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According to my dh you should use bititamus ( I know I spelled that wrong!) coal otherwise known as soft coal. To start the fire start with small kindling when that is going add the soft coal. Good luck !
 

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And my DH says blacksmiths avoid soft coal in preference of hard! lol
He also says that the coal itself is notoriously hard to start, but once you get a little coke it'll be easier the next time...
 

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I have seen blacksmiths with MANY years of experience with a coal forge take several tries to get a decent fire started.

My method - which works most of the time: Take three full sheets of newspaper and wad them up. Light bottom and place over tuyere. Crank/provide a slow air flow, enough to get the wad lit well. Then add coal on top, adding more and more. Now start cranking/putting more air into pile so it is smoking well. Then use a poker to poke a hole in, which should start something like a volcano blast from the pile.

Some form the newspaper into somewhat of a doughnut shape.

When you are through using the fire pile on green coal and let it go out on its own. That will provide you the coke which will make starting subsequent fires easier.
 

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you want to use bituminous (soft) coal. Start with 3 sheets of newspaper and ball each one into a tight ball light them, then if you are using a hand crank blower start cranking slowly to get the air blowing and keep the fire going. then start raking some coal around the sides and a little on top of the fire, but not enough to smother the fire. keep cranking the blower to keep the fire going. once the coal starts burning you can rake some more coal on. It will smoke alot getting it started. Once its going it wont smoke much a all. Now your fire is going, take some water and put it on the rest of the coal in your bucket that you will be putting on your fire. it will help keep the coal you have banked up on the side of your fire pot from burning to quickly and your fire getting to large. At the end of your day put a nice pile of wet coal on your fire and pat it down and just let your fire burn out. this will help produce coke that you will want to use on your next fire. It will start real quick the next time you fire it up. And be sure to check your fire often with a poker while you are working because of the impurities in the coal you will get marshmellows or some call them clinkers in the bottom of the fire pot which will impede the air flow and lower the fire temp. Always keep a good amount of coal banked around the fire pot and keep the heart of your fire a yellow to orange color. when starting the next days fire clean the fire pot out , put in the newspaper light it and add the coke which will be very light and crumbly on to the paper it will get fired up very quickly bank your fire as before and have fun. After you get more experienced you can buy hard coke and mix it in with the soft coal for a hotter fire. I think you will enjoy the craft as you get to making your own prized projects. Have fun and dont get discouraged it does take practice.
 

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In the videos I got they use NATURAL charcoal from firewood in their forges for knifemaking.:shrug:
 

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I have found that to start a fire you use the same method as starting a wood fire Paper small sticks larger sticks then coal let it burn for a while then use the blower to get it really started. It will smoke allot but that is why they had a vent over the forge.
 

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In the videos I got they use NATURAL charcoal from firewood in their forges for knifemaking.:shrug:
According to all the people that I ever talked to, using charcoal or wood coals for smithing is impossible. Said it couldn't be done, now or ever.

I have only used wood coals in any smithing project I have done, which isn't that much compared to most. I am not an expert, just an ameteur wanna be that has played forge in my back yard.

No, you will not get the great heat that coal will give you, with longer hammer times. It takes alot longer to complete a project, but wood coals (red hot embers) have worked fine for me on my simple projects.

Isn't it funny how myths become fact in some people's minds? Especially the ones that have never done it? Kind of like the people who have never bought the first stick of firewood, nor own a fireplace, are the world's authority on buying firewood.

Clove
 

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By the way, can you start a small wood fire and switch to coal by adding small amounts of coal to your glowing wood embers?

The softer the coal, the easier to light, right?

If that is true, you might be having a hard time igniting the coal because it doesn't have enough heat for a long enough time to get going.

Another thought is to go get your wifes blow dryer. Go ahead and get her good one. When she finds out you have it attached to the end of a 100 foot extension cord trying to get a coal fire going well, she will be just as mad as if you had picked her old one to use.

The blow dryer trick does really work getting the embers glowing. Including the irrate wife part.

Clove
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
I have got iron hot enough in a wood fire without a blower. The reason I'm trying coal is that "the book" says I need coal in order to have a clean enough fire to weld with. I don't know one way or the other. But, I know I can get a good oak fire going that will at least let me do a little pounding.
 

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I don't know a thing about welding, but I understand the concept. My guess is that coal is going to be needed for the higher temps.

You mention that you have used oak. That is really 'up-town' compared to me. I often use scrap pine 2 x 4's.

I have to admit that I can't wait to try coal. I don't have a big need for the coal, so I really don't want to buy much of it. I was at an auction recently, and a skid of 20# bags of coal sold for $18 a bag, and the guy took the entire skid! Yikes!!!!

Clove
 

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I have had very good luck starting my fires similar to the way Ken wrote in his post.
Here is a source for quality Blacksmithing coal. It has a low fly ash level. And is high coking properties.
Kimmel's Premium Bituminus Blacksmith Coal
P.O. Box 1
Wisconisco, Penn. 17097

(717) 453-7151
Remember, with Blacksmithing Coal, YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR.
I've been using this brand for many years with great luck. No matter what coal you use, do all your forging and setting up your welding scarfs on one day. Then the next day do your welding in a new, clean fire. It will work better for you to get the feel of doing it. Welding at the end of the day only gets a person frustrated because your fire is usually not running as clean at the end of the day, which leads to unsucessful welding attempts.
 

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Isn't it funny how myths become fact in some people's minds? Especially the ones that have never done it? Kind of like the people who have never bought the first stick of firewood, nor own a fireplace, are the world's authority on buying firewood.

Clove
That is funny and the truth. Kinda like the young college kid telling Farmer John he could make that apple tree over there produce twice the apples. Farmer John said, Thats something im gunna have to see, cause so far all I can get it to do, is produce pears.:eek: Eddie
 

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It has only been in the relatively recent past coal has been widely used by blacksmiths. Problem was transportation. Say you ordered a wagon load from 150 miles away. It might take 4-5 days to be delivered so, in additional to the cost of the coal, you pay for 8-10 days of wagon/wagoner time.

Traditionally the fuel available was charcoal. For example, in the days of early New England farmers clearing land would make charcoal, which they would then traded to the blacksmith for his services.

Today any coal, much less of a quality to be blacksmithing coal, is hard to find. You can do a switchboard.com search on coal within your state. I have been told in New England one hardware chain (Atchenson?) carries a good grade in 40 or 50-lb plastic bags. An excellent source is the Elkhorn & Cumberland Coal Company in Louisville, KY. If you are willing to pay the freight they can arrange to have a pallets worth shipped to you.

More and more blacksmiths these days are going to propane forges. The first day I cranked one up in the shop was the last day I used the coal forge. I can typically be done with a forging job before I could even get the coal fire up to a good heat. No smoke. No ticked off neighbors due to odorous coal smoke. No black boggers. No coal dust in shop. I can get propane tanks refilled less than two miles away.

Forge welding can be done in a propane forge; however, typically it is restricted to Damascus-pattern knife billets.

Forge welding isn't something which lends itself well to reading a book and then following the instructions. If you go to www.abana.org, under AFFILIATES, you will find a list of a number of blacksmithing groups in the U.S. These often offer introduction to blacksmithing lessons or, after meetings, hands-on training by request.
 

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It sounds like you are needing to preheat your coal to get it started, its a chore but starting a wood fire first will get you going quicker than fiddling around with several attempts liting the coal itself. In real cold weather I have even had trouble getting the wooe fire going, so always left the kindling box inside the house, near the heating stove so it would be heated ready to start up the new days fire. I now have a natural gas well developed and pieped to the house and shops and my life is so much easier in so many ways!
 

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According to all the people that I ever talked to, using charcoal or wood coals for smithing is impossible. Said it couldn't be done, now or ever.
Sure you can!
That's all DH had at first was plain old grill charcoal. Worked fine but was messier and created a lot of sparks.

So far as sources of good coal, check anywhere that has a living history museum with a blacksmith shop. That's where DH gets his coal. (And the blacksmith at the museum we use is also the president of the Prairie Blacksmith's Assn and swears hard coal is the way to go. ;) )
 

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Hard coal burns cleaner and has less
sulphur, so I find it easier to weld with.
But its easier to get your hands on
weapons grade plutonium! So we mostly
use soft coal.
 

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In colonial days the iron was just that Iron. now we have steel and other mixtures of steel and other mixtures. You can get iron hot enough by using charcoal and a blower to do most anything.To melt steel you need a hotter fire than just charcoal. That is why they use coal. And if you use coke you will get a hotter fire than coal. In most instances a coal fire you will get it too hot and melt it without paying enough attention to the work.
 

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The reason to use coal is so the ash doesn't cause gaps in your welds. If you can get coal it works good.

Well I guess we're lucky here in MT they use coal to heat the schools boiler. Plus lots of coal avaialble.

I can use coal but why? When I have a gas forge too. It was heavy to move but hey I already owned it.
 
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