Firepot design charcoal vs coal?

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madmodifier
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Firepot design charcoal vs coal?

Unread post by madmodifier » Tue Sep 06, 2016 7:50 am

Hi All,

There seems to be a fair bit of information out there in regards to firepot design for the coal forge, however I cannot seem to locate much for a charcoal forge. Are they similar enough that they do not need different design? Anyone have any tips for charcoal firepot design?

Thanks,
Ben

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Darryl Ponder
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Location: Minnetonka, MN

Re: Firepot design charcoal vs coal?

Unread post by Darryl Ponder » Tue Sep 06, 2016 9:39 am

Ben,

I think they are similar enough that you don't need to modify the firepot for charcoal. Ultimately you are burning carbon in either scenario. I've used both in my home-made firepot (thanks, Martin!) and they both work well.

You will want to be able to control the air blast. Charcoal turns to a fine ash when burnt and a sudden high volume air blast through the tuyere can send up a cloud of charcoal ash and sparks. Watching a smith work with charcoal at dusk or at night is awesome as all the sparks fly, especially if they are forge welding.

I'll be interested to see the other opinions on the board.

Regards,

Darryl

madmodifier
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Re: Firepot design charcoal vs coal?

Unread post by madmodifier » Tue Sep 06, 2016 1:27 pm

Thanks for your thoughts Darryl!

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Darryl Ponder
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Re: Firepot design charcoal vs coal?

Unread post by Darryl Ponder » Tue Sep 06, 2016 9:16 pm

By the way - I want to make sure that when we are talking burning charcoal, we are both talking about hardwood lump charcoal. I am not talking about using BBQ briquettes. That won't work.

Something like Cowboy Brand lump charcoal or equivalent. You can even make your own.

madmodifier
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Re: Firepot design charcoal vs coal?

Unread post by madmodifier » Wed Sep 07, 2016 8:34 am

Yes, Hardwood lump charcoal. With the sparkyness of the charcoal as you mention (and I have seen with my own experiments) I think I might end up going up to Isanti and buying some coal. Honestly I am undecided on what way to go for heat. Gas might be the best solution with winter on the way. I am think of building both a gas and coal/charcoal forge but which to do first. Then again I can make my own charcoal and not have to pay for gas or coal. I am sure I am not the first or last with this dilemma.

Martin Pansch
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Re: Firepot design charcoal vs coal?

Unread post by Martin Pansch » Wed Sep 07, 2016 4:51 pm

Oooo.. All sorts of things to discuss! In no particular order then:

Fire pots for charcoal: Yes, you can use the same type of bottom blast fire pot you use for coal. You could also make a side blast if you swing that way though that is more of a style/tradition choice. Since charcoal is so much lighter than coal you have to have a bigger pile of fuel for the same blast of air to keep it from going Vesuvius all over your shop. Just another one of the subtle differences in fire maintenance between coal and charcoal.

Making charcoal: Yeah, you can, however... You can put a lot of work in for not a lot of charcoal (compared to what a forge will eat) and that of variable quality. There are a number of threads in a couple differences sites discussing people's repeated iterations of trying to make charcoal, building various different charcoal retorts, kilns, pits, etc. In short it can take a lot of trial and error to get the quality you want and either a lot of time or decent sized construction to be able to make it in enough quantity. While I love learning new crafts I have to limit my hobbies and at this point I would rather be smithing than making fuel.

Fire fleas: These are the fire sparks that charcoal fires launch out. You can minimize them a bit by excluding the charcoal dust from your fire. Different types of wood also seem to produce different amounts of fleas though I haven't done any double blind tests so I might just be imagining things.

Gas or Coal first: Depends on what you plan to work on. Lots of small and straight stuff (knives, bottle openers, adzes, etc)? Hard to beat gas. Big, odd shaped, need a localized heat like for upsetting (big scrolls, boot scrapers, chain, fire place hardware, big hinges, etc) I would go for coal. They both have strengths and I really enjoy having both. Shout out to Jim Moenck for the gas forge hook up!

Getting coal: You know, the Guild has a coal pile members can buy from at the School of Horseshoeing in Ramsey. MN. It is $7 per 5 gallon bucket. Don't know if that is closer for you or cheaper than your source in Isanti.

madmodifier
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Re: Firepot design charcoal vs coal?

Unread post by madmodifier » Thu Sep 08, 2016 7:22 am

Thanks for the info Martin you have given me more to think about. I did not know about the coal pile in Ramsey. It might be a bit closer and the price is about the same. TradeWinds Heating Air Conditioning Fireplace LLC Isanti, MN 763-434-8887 is a place I found on craigslist 11.85 for 50lbs bag of bituminous.

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