Charcoal As a Blacksmith Fuel
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Charcoal As a Blacksmith Fuel

This article was written as a response to the question: Making A Forge Out Of An Old Gas Grill?
Answer to Fuel for blacksmithing

Chuck, you asked about using coke, and said you were not wild about using charcoal, however, I assure you that it is best, especially if you are learning, since coke requires the ability to light a CLEAN fire, and what I mean by that is one without  much fuel, as in a coal fire, and one without dust charred paper or other things. Charcoal, after all is the first fuel used in blacksmithing, and it burns cleaner, more efficiently and more consistently. As I mentioned in my article, coke, which is partially expent coal, contains too many fuels, flames up, and how, unless you take a class by a blacksmith (which is what I suggest!), how exactly will you know when a coke fire is at the proper heat to begin work? 

I have seen DIY'ers for years trying to make a forge out of this, or that, but the thing is, you can just as easily dig a trench in the ground, lay a pipe with holes in is as a source of air and then begin,.... but what I seriously suggest is to find someone to teach you how to do it, and leave the experimentation to those who want to waste a lot of time and effort. A few years ago, I ran into a smith , self-taught, who had been making knives on an anvil that was too small, and with a hammer that was too large! When I took him to my shop, did the exact same size knife in half the time, with less stress on myself (or the tools) he was both amazed and took a series of five more classes. I am glad to count him as a student, as he took to the SENSIBLE route over the self-abuse of learning it on his own!

One thing you will find, is that most traditional smiths love to teach, and you will find the majority of them learned from someone, and see part of the process of being taught as agreeing to help someone down the line. Smithing is a traditional and a long-standing craft, and as such, is best learned and passed on by working with someone who has already made his mistakes. We all go through this "trial by fire" and we all had a point of beginning where we had the curiosity, the intent to learn, and a desire to see it through. I am NOT saying you will always be happy using charcoal, just the same as I am saying that if you stick with it, that grill will be a VERY short-lived step to something better, and your time, and money would be better and more fruitfully used in taking a class, finding a treacher, or skipping the step of convincing yourself you don't want to do something because it is advised on the internet.We are all trying to be somewhat frugal in metalwork, reusing items, but the simple fact of the matter is, learning the first time with the proper tools and skilled instruction has no substitute,

As I said in my previous article, I mix coal, coke and coal depending upon the wind, humidity and conditions, but I have over twenty years experience lighting fires, so I cannot possibly convey to you twenty years of learning in 200 words of text.

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