What is your most used forge fuel?

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What is your most used forge fuel?

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What is your most used forge fuel?

Unread post by admin » Sun Feb 10, 2013 6:44 pm

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Jim Moenck
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Re: What is your most used forge fuel?

Unread post by Jim Moenck » Sun Feb 10, 2013 8:08 pm

Darryl, I tried to vote for gas but it would not let me.

Jim Moenck
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Re: What is your most used forge fuel?

Unread post by Jim Moenck » Sun Feb 10, 2013 8:19 pm

Now it worked!

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Location: Winona, MN

Re: What is your most used forge fuel?

Unread post by Aarono » Wed Dec 17, 2014 1:08 pm

Are there pluses or minuses to coal vs. gas vs. others? Could someone enlighten me as to what they are?

Martin Pansch
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Re: What is your most used forge fuel?

Unread post by Martin Pansch » Wed Dec 17, 2014 11:46 pm

They all have advantages. In some parts of the world the main advantage is that you can actually get one of them versus the others. Other than that...

Coal is better for focused intense heats like if you just want a few inches of a bar hot for an upset or right angle bend. Coal forges are also, in my opinion, cheaper and easier to make, needing just and air source and something to hold the coal that won't burn through immediately. They are also one of the most versatile forges in that you can work anything from a tiny pieces to sticking the corner of a huge wall bracket into one. Downside is that most coal forges have one hot spot maybe a few inches across so if you want a long length at an even heat you have to keep moving it back and forth. Also, since you have to keep the piece covered in coal during heating to minimize oxidation you sort of have to Use the Force to know when your piece is hot enough to work.

Charcoal (real charcoal, not briquettes) has a lot of the advantages of coal but some differences. It is less dense than coal so you will go through more volume of it for the same amount of BTUs. Also, since it is lighter a bottom blast forge can throw a Mt. Vesuvius like gout of embers and sparks into the air if you don't have a big pile (side blast is a bit better). The fire spreads throughout the fuel more so you don't get quite as focused of a hot spot as coal. On the positive sides though charcoal is much cleaner both in the smoke it puts out and the lack of clinker. The variation between different types of charcoal is not as drastic as between different types of coal. You can make it yourself if time and wood are something you have a lot of. It smells better to me. You can cook over it.

Gas, usually propane but there are natural gas forges too, are very clean. No smoke to worry about unless you light something on fire you shouldn't have, yourself for instance. This cleanness is a big plus for smiths with neighbors. Propane is easier to find than coal. Propane is great for giving you an even heat along an entire piece for things like even twists, heat treating, etc. You can more easy keep your eye on a piece in a gas forge. You can't burn up your steel in a gas forge if you get distracted by shiny objects at the wrong time. This lets you have several pieces in the forge at once without fear, a handy thing when you are feeding a power hammer. The #1 down side of propane it that is relies on having a mostly enclosed space to achieve the heat. This sort of dictates the maximum size the piece you are working on can be and still fit. Not usually a problem if you are a bladesmith but if you make a log of big scrolls it can be an issue. Because of this some serious smiths who only use propane have several different size gas forges. Propane forges also have a pretty diffuse heat. It is tough to only heat a few inches of something so you may have to selectively quench if you are going to do things like upsetting. A gas forge is, to me, tougher to build well. You need the right refractory material and good burner(s). The burners need to be placed right to get an even heat. The volume of the forge needs to be factored against number of burners, etc. I think coal forges are more durable too both to normal use, abuse, and versus flux.

All that said, I have both gas and coal forges. Depending what I am working on one is usually the better choice than the other.

There are a number of other fuels you can use if you know what you are doing. Wood (essentially making charcoal as you go), diesel, camel dung, coconut husks, etc. Depending on where people are and what resources they have they'll figure out something the they can burn.

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