When you think of blacksmithing, there are various types of fuel that you could go for. Having many options and factors that need to be weighed out, the decision is not straight forward. You need to understand all the possible sources of fuel before you choose one.
Factors such as price, availability, equipment required should be analyzed with extreme expertise before settling on a certain fuel. However, this should not be a problem for you. The below guideline will provide you with extensive knowledge that you require regarding the forge fuels.
Wood is probably the most inappropriate forge fuel. It has several cons that are easily solved by using alternative sources of fuel. However, on the other hand, wood has several advantages that make it preferred over other sources in varying conditions.
It is one source of fuel that is available and works perfectly. Wood can provide a good source of fuel which can burn to melt any type of metal. Using this type of fuel is very easy and simple compared to other forge fuels.
Advantages of using wood as a source of fuel
– It is readily available
Wood is easily accessible. In fact, it is practically everywhere. Unlike other sources of fuel that you have to cover miles before accessing them, wood is locally available, you can simply get it from dry trees in your back yard or buy them from your neighbors. Moreover, people will generally give away wood after landscaping projects
It is way economical when compared to other forge fuels. Its buying price is low and as mentioned earlier; you could get it for free from landscaping projects. With its ease of availability, it follows that it has low transportation cost. With wood, you do not have to dig too deep in your pockets.
– Most suitable for beginners
Why go through so much trouble for a hobby you are not sure you will like? I strongly recommend wood for beginners as it is less costly and easily accessible in the local market. It is also easy to use since it does not require a lot of installation.
Disadvantages of using wood as a forge fuel
– Difficult to get the forge hot
Getting the forge to the required temperatures with wood is quite a headache. You will have to burn a lot of it. In some cases, you might even have to use a bellow and a lot of wood. It is cost effective but not that effective in the performance when compared to other types.
– Burns up quickly
Wood burn up quickly and therefore allows you a shorter workable period. However, how long the wood burn in a forge is influenced by several factors. Longer and thicker logs will definitely burn longer than shorter ones; hardwood is more effective than softwood and so on.
Keeping a clean wood forge is not easy. Therefore, it calls for higher maintenance cost and too much unnecessary effort. This form of forge fuels makes the place look dirt from its wastes. It also produces smoke which is harmful to our health.
For years, blacksmiths have used charcoal for their forges. However, it is losing its popularity as more sources of fuel become common. Charcoal is more preferable than wood as it gets the forge to the right temperatures easily.
Moreover, it burns longer than hardwood. It is more effective than wood and does not produce smoke which is not friendly to the environment.
Types of charcoal
Charcoal can either be lump charcoal or BBQ briquettes. However, when people refer to charcoal as a source of forge fuel, they simply mean lump charcoal.
BBQ briquettes – This is charcoal that is made from different wood by-products. They also contain starch or wheat which acts as a bonding agent.
Just as their name suggests, (barbeque briquettes), they are best when making barbeques as they are easily flammable and keeping the charcoal burning is not a problem. On the other hand, using it as a forge fuel can be a real pain. It has several drawbacks that include;
• Hardly attain the right temperatures required
• Burn quickly reducing the workable time
• Leave behind a lot of by-products
• Requires a lot of cleanup work
• Produces smoke which is harmful to the environment
BBQ briquettes are best for a grill but when at the edge with no other option; you can still use them for blacksmithing. They may be slow but efficient.
Lump charcoal – lump hardwood charcoal is the best forge fuel when compared with briquettes. Getting the forge hot enough with charcoal is a walk in the park. In fact, it has been used in the past to melt metals.
To add on, it burns longer than bbq briquettes and wood. I like using charcoal as cleaning is easy as falling off a log. It is important to note that charcoal does not require too much air.
It can burn up for hours but with too much airflow, you simply reduce the usability time. It is only required to work at a slow pace in order to produce enough fire to burn steel and any other metal.
How to get charcoal for your forge?
Just as wood, charcoal is easily accessible. You can simply buy the product in the local market. Moreover, it might be hectic but you can easily convert wood to charcoal through a simple process burning wood in low oxygen. But buying charcoal maybe be the best option since making it for yourself maybe be quite involving and hectic.
You probably could be scratching your head wondering what the difference between charcoal and coal is. One of the main differences is that coal could take centuries as it occurs naturally over time but as mentioned earlier, charcoal is easily produced by burning up wood in a controlled level of oxygen. Another difference that could be important to many of you is that it’s easier to light up charcoal than coal.
Coal is a natural fuel and is available in different varieties such as graphite; bituminous, anthracite and lignite just to mention a few. Bituminous coal is the best for forge but anthracite and lignite works just fine.
However, deciding on the best type of coal could differ with different preferences. Coal for forge is a very wide area with so many details and factors but I will narrow it down to offer you simplified yet sufficient knowledge that you require.
Bituminous coal is easily available and it’s much more economical. On the downside, it is a bit smoky and produces an irritating smell which luckily fades after burning for a while. On the contrary, with anthracite, there is no smoke or smell. However, it does not convert into coke and lighting it up and keeping the fire burning could be hectic. Below are some guidelines that will help you start and keep the fire burning
I. Light up the fire using simple materials such as newspapers or any material that catches fire quickly
II. Add coke or anthracite coal to avoid smell and smoke
III. Put bituminous coal on the edges of your fire to convert it to coke
IV. Once, the smoke and smell are burnt off, push it to the center of your fire
V. Ensure sufficient flow of air
Note; coke that will be left in the forge can be used the next time you are smithing.
Lastly, you do not want to find yourself in trouble for using coal, I recommend you check out any restrictions by your city regarding the use of coal. This is because the majority of the local council administration have rules that govern the use of coal.
Coke is more similar to anthracite. This type of forge fuels can be easily obtained from burning bituminous coal. It is a clean source of fuel and its even preferable to burn bituminous coal into coke before using it.
Getting coke forge to attain the required temperatures is easy. It has a lot of internal surface area which enables heat increase because more air is actually fed into these surfaces. It is then trapped into the bowl of the forge. The moment enough air is supplied, even a smaller forge can actually combust or melt steel.
It may be difficult but not impossible. In fact, it can be hot enough to cast steel. However, the hotter you burn it the shorter the workable time. Other factors that would influence the length of time that coke burn in a forge includes the amount of air flowing and also the design of the forge. As mentioned earlier, a well-designed coke will give enough room for oxygen hence perfect burning.
In most cases, coke has no restriction as it does not have any smell or smoke. It is, therefore, suitable for blacksmiths who are in a densely populated neighborhood. It is environmental friendly so it cannot be a danger to the health of surrounding people.
If you are looking for a forge fuel hotter than coal and charcoal, propane forge is the ultimate choice for you. It is easily obtained and the good thing about it is that it is portable, cleaner and hotter than charcoal and coal.
You can use a propane torch in heating a metal. This is the best consideration more especially if you are to do a lot of building or blacksmithing. Propane forges require expertise when setting it up but could still be rated as the most efficient and easy to use. Installing it requires experts and might cost a lot more than other usual types. It brings along unique advantages which include;
– Easy to set and heat up
Some fuel especially coal can cause real trouble when starting a fire. This is not the case with propane forges. This gas also burns at high temperatures thus the forge attains the required temperatures without much effort. It is easy to set up and use.
– High energy levels
The energy produced by propane is dense. This makes it possible to heat various metal in an incredibly short span. All metals including steel can be melted within a short period.
– It’s a clean source of energy
Unlike charcoal, coal, and wood, propane does not leave a mess behind. No soot, no smoke, no smell no residue …. it’s absolutely clean and most efficient method among them all.
– Easy to regulate temperatures
For most forges, it is difficult to regulate temperature or even impossible. However, with propane forge, this is achieved with just a turn of a knob! It is, therefore, possible to heat various metals at once without some melting while others are not ready.
– Can heat several pieces of metals at once
As mentioned earlier, this is made possible by easy regulation of heat. The propane forge is therefore economical and requires less time to do so much. All pieces of metals can be heated smoothly to their melting point with easiness.
In as much as you get to enjoy all the above benefits, propane forges have a downside too. They can be noisy and the initial set up may require the hand of an expert. They actually make some noise while performing.
Propane forge fuels can be difficult to smith a large piece of metal as it requires a closed environment. It is also important to ensure your forge is built to standards. A poorly built propane forge could be a risk to your safety. Check to ensure everything is okay before your setup. It is actually recommended to call for an expert to do the settings for you.
Information about sources of fuel is available almost everywhere, but very few sources have simplified and accurate information. This article provides you with all you need when it comes to blacksmithing.
As we have seen there are different forge fuels where you can choose from for your blacksmithing workshop. With the above insights from experts, making the right decision is a cinch. You can now select the best forge fuels that fit your needs.