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Coal or Propane


JeffreyMiller
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I've been looking for almost a week now and have it narrowed down to a single burner propane forge or a used Buffalo coal forge I found. Both are similar in price.

 

Does the newbie buy the coal or invest in the pre-made propane?

 

Help a brother out!

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I'm a lover of all things solid fuel, so I'll be honest that I'm super biased, but I'd go for that coal forge!
(sorry for the longer-than-I-intended rambly post below...)
That said, do you have a local(ish) place to buy coal/coke at an economical rate for you?  And do you have a very well ventilated place to set up for when your coal fumes up with that lovely noxious green gas?  I really adore solid fuel for its ability to heat up quickly, and to work smaller 2-4" chunks at a time.   It can be a pain and a process to start sometimes though, lol.:P  I will also say, I much prefer forge-welding in coal vs gas.
I just built a propane forge last year, and while it's growing on me, I still have some gripes.  In particular: mine is a natural aspirating burner and recently the wind has started picking up around my forging area....this leads to scrambling to find wind shields or having a sputtering forge.  It also takes FOREVER to heat up the entire forge (ok, not really, like 20 minutes, lol, and its my own fault for building a larger forge).  I like being able to heat up entire pieces evenly for normalizing and hardening, but when working the piece, sometime you really only need to move an inch or two of material.  A BIG plus is the availability of propane though!  Any gas station or larger box store and I've got fuel!  It burns much cleaner than coal, which can be easier on you and the neighbors (if you got 'em or are near 'em)!  I also like the idea of being able to wheel it into a carport or open garage to get myself a well covered forging area without a large amount of work. :) 

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I am a coal burner for the most part, and like you, I'm in coal country.  It keeps getting more expensive and harder to find.  I have to drive over an hour to get decent forge coal from any of the four places in east TN, western NC, and southwest VA.  If I had to have it shipped it would be too expensive for me to want to keep using, since I don't have a place to store a whole dump truck load.  One 50-lb bag lasts me a few forging days, depending on what I'm making.  Coke is great of you can get it, no smoke and no coal dust everywhere.  But, it also goes out fast if left unattended.  This is a mixed blessing.  I love a solid fuel forge, but the reasons are that it's what I learned on, it's "traditional" for a given definition of tradition, and I find it easier to weld up big axes in coal or coke versus gas.  Since I make mostly tomahawks and other axe-like objects, and the little damascus I do is simple early Medieval styles that were originally done in solid fuel forges, it works for me.  Oh, and my neighbors don't mind the smoke.  I've known people to have the fire department and even the EPA called on them for firing up a coal forge.  While the smoke does eventually clear, when you first start a coal forge with uncoked coal the amount of thick yellow-green smelly smoke is astonishing.  Think steam locomotive working up a steep grade.  

 

If I wanted to make modern damascus styles and mostly just blades, I'd go gas all the way and get a hydraulic press as well.  Forced air burner, forge big enough to handle a half-folded tomahawk or stack of steel eight inches tall.  I would build said forge rather than buy.

 

What gas forge are you looking at?  The vast majority of cheaper ones out there are not suitable for welding, and some are not suitable for use period, such as the ones you see on eBay.  

 

 

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I started with coal and have used coal at all of the classes that I have taken, as soon as I learned about gas forges that is what I switched to.  It is easier to manage the fire.  You have more consistent heat, you don't have "clinkers", the fuel is readily available, when you are ready to quit you just turn it off and walk away. There are many other reasons that i prefer gas.  BTW, I forge weld in my Ribbon Burner forge without flux.

Check out the Build a Gas Forge and the Ribbon Burner attachments on the Forge Supplies page at

www.WayneCoeArtistBlacksmith.com.

Let me know if I can help you.

About $100.00 plus the hose, regulator and burner using a 20# Propane tank.

 

 

Wayne Coe
Artist Blacksmith
729 Peters Ford Road
Sunbright, Tennessee
706-273-8017
waynecoe@highland.net
www.WayneCoeArtistBlacksmith.com

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14 hours ago, Alan Longmire said:

I am a coal burner for the most part, and like you, I'm in coal country.  It keeps getting more expensive and harder to find.  I have to drive over an hour to get decent forge coal from any of the four places in east TN, western NC, and southwest VA.  If I had to have it shipped it would be too expensive for me to want to keep using, since I don't have a place to store a whole dump truck load.  One 50-lb bag lasts me a few forging days, depending on what I'm making.  Coke is great of you can get it, no smoke and no coal dust everywhere.  But, it also goes out fast if left unattended.  This is a mixed blessing.  I love a solid fuel forge, but the reasons are that it's what I learned on, it's "traditional" for a given definition of tradition, and I find it easier to weld up big axes in coal or coke versus gas.  Since I make mostly tomahawks and other axe-like objects, and the little damascus I do is simple early Medieval styles that were originally done in solid fuel forges, it works for me.  Oh, and my neighbors don't mind the smoke.  I've known people to have the fire department and even the EPA called on them for firing up a coal forge.  While the smoke does eventually clear, when you first start a coal forge with uncoked coal the amount of thick yellow-green smelly smoke is astonishing.  Think steam locomotive working up a steep grade.  

 

If I wanted to make modern damascus styles and mostly just blades, I'd go gas all the way and get a hydraulic press as well.  Forced air burner, forge big enough to handle a half-folded tomahawk or stack of steel eight inches tall.  I would build said forge rather than buy.

 

What gas forge are you looking at?  The vast majority of cheaper ones out there are not suitable for welding, and some are not suitable for use period, such as the ones you see on eBay.  

 

 

The Hells Forge I like the design of and my mentor suggested Centaurion.

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11 hours ago, Wayne Coe said:

I started with coal and have used coal at all of the classes that I have taken, as soon as I learned about gas forges that is what I switched to.  It is easier to manage the fire.  You have more consistent heat, you don't have "clinkers", the fuel is readily available, when you are ready to quit you just turn it off and walk away. There are many other reasons that i prefer gas.  BTW, I forge weld in my Ribbon Burner forge without flux.

Check out the Build a Gas Forge and the Ribbon Burner attachments on the Forge Supplies page at

www.WayneCoeArtistBlacksmith.com.

Let me know if I can help you.

About $100.00 plus the hose, regulator and burner using a 20# Propane tank.

 

 

Wayne...do you sell them assembled? In all honesty, I'm not the most mechanically inclined and I'm unsure trying to build my own forge is my safest option to begin.

I'm three doors away from the volunteer fire department and have been active there for 30 years...I don't need them responding to my residence...LOL

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2 hours ago, JeffreyMiller said:

Wayne...do you sell them assembled? In all honesty, I'm not the most mechanically inclined and I'm unsure trying to build my own forge is my safest option to begin.

I'm three doors away from the volunteer fire department and have been active there for 30 years...I don't need them responding to my residence...LOL

If it helps you at all, i too am not the most mechanically inclined and a couple weeks ago i was dead set in buying a forge, but after reading a TON of posts in here, it was pretty clear that building one was the way to go. Not only would it be the same price or cheaper (even with having to buy a small welder and economy drill press) but id get a better forge, a better understanding and it would be easier  to repair. Plus I’d be 2 tools up lol.
 

anyway my point it even though i was dead set on buying a forge, a lot of patience and reading helped me from making a hefty mistake. Your case may be different but it’s just something to think about so i thought I’d share. 

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I don't sell burners or forges.  They are simple enough to build and  just as safe as any pre-built forge, if you follow the instructions on the attachments on my Forge Supplies page.  I too was fearful of building a forge until a friend helped me build my first one.  All a gas forge is is a torch mounted in an insolated container.

Wayne Coe
Artist Blacksmith
729 Peters Ford Road
Sunbright, Tennessee
706-273-8017
waynecoe@highland.net
www.WayneCoeArtistBlacksmith.com

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21 hours ago, Alan Longmire said:

 

That's one of the pretend-forges, sorry.  Not familiar with the other one you mentioned.  

PLEASE don't EVER be sorry for an honest, experienced and educated reply. I came here seeking the truth so I don't make a mistake and jeopardize safety.

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Also poor design.  In general, you do not want a square forge, you want more than one inch of wool, you need it coated, you don't want the burner coming in top dead center, and if it needs more than two burners they're crap burners.

 

This style of forge is cheap to build, and fine for decorative work, but way too oxidizing for good blade work.  They're fine for heat treating, but probably won't weld.

 

One of the few pre-made forges I know is ready to work right from the start is Chili forge.  As with all things, though, if it's good it's not cheap.  

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23 hours ago, Nicholai said:

If it helps you at all, i too am not the most mechanically inclined and a couple weeks ago i was dead set in buying a forge, but after reading a TON of posts in here, it was pretty clear that building one was the way to go. Not only would it be the same price or cheaper (even with having to buy a small welder and economy drill press) but id get a better forge, a better understanding and it would be easier  to repair. Plus I’d be 2 tools up lol.
 

anyway my point it even though i was dead set on buying a forge, a lot of patience and reading helped me from making a hefty mistake. Your case may be different but it’s just something to think about so i thought I’d share. 

And will your homemade forge reach temperatures like Alan has stated for "welding" of metals?

Single or multiple burners?

 

IF you are willing I'd like to see photos. 

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22 minutes ago, JeffreyMiller said:

And will your homemade forge reach temperatures like Alan has stated for "welding" of metals?

Single or multiple burners?

 

IF you are willing I'd like to see photos. 

Yes it will. At least it’s supposed to haha. I haven’t started the build yet. Still gathering info. But WayneCoe’s website has been very helpful along with the information from Geoff Keyes which is stickied in the Tools and Toolmaking section. The choice now is whether to go ribbon burner or not. It will depend on the size of the shell that i can get. 

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