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I Forge Iron

my essay heh,,,,any tips for charcoal?

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hey ,

have been hobbying away at this blacksmithing malarky for a a little while now with not much to show, anyways have built a bit of a wierd forge in my barn beats being outside rusting away ne day although my bucket of water is constant ice at this time of year:( ,, its a wierd forge as i built one before outside with a barbq bricks and mortar in a bottom blast configuration with no ash dump gates and all that,and an old car fan at the base of the brick tower on a board so you could just "open the fan door" and shovel all the ash and crap out , worked pretty well considering i thought of it without looking at any blueprints or what have you and i think you US guys firepotting it up over there mite like its simplicity,, but anyways, was noobing and it cained my fuel big time,also the clinker would get all over the place with my inexperience, i rebuilt it a coupla times with some wild ideas that didnt work too well,

so now ive moved inside and wanted to assemble a new one ,,,,,again,,,,,,,,, meanwhile i went to my local college at hereford which does a blacksmithing course and he showed me the whole side blast with basicly a tub of crap and ash for the clinker to settle in ,,, no real smothering to air inlets and ripping your makeshift firepot up, so i thought hey this is the way, i then researched allot on here ,, btw A VERY BIG THANK YOU TO ALL YOU GUYS, all this free info for the lapping is a commendable thing,, godspeed. heheh

anywasy i read and saw at the college of the water cooled jacket and others here mentioned about using cast as its more resistable to temps,, well i cant weld and im a skint soooo, it dawned on me what can take the heat ,, so i just drilled a hole in a firebrick ,, boom a tuyere (kind of),

right back to the thing i actually wanted to talk about

first i had been coking my coal in the fireplace inside the house which was all good just a pain picking out the coked bits and running to the barn spreading them out so they go out,, because i cant put fresh coal on this forge as i have no flue or hood or anything but the barn is big and has plenty of ventilation,

now ive ran out of coke and thought i would like to use the ole charcoal like our ancestors did , i have made a small amount and ,, i am struggling to get my iron past an orange , and like cain a bucket in an hour this is insane !!! three days of forging will mean a small wood clearing,, mind you the wood i used to make it is softwood (which i thgt was good for heat) but some seemd a bit rotten ,,

anyways again,, any help much appreciated with gettin some decent heat outa this stuff because i do like it , i can only think that clearing trees to make way for farming for our ancestors was wrong ,, maybe it was just a few smiths here and there hehehe;)

here are a few pics of the latest forge which will probably fall apart in due time hah





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Well Hicks, I'm glad you're have such a good time.

You were saying that the steel wasn't coming up to temperature as fast as you like. I don't think you're using enough charcoal. I can't tell exactly from the pictures, but it looks like you might be piling it a couple inches high. I say, think gallons when you're using it and think barrels when you're making it.

It sounded like you might be burning up a little more wood than necessary when you're making it. You need some way to put out the fire before it burns up most of your charcoal, water or suffication, if you're using a direct burn method.

There's a lot written about charcoal on this site. You might try the Search feature at the top of the page.

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well yeh i know there isnt that much in there firstly cos im scared of burning it up in seconds also that was the last heat as it was my last drab of charcoal left.
however ive just gone out to check a batch i prepped earlier and i loaded it as high as i could and from openeing and having a look it seems i have got a lot lot more than last time, although my impatience in opening it has got it burning a bit again i checked a bit of snow on to it (it was at hand):) hehe and am worried that drabs of air are getting in and i pray it will go out otherwise ill be left with loadsa ash i guess dont know whether to go out and spread it about and sprinkle it with water although its dark now

just out of curiosity how long should i be waiting for my bar to get to temp?
thanks for the sound advice;)

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Hi Hicks.

How controllable is your blast? Charcoal needs less air volume at a lower pressure than coal or coke. You will also typically need a deeper bed of coals underneath the work -- 4 inches is a good point to start from.

How well seasoned is the wood you're starting with out of interest?

Oh and yes, you will probably use a fair amount of wood. Most of the UK was covered in ancient hardwood forest until less than 1,000 years ago, but the demand for wood for cooking and heating fires, building, shipbuilding and charcoal for metal working and smelting overtook the sustainable level, even when using an efficient coppicing system. Why do you think we started using coal? ;)

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Softwood charcoal usually burns faster than hadwood, but both burn fast...Are you just using dead trees ?
I like to use lumber scraps as that stuff is fairly easy to come by and generally free. Also, easier to cut and handle as opposed to going out and cutting down trees...which would best best to let dry for a year or so.

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thanks guys ,,
well just went out and checked my charcoal this morning ,,, and damm its pretty much all ash!!!!! thought i could suffocate it last night there was a nice four buckets or so there and now ive got probably less than one!!!:(
live and learn ay,, back to the drawing board
well my blast is relatively controllable as im using a battery charger and is has 12v 6v and high and low charge settings on it so i have 4 speed settings i had read i must ease of on the air when using charcoal and was but i was waiting so much longer for the bar to heat i got impatient and gave it the full whack a coupla times ,,
should i just be waiting longer with charcoal than coal then?? think some more practical experimentation is needed on my part , although ill have to wait till i do a few more batches of charcoal because ive probably only got enough for less than an hours forging at the moment!!
oh the wood is boards and bits of bobs from outta another barn we are building on its bone dry but some has rotted a bit from age ,, i have acces to the odd bits of kiln dried oak so ill have to give that a go when i build up enough
thanks again guys

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In my humble opinion, getting a good quality cast-iron firepot for coal or charcoal makes learning about blacksmithing greatly easier. See Centaur Vulcan Firepot with Sliding Ashgate-Centaur Forge for an example of a supplier of quality firepots.

You can use anything from a hair-dryer to a bellows or commercial blower with these firepots. Well worth the investment of $179 dollars (plus shipping) in my opinion.

Personally, I have been using an old Buffalo semi-portable forge and fire-pot that is much like the one sold by Centaur.

Edited by UnicornForge
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hicks, you want to know how fast. I'd say, maybe 10 minutes on the first heat, and maybe 1 or 2 minutes on later heats. I start off with a gallon or two of charcoal, and add the steel after the whole bed gets buring and glowing. So, if I was forging a 0.75" bar, I'd think I'd be getting orange approaching yellow after 10 minutes or so. Then if you beat the bar til it's black and return it to the fire, it'll only take a couple minutes. The bar contiues to soak up heat as you forge. I usually add a little charcoal with every heat.

You need a way to sift the ashes and small pieces of charcoal out of your charcoal when your making it. You do end up with a lot of ashes When using the direct burn method. I think I heard somebody give a wood -> charcoal conversion one time, and I think it was less than 25%. Ashes and small particles can cool your fire. It's a good idea to crank up the air to blow out the ashes between heats.

It's good to have wood of the same size, type, and degree of seasoning for making charcoal, so you don't burn up the small pieces while you're waiting on the large pieces to get done, etc.

Just about any wood can be used (I guess), but rotten wood isn't worth it. It won't hang together in lumps.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Hello homesteader here. I sift ash all winter for our garden and also use charcoal in my forge so the two go hand in hand. I use a sifting screen with 1/2" hardware cloth to separate the cooled charcoal from the ash. Made what my girlfriend refers to as a man bucket out of an old 40lb. propane tank and just shovel in the hot coals and ash and cover the top with a layer of the cold sifted ash. It seals off the air and the coals are dead cold by the next day. As we use wood to heat our home and my shop this process has kept me in good charcoal for the forge. I do a lot more forge work during the summer and use a lot more charcoal during that time and make retort charcoal through the spring, summer and fall.
It takes a lot more charcoal over coal but man is it clean.

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