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On making your own in a retort...does it matter what type of wood you use?  In other words, is one species of wood better than others in terms of heat production?  I cut wood for our primary heat source so the equipment to get it is a non-issue.  Pine is found here in abundance as are tamarack (western larch) and several types of fir.  I'm refering to forging charcoal, not for the bbq. :)

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Traditionally whatever was close and cheap was used, what was used in Scandanavia was not the same as what was used in Italy.  The japanese prefer pinetree charcoal

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@ George Geist: I hear what your saying about opening a coal yard, and about shipping by train.  The problem with that is that we're too spread out down here, to the point that a train car full of coal would provide enough coal for 10 years for the serious ones...wait, maybe that's not such a problem :P.  I took a look at that Penncoal website, $15.00 a bag of coal, and checked Fedex Ground for shipping rates for tier 1 (I'm hoping that mean low priority, and not just short distances), and its 86 dollars for 500+ Lbs.  If that rate holds by the ton it might not be a bad deal. 

  The group I hammer with usually orders from Cumberland Elkhorn, out of kentucky, and their coal actually ain't too bad.  I'll have to bring up Penncoal and see how the prices compare.

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On making your own in a retort...does it matter what type of wood you use?  In other words, is one species of wood better than others in terms of heat production?  I cut wood for our primary heat source so the equipment to get it is a non-issue.  Pine is found here in abundance as are tamarack (western larch) and several types of fir.  I'm refering to forging charcoal, not for the bbq. :)


I've been using pine offcuts from pallets and building materials. It works well and no "fire fleas" that you get with the cheap hardwood charcoal.

The charcoal I've made has burned clean and hot.
Andy

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Charcoal doesn't have to radiate more heat than coal.  That depends mostly on how the fire is set up and managed.  Charcoal likes a deeper fire than is common with coal fireboxes.  I've worked charcoal in a shallow and deep forge and the shallow forge radiated more than the deep forge.

As to the "fire fleas", that seems to me to be mostly related to how well the wood was charred.  If the wood is well charred through-out it doesn't throw sparks the way poorly charred wood does.

 

ron

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I tried natural barbecue "hardwood characoal"--not briquettes--that I bought at a hardware store. It worked great. It's so light (fluffy) I had to make the pile a little deep. It boils down to dollars per btu. Someday I'll have to burn $50 of characoal then $50 of coal and see which heats more metal.

Neighbors complain when you make charcoal in a retort in town. The fumes STINK even if you burn them. And there's a lot of smoke. It's funny, the finished product, characoal, burns so cleanly in a forge--after the initial smoke is gone.

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I never use water with my charcoal forge---but then it's tweaked to burn charcoal and not set up as a coal forge burning charcoal---sort of like trying to use diesel in a gas engine!

 

I don't have charcoal spread all over the forge to catch fire.  I have a trough between large firebricks that I add charcoal to as needed.  I also use as little air as possible; definitely hand cranked or bellows!  

 

Look at how a wash tub forge is set up; or the asian one Weygers shows in his book

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So I am trying to decide a fuel source for my forge and I have four questions.

1) How long does coal burn opposed to charcoal?  (The more specific the better)

2) Does coal burn hotter than charcoal and vice versa?

3) Is there a difference between hard and soft coal?

4) Does it matter if you have a mix of hard and soft coal in your forge?

I appreciate any and all help you guys can give me as I am just starting out.  And if you have any advice about blacksmithing in general I would love to hear it.

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You buy fuel for the BTUs. Coal packs more BTUs per pound than charcoal. Therefore you will burn a lot more charcoal to get the same amount of BTUs. How much depends on the seam of coal you are using which can vary from 12,000 to 15,000 BTUs. 12,000 is low BTUs for forging, but it can be used. Charcoal BTUs depends on the type wood you started with, and again there is a vide range of BTUs in different woods, hardwood vs soft wood for instance.

You can forge with both coal and charcoal. Fuel does not make the fire hot, air makes the fire hot. You only need enough fuel so you do not run out of fuel as you convert the fuel to BTUs and heat.

There is a difference between hard and soft coal. Hard coal is difficult to light and takes an almost constant air blast or the fire goes out.

You can mix hard coal, soft coal, charcoal, and wood fuels depending on what you are doing and what fuels are available. It is easier to stick with one fuel.

 

Please read How to safely ask curmudgeons for advice. It will apply to both this site and life in general. Good stuff contained there.

Please read the stickies at the top of each section. It will answer many of your question.

Pack a lunch and a cold drink and read those sections or threads that interest you. You will find many of your questions have been ask and answered in detail before. The search engine is your friend. After you learn to use the search engine it will become your best friend, as it knows where the answers are to your questions.

Find a blacksmithing group near you and go to the meetings. You will learn more in a day than you can ever imagine. Take a note book and several pencils.

Welcome to the site. Enjoy your visit.

Edited by Glenn

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Welcome aboard, glad to have you. Your questions have been answered in more detail than you have the knowledge to understand. There are sections and sub-sections under solid fuel forges that cover your very questions and more pertinent ones in depth.

Frosty The Lucky.

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Acualy to disagree some with Glenn, the diference in BTU's per pound for coal and charcoal are neirly the same (couple of percentage points) but coal is a lot denser, so more BTU's fit in the pot, and coal likes way more air than charcoal. Charcoal is a lot less dence and likes its air gental. 

I realy recomend a side blast forge if you plan to work a lot with charcoal, the some. Forge works well with either fuel, just crank up the air for coal. 

Edited by Charles R. Stevens

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Currently I'm forging with charcoal, but I was wondering if coke would be more efficient (burn hotter?)

I'm able to get 25kg of coke for about 8usd just across the border (which is a lot cheaper than charcoal).

The coke consists of < 0.7% ash, max 9%water and max 1.05% sulfur. The coke size is 30mm-60mm/90mm

Would it work? And how much different is coke to forge with?

 

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Depends on your forge, coke is certainly used for forging. Like charcoal, all the volitiles have been driven off, so it is less offensive to neighbors and EQ folks (being that some one else has already made smoke). 

 

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I have used both and I much rather use coke. It takes a little more effort to light but once I had a small pile of kindling burning and started adding the coke I have a hot fire in just a couple minutes. I've never timed it but I'm thinking from the time I light the paper till I can put steel in the fire is only about 10 minutes or so. The hardest part I had was busting the coke to size, mine was in pieces roughly the size of a grapefruit when I got it. Try it and decide for yourself since you're the only one that's really going to know if it's worth it to you.

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For the money I'd certainly give the coke a try, it's harder to light and keep burning but that's just a matter of adjusting your technique. The size is pretty large you'll be breaking it up, even 30mm is too large. You need to increase the surface area and reduce the size of the gaps between the piece. more surface area means more is burning and smaller gaps means oxy is less likely to get past the burning surfaces to scale your work.

You'll just need to learn how to work with it but it will last a lot longer and you won't have to do anything special to put it out at the end of the day, just turn off the blast and spread the coals.

If I could get 24kg. bags of coke for $8.00 ea. I'd be burning coke here now.

Frosty The Lucky.

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My Father's house in Germany before WW II had a stove that burned coke. One day I told him how coke was produced and he was amazed. He had always thought it was mined like coal. Funny things people take for granted. 

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which type of coke is it?  Petroleum coke or industrial coke produced from bituminous coal?  Are you using an electrical  powered blower or a hand powered one? What type of forge are you using and what sort of forging are you doing?

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On 25/7/2016 at 7:33 PM, ThomasPowers said:

which type of coke is it?  Petroleum coke or industrial coke produced from bituminous coal?  Are you using an electrical  powered blower or a hand powered one? What type of forge are you using and what sort of forging are you doing?

Wohoo! I knew I wasn't providing enough data :D

 

I'm not sure about what type of coke it is - The site says "petrocoke", so I guess it's petroleum coke? I'll contact the manufacturer and ask. Currently I'm using a double-chambered bellows and a 3/4inch sideblast tuyere in a clay forge (Similar to Charles' Box 'o dirt) - However I plan to use a 90w blower, but I don't have any power in my forge yet, and won't for a few months atleast.

 

Currently I'm forging small stuff. Trying to forge tongs, forging nails, hinges etc - or atleast, I'm trying to. Eventually I'd like to forge blades and hatches.

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I've used a little pet coke, Pat imports a couple tons at a time for his cupola iron melter and didn't notice a coffee can disappear. A little hard to light and wants a steady blast or it goes out. It's a refinery byproduct so it's a little cheaper than coal coke.

Frosty The Lucky.

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I'm sure there have been numerous posts about this topic but which is better to use: coal or charcoal? I have never done any blacksmithing before but I want to. I need to have a fuel first, though. My furnace is a hole in the ground lined with kiln bricks (I know not what kind; the potter that lived in my house before I did left a huge pile of them in the woods). I had originally planned to use a steel pipe with a vacuum cleaner on one end for my blower. After reading a couple of other posts, I'm not sure if that'll work; at the moment, I have no idea what blower I'll use (if you have any advice, that would be wonderful). I don't have an anvil yet, either.

Edited by Amolith
Clarification/Information Addition

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which is a better fuel for my vehicle diesel or gasoline?  

The answer to your question is Yes.  (and which is best depends on things like  the design and construction of your forge, what you can access cheaply; possible issues with neighbors; what and how much are you trying to forge; type of blower you will be using....and a bunch of other factors which you have not told us about...)

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Hello Everyone, 

I am wondering if there are any benefits that coal has over charcoal.  I live in Alaska, and shipping is really expensive, so it isn't easy to get coal.  Wood, however, is very plentiful and I use it to make my own lump charcoal.  This charcoal will burn mild steel in my forge quite easily and works well for all my forging needs.  It doesn't make smoke, doesn't smell bad, and is very easy to light.  Is coal better for some reason?  If not, why do most Blacksmiths use it?

Thanks so much, Blake

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