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maybee try coke? it burns nice ... will go out easyer than coal or charcoal but verry little smoke other than initial startup.. its what i use in my shop at the museum....

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I use both charcoal and coal, but I don't really mix the fuels.

I might start out with charcoal, since it lights easily and doesn't make much smoke at startup. Depending on what I intend to forge, I might bank the charcoal fire with coal if I'm going to be heating larger pieces. Of course, when I bring the coal into the center of the fire, it's pretty much a coal fire.
( I shake the ashes from the spent charcoal into the ash dump)

Near the end of a forging session, I might decide to forge just one more little piece, and not want to build up a large fire that i will just have to extinguish minutes later.
So, I will toss a scoop or two of charcoal onto the fire to finish the project.

I know I used the word 'might' a lot in this post. I have no hard and fast rules as to which fuel to use at any given time. I freely alternate from one fuel to another.

And yes, they do get mixed a little in the forge.

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I use both charcoal and coal, but I don't really mix the fuels.

I might start out with charcoal, since it lights easily and doesn't make much smoke at startup. Depending on what I intend to forge, I might bank the charcoal fire with coal if I'm going to be heating larger pieces. Of course, when I bring the coal into the center of the fire, it's pretty much a coal fire.
( I shake the ashes from the spent charcoal into the ash dump)

Near the end of a forging session, I might decide to forge just one more little piece, and not want to build up a large fire that i will just have to extinguish minutes later.
So, I will toss a scoop or two of charcoal onto the fire to finish the project.

I know I used the word 'might' a lot in this post. I have no hard and fast rules as to which fuel to use at any given time. I freely alternate from one fuel to another.

And yes, they do get mixed a little in the forge.



This worked very well for me, Thank you!:D (Except I got a burn from careless mistakes:rolleyes: On my middle and ring finger. I sometimes need to remind myself that Black metal IS hot metal!)

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The other night while at BP's I was chatting with a smith about using charcoal. I told him that since coal can get hard to find I made a charcoal retort (which I will post about later) and now make all my own charcoal. I still use coal every now and then but since my charcoal is free and pretty much never ending I use it almost exclusively. 

His question was did charcoal get as hot as coal. I'm not sure of the actual temp but I can easily forge weld with it. 

 

post-14490-0-75799900-1375322363_thumb.j A nice hot charcoal fire.

post-14490-0-56713800-1375322394_thumb.jThis is a 1 1/2 inch diameter forklift fork pin. Too hard to cut with a hacksaw and a spark test showed it to be pretty high carbon. 

post-14490-0-31705100-1375322421_thumb.jOff to the hotcut. I'd say charcoal works well.

 

One drawback is that you will go through a lot more charcoal than you will coal. That and it takes more time to keep stoking the fire. But like I said, it's free. Good fire management helps.

As Glenn has said before, you can use plain oak pallets for fuel. Some people get too fixated on having to have coal and are willing to sell their soul to get it.

 

Mark<><

 

ps. Before anybody mentions it, the iron was brought out of the fire for the pictures.

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All the Roman and Viking swords were forged only using charcoal; use of coal by smiths didn't start into the later part of the high middle ages.  Japanese swords are still forged with charcoal even to this day.  All the wootz steel in central asia was melted with charcoal and all iron was smelted with charcoal in the west until the 1700's.  Last charcoal blast furnace in the hanging rock region went out of blast around WWI
 
So you can smelt with it
You can forge weld with it
You can melt steel with it
 
How much hotter does it need to be?
 
It does help to have a forge tweaked for use of charcoal rather than use of coal---but that is more like folks saying that diesel can't power an engine as their gas car engine didn't run with it...

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Seems like Thomas said it all, exept you can barbeq on it too! :D I

 

@mark I add a small amount of sawdust to my retort then I mix a small bit of flour & water with all my dust and press into "cardboard" egg trays/small paper cups to make briqetts and mix in with the charcoal- works a treat my freind!

 

Ian

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Thanks Ian, I'll give that a try.

 

I currently have a batch of red cedar charcoal that I use for the BBQ grill and am waiting on some apple wood to cure a bit more before I char it. Can't wait to turn that into charcoal for the grill.

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I try to save the fruit wood for smoking meats,  Can we see the retort you made?

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Carbon is carbon, once the volatiles are burned out of it. The only difference between charcoal and mineral coal once its been burning a while is the density.

 

I've gone thru a 5 gallon bucket of charcoal (Cowboy Brand, watch out for bits of Trex decking) in a 3-4 hour forging session.

 

Same period of time with mineral coal (Elkhorn I think) I'll use less than a 1 gallon bucket and have coke left over for the next fire.

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I try to save the fruit wood for smoking meats,  Can we see the retort you made?

 

No! 

 

Yes of course. As soon as I gather my thoughts and pictures, I'll be glad to. I have been meaning to for a while but I have too many irons in the fire sometimes and things get pushed to the back of the forge. 

 

Better yet, I'll take some new pics the next time I light it off.

 

Mark <><

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Hey guys, sorry to hop on a current thread but relates to it. I am just getting it all together. Green as all get out. I have a , er, "forge" , some fire brick canted in a "V" shape with perforated pipe with  blower. Works great! I have been using the charcoal left over from my smoke house, But yeah it goes quick. Has anyone tried a little coal mixed with the charcoal or will if make the fire too inconsistent to get in the grove with it? Great forum, thanks for all your contributions!

Correy Smith

Matsukaze Woodworking

Hilo,Hawaii

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It'll make the meat taste funny! :)

I suppose that the 'coalchar' Brackett will work a treat- that said I've never given it a bash.

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Over on pounding out the bits, Markewits posted a comparison of coal, charcoal and propane.
If I remember right, coal and charcoal are pretty comparable, pound for pound. But charcoal is only half as dense. So same weight, same fuel value and temp, just twice the volume. Propane didn't get as hot, but had more BTU's per pound but still hot enough to to melt steel.
Price per BTU was on the side of coal, but if your making charcoal yourself...

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I may consider building a retort after we move in 4 or 5 years. but for now at $0.12 per lbs. it's cheaper to buy coal than spend the time creating the charcoal.

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I've seen a retort made of a double barrel stove kit. With a 30 g clamp top inserted in the top barrel. I think it was linked from an earlier thread to a black powder sight. Apparently the lower temps makes better charcoal.

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That looks nifty! Care to share the plans? It may be a bit off 'blacksmithing' but still 'metalwork' and in the spirit of the hole. I have always wanted to give smoking meat a whack.

 

I hope the moderators won't mind.

 

Ian

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I've mostly used charcoal in the few years I've been doing this. I've tried using coal/ coke a few times and the only benefit is the density of it, as mentioned you go through a lot less of it. But my goodness is it horrible stuff to work with. Nasty fumes and harder to light than charcoal.

Thomas has covered it all really.

You need good quality charcoal though, the store bought stuff tends to be African made hard wood. This doesn't work well as charcoal as it spits and sparks everywhere.

I've started making my own in a small converted propane tank, you just light the wood then cut off the air when it's all glowing. This might be slightly less efficient than a retort though and these last couple of weeks I've hardly done anything but make charcoal....

Andy

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compare the fuels by weight, not volume, and you will get closer to the true difference (if any)....

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I know two things coal is better at than charcoal:

  1)It keeps the heat it produces contained.  Charcoal radiates a lot of the heat it produces.  In other words charcoal makes you sweat a lot more.

  2)Coal and Coke rarely spark. Even good Oak lump Charcoal throws off little sparks whenever you stir it, even in the slightest.  Mesquite is even worse.  I haven't found anything else at a decent price here in southern CA.

 

Coal smokes alot, but the cure for that is a good hood and maybe an exhaust fan.  I haven't burnt enough charcoal to be able to tell the difference in price to work ratio, so I can't say anything there.

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Southern CA means I either have to  go with "cheap coal" from Utah, buy the good stuf locally for $27 per 50 lb. bag, or buy it by the ton and still pay $20 a bag, and have it shipped from the other side of the country.  Cheap? Not really.  Cheaper than charcoal in the long run? Don't know, but I know places that sell a 50lb bag of charcoal for less than the coal, but not enough less that I'd wanna roast my self out or deal with charcoal's fire fleas when I don't have to.

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Southern CA means I either have to  go with "cheap coal" from Utah, buy the good stuf locally for $27 per 50 lb. bag, or buy it by the ton and still pay $20 a bag, and have it shipped from the other side of the country.  Cheap? Not really.  Cheaper than charcoal in the long run? Don't know, but I know places that sell a 50lb bag of charcoal for less than the coal, but not enough less that I'd wanna roast my self out or deal with charcoal's fire fleas when I don't have to.

I keep hearing you guys on the west coast talking about coal it makes me wish I could come out there and open up a coalyard ;)

Seems the demand is definitely there anyway.

I'd say first start out with these people: http://www.penncoal.com/wst_page4.html

They'll send it anywhere bagged and palletized.

Is plenty of other sources online but I think if you all would really put your heads together and get organized about it you could have it brought out there by rail car. That'd make it just as cheap as anywhere else.

George

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