning radius as the No.1 carriage. The intent was that all equipment would be able to travel where the No. 1 carriage could travel. The Traveling Forge was painted with the same Liquid Olive Paint as the No. 1 cannon carriage.

According to the Ordnance Manual of 1863, in use the Traveling Forge contained a bellows, small vise, coal box containing 250 pounds of coal, as well as horse shoes, iron bars, and the tools to care for the the carriages, horses and tack assigned to it. One Traveling Forge, and Battery Wagon, with their permanently attached limbers were assigned to each cannon battery. Other Traveling Forges were provided to support the horses and equipment of the army. The tools most commonly used by the smiths were stored in boxes within the Traveling Forge's limber chest. The 100 pound anvil, during travel, rode in the fireplace. The Traveling Forge carried approximately 1200 pound of tools, coal and supplies, and the Battery Wagon carried an additional 1300 pounds of tools and supplies used by the blacksmiths. Equipment and supplies used by the smith/artisans were stored in the quantity and manner described in the Ordnance Manual of 1863. Due to the nature and quantity of tools and supplies used by the blacksmiths, it would have been extremely impractical to carry those supplies except within the numerous Traveling Forges and Battery Wagons that accompanied each army, specifically designed and constructed for that purpose.

According to the Authentic Campaigner web site, Steen Cannons and Historical Ordnance Works provided around March 2008 the following prices if you would rather purchase equipment from them that is already made:


Traveling Forge $19,000 each
Limber for the Traveling Forge or Battery Wagon $6,500 each
Limber chest for a Limber $2,800 each
Battery Wagon $20,000 each
Harness, 6 Per vehicle, a battery wagon and forge, the calculation is 12 horses X a rough $1500 per horse equaling $18,000
Horses ....12 horses @ $1500 ea would tack on $18,000
Based upon the information and calculations provided by the the Authentic Campaigner web site, an authentically correct historical presentation of a blacksmith during the War Between the States would cost around $93,600, plus the cost of anvil, tools, period clothing, trailers and trucks to transport the equipment and horses, food and other expenses for the event. A full battery would cost, according to their calculations over $700,000, plus trailers, trucks, etc. Thus a smith who wants to do an authentic Civil War historical presentation is an easy person to find Christmas and birthday presents for, as the list of stuff he/she needs is a long one.


Shown below is a Civil War period Traveling Forge nearing completion, only the wheels, bellows and pipes need to be finished before it is a working Traveling Forge. It is being constructed by David Einhorn, a member of the Blacksmith Guild of Central Maryland, Pennsylvania Artist Blacksmith Association and Life Member of Blacksmith Guild of the Potomac. The progress of constructing many of the parts used in constructing the forge shown below has been documented and explained on this website and discussed on the Civil War Period Traveling Forge Discussion Forum.

* Further Information on Constructing a Civil War Period Traveling Forge

TravelingForgeJanuary42008Progress.jpeg

Next is a photograph was taken by Alexander Gardner showing smiths at work at Antietam, MD between September and October of 1862 shoeing horses at headquarters, Army of the Potomac. The wagon behind the four aproned smiths is a Traveling Forge attached to a limber.

Note: The photograph is directly referenced/displayed from the U.S. Library of Congress web site, which contains many high quality historical images worth viewing.
4a40261r.jpeg forge_at_petersburg.jpg

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From what I have read Champion Forge and Blower didn't produce the hand crank forge blower until 1870, so using it at Civil War renactments would be iffy. Glad I don't do period events, my hats off to those that do for their investment to be period correct.

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I don't know about you folks but I think that both taste terrible.


It's not bad before you light it.

Frosty

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Thanks so much for the comments. In my needs, I wish to have the ability to tell folks how it WAS and my IDEA ( from history I have studied ) of how it was. I like to be accurate but if I can't, I tell folks what is modern in my camp shop. Otherwise folks will think it's all the way it really was and that I'm a drug store smith. :) More later as I have to head to the day job for now.

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OK later means I missed the edit button timeout. :) David, I will say that many times you are absolutely correct, historical accuracy may not be a big issue if the folks watching may or may not care about it. I don't want you to think I was climbing down your throat. I often call my trailer forge a "Lewis and Clark microwave" and proceed to re-heat some coffee in it. I like to have fun. Sometimes folks will comment (years later) that they remember a statement I made about something ( like wrought iron being steel these days ) or something else. Being historically accurate is my goal ( my wife and kids call me an antique anyway).

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I am thinking of using coal and charcoal for work that doesn't make me smokey for later in the day (like for days I'll be out and about, I don't want to smell too much like coal!:D

For those who use a combination of both coal and charcoal, do you use a specific ratio? Also, does it need a lot of air, like coal, or a little air, like charcoal?

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I just dump the charcoal and coal in my 55gal drum, back forth, little bit at a time.
Then just shovel it on the table, and tend it like a coal fire.

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I did a project years ago and the coustomer only wanted wood charcoal. I went to the local food service supplyer for resturants bought it in 40# bags burned real clean took twice as much to do the same job but very intresting,

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