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haden

gas or char?

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:laugh:  Another great question from the oblivious Haden!

 

 :laugh:

 

OK, now, should I go Gas forge or charcoal?

 

I live in a fairly nice neiborhood (if that is not good but my real dad lives in Tennessee...Its what I like to call "No Where", but I like it.)

 

Im going to make my forge at my dads house when I make it SO..

 

back to my questions...

Is gas or charcoal cheaper to keep?

Which one is easier and if it is, is it worth the price?

What would you suggest?

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Each system has its merits, and there are trade-offs to make in choosing one over the other. I use gas and have gotten fairly good with it: it's easy to use, clean, and I don't get distracted from forging by tending a coal or charcoal fire. Charcoal is more controllable (You can make caves, funnels, etc), the heat is localised, setup is simple (You can use a hole in the ground and a hair-dryer!). Tai use to mix dried feed corn with his charcoal to stretch it, since I believe it's more expensive. Learning curve is not as steep with gas. I tried both before settling on propane. The only thing I don't like is having to buy a new tank of fuel after 20 hours or so of forging.

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Haden,

 

I am also a newbie bladesmith I am only 14 and have been making knives for almost a year now.  I have some information that might help you.

To answer your first question, I believe it is more expensive to keep charcoal because you must keep a large amount to keep up with how much it consumes for every hour of work.  For your second question, gas is easier in a lot of ways and is worth the price; however it has some confusing mechanisms and is extremely dangerous if not treated properly.  

If you decide to build a gas forge try to locate a retailer that sells 20lb tanks of propane they will run out faster but they are way cheaper to refill than larger tanks.

If you decide to make a charcoal forge be sure you can get charcoal.  And don’t just go chopping down your neighbours trees to make charcoal. :laugh:

There is a third alternative, coal is easy to use and works well, but it makes a lot of smoke and is very hard to find.  I will continue to exclusively use my coal forge until I finish building my gas forge.

 

Whatever you decide to do make sure you have considered all the aspects and alternatives

 

Good luck

 

Daniel L. McDougall

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rally for newby bladesmiths woot! sry

 

Thx for the help

 

What about making my own charcoal? I will make my forge at my dads place after all (he has a little over 25 acres behind his barn. seem like the ideal place for a forge, or atleast I think it is)

 

Happy new year guys! or almost...

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If your dad has enough trees to make charcoal, it isn't such a bad idea.  You have to decide what will work best for you.  As soon as I finish building my gas forge I will work mostly with it, instead of my coal forge.

 

 

 

Daniel L. McDougall

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I started with a charcoal forge and Tai recommended that I try wood as well. If you feed it into the fire from the edge of the forge much like a smith does with green coal, it will be charcoal by the time it burns and work just fine. You get a little more popping but it works. I used scrap pieces from construction sites (always ask the carpenters) and they work just fine.

 

I am going to try a gas forge in the spring. I think that the convenience of just lighting it, and then when you're done, just turning off the gas, will make it better for the times when I don't have a lot of time and I want to do some forging. It will be worth the extra money for fuel (since charcoal/wood can be free if you don't count your time). I have made my own charcoal in a 16gal barrel and it was pretty easy and took little of my time. I was forging while the wood cooked. I still plan to use my charcoal forge to make "primitive" blades.  I think both have their place.

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Gas and Charcoal each have their individual strong and weak points.

 

Propane is easily available, should you run out you can be back to work as soon as you can get a new bottle.  Gas will get a well insulated forge to a usable temperature in minutes.  Forges with a small volume, such as a seven firebrick forge, will use very little propane.  A propane forge can be made to be portable, for example Ron Reil's Mini Forge.  As a fuel propane is uniform -  there are not different kinds of propane but, there are different kinds of charcoal with their own unique characteristics.

 

Charcoal is adaptable.  Need to heatreat that bowie you forged that got a little too big for your gas forge?  Charcoal can do it, just make a bigger fire.  A charcoal forge can be made at little or no cost - IF you are willing to spend your time.  The same goes for the charcoal itself.  I have permission to scrounge from a cabinetry shop that throws out a dumpster full of short pieces of 1"x3" oak twice a week.  If I had time to dig the wood out and space to store the wood as well as run a charcoal retort I probably would work exclusively with charcoal.  Except perhaps when I only had a short time to work and I wanted to get right down to banging something out.  Charcoal, suitable for forging, is difficult to find and expensive.  The briquettes sold all over as charcoal are laden with additives and are not suitable for forging as they offgas when burning and these gases will react with the steel (I have not tried myself but, this is what I have read).  The charcoal sold at stores, when all is said and done, would probably work out to be more expensive as a fuel than buying propane.

 

To answer your questions:  Propane, in my opinion, is easier, cheaper and definitely worth the cost.  I would not rule out charcoal because it is so versatile and I plan to have both in my shop.  A SMALL propane forge for general knifesmithing and a charcoal forge for whatever will not fit in the little propane forge.  I do not expect to do a lot of bigger work and so it is not worth the expense to construct a large propane forge, the charcoal will do the job.

 

Some charcoal links.  Daniel O'Connor Andrew Hooper Charcoal Making Log and Results

Some general blacksmithing links. Keenjunk Anvilfire Ron Reil's Forge and Burner Design Page

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lol im another newbie, actually made my forge today  :D a coal/wood forge, partially out of a old bbq grill (2 feet long 1 foot wide, inside coated with cement to give it a somewhat dished shape).. tommorow gonna get the blower hooked up to it, made the blower by pulling apart a broken(cracked housing)  t28 turbo and hooked up a hand crank to it, similar to some pics ive seen but smaller.. took out 4 of the turbine blades that where chewed up pretty bad)

 

but after reading this post.. im wondering if it would be better to go with gas, i have a old gas bbq (hehe well had, the bigger part of it has the inside coated with cement and is on the other side of the house) argh ! i drift too much, well i have the gas lines and on/off valves for it in the garage, still in good condition and working properly.. would they be of any use in a gas forge?

 

im not really in any hurry to start as im still collecting my tools, my grandpa is giving me a 200 lb anvil but i dunno what condition its in, have a 5 lb hammer, no tongs... so i still have good time to build up my forge and learn more about it.. then maybe attempt my first blade

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welcome bugzy!

 

I wish I had a grill or something I could use! My parents dont have one I could use, its all high tech  :angry:

 

I guess I could go with Mr. Foggs design if I could somehow get the material...and a blow torch *shudders*

 

I think I can do it. Im pretty resorsful when I try to be and since this is something I care about...yeah itll be fine... :)

thanks for the help guys! um..I kinda have another question though :D  I know its getting irritating. Ive searched and searched but I cant seem to find the requirements for the Fogg forge...(hohoho "resorseful" I say)

just some suggestions would work like ,do they sell

Inswool-HP blanket, a 2400F ceramic fiber insulation. 1" thickness and Satanite, a high alumina, slag resistant mortar mix at Ace Hardware or places like that or do I have to order it off the number. (cause I clicked the link and the site wasnt working)

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Wow, if you've got 25 acres to work with, all you have to do is pile up some brush and burn it, preferably right before a rainstorm. Then make a box with hardware cloth on the bottom (wire mesh with 1/4 or 1/2 inch square holes) and after the rain is done, screen out the charcoal from the sand, clay, rocks, etc. This makes nice small pieces that make a good hot fire. You can also pack a 55 gal drum full of small pieces, put the lid on with a small hole in it, and burn the brush around it for 2 or 3 hours (smoke will change color when it's ready). Let it cool overnight, and you'll have half to 2/3 of a drum full of charcoal. Bigger pieces, but less dirt than the brush pile method. You can also get lump charcoal at natural foods stores, and sometimes even at walmart, at the natural food store near me a bag is about $5. Propane is nice sometimes, charcoal others. Charcoal is a lot safer, there is a lot less to go wrong, you can see it (not just smell it) and it's not explosive either :o

 

(edit) oh yeah, construction sites are a great place to get lots of scrap wood for free, but remember that the green treated lumber is poisonous when heated or burned so make sure you don't get any of it mixed in by mistake

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Well, I have to say I personally prefer charcoal as a fuel over all others, however, it's not the fuel I use regularly as a full-time smith, simply because of time issues.

Gas is the way to go in my mind, and especially starting out.  It doesn't preclude one from making and using charcoal as a fuel at a later date, but a small simple gas forge will work better IMO, as a place to start.

I build small veturi-based forges that will run about 8-12 hours of a #20 propane bottle depending on how hard its cranked...thats about a buck an hour at average fuel prices at worst... from expierience I can tell you that the charcoal, after all the time making it is added up, is gonna be way more expensive, unless the time is not an issue. I think it's time better spent initially learning how to simply forge in any case.

 

As far as charcoal being safer, I have to strongly dissagree with that idea...it can be as safe as any other fuel given proper diligence, but then again, I've only heard of one case so far of a propane forge being responsible for a shop being fire damaged...I know of MANY instances where a charcoal fire has taken out shops. Also, unless it's a crappy gas forge, there is a lot less CO to worry about with a propane forge as there potentially can be with a charcoal forge.

 

My vote is start with propane, and after that explore other options a bit and see where it goes.

I love my charcoal, but if I had to absolutely choose, I'd be cookin with gas...

 

think of it as liquid coal, if it makes you feel better... :0)

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well, we DO have bawn fires every now and than, I could make charcoal for nothing basically.

 

but basically every one says propane...but Ill still get  bawn fires! :D

 

hey! mabey I could bag it and sell it really cheap to yall haha.

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Guest Tai
Gas and charcoal both have their advantages. However, if I could only have one, gas "OR" charcoal, it would be charcoal, no doubt whatsoever.  :)

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Guest Tai

If charcoal is used efficiently it really doesn't cost much more than propane. True, it requires a bit more time to do the same amount of work as gas, but time and quality go hand in hand. :)

 

At present I use gas, charcoal and wood each for what they will do,... and convenience at any given moment.

 

We should also keep in mind that every type of wood/charcoal also has advantages and disadvantages.

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Guest Tai

There aren't any surprises with propane. :(

 

Propane is propane. It's all the same and it all does the same thing,.... boring.  :P

 

Wood on the other hand is extremely complicated and full of surprises! No two woods are the same. After over 10 years of working with different types of wood, charcoal and ash, I have learned enough about it to know that I ain't even scratched the surface yet.

 

Wood is mysterious... :D

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Tai, you are also in a location and shop situation that is ideal for what you do, but not everybody has this available to them. I would agree for a number of reasons that charcoal very likely may be the better fuel of the two in a whole lot of ways, but I don't think it's nessecarily true for someone not full-time or serious part-time, or especially for somebody starting out.

 

Seriously, if you don't get all the charcoal out at the end of a day, in an three-side open metal-roof shop area, how big of a deal is that?

Here in the Midwest, with the kind of shop most people can reasonably afford, that would be a total disaster potentially.

 

I'd love to eventually get back to charcoal as a main fuel, and I'm working towards that, but in my space and present situation, it's not economically viable, nor time well spent IMO.

 

Probably wasting my breath, but I still think for a beginner, the use of propane as a fuel makes a lot more sense at the start.

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Guest Tai

True, but for the beginner a charcoal forge is easier and less expensive to set up.

 

I think it's always best to start at the beginning. :)

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The beginning to me means making steel from dirt with charcoal and using water as a quenchant... I've done that, might do it again... I've threatened for years to make even the tools from total scratch, maybe I'll do that too.

 

Where did you begin Tai?

 

:laugh:

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Guest Tai

I began with a hand crank coal forge and hand hammers. I thought that was the beginning, but then I found out it wasn't. So, I had to back track a bit and pick up some stuff I missed.

 

They'll get you there either way though.  :)

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Guest Tai
... granted there are some stinky woods out there, but generally speaking wood smells the best.  :D

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Guest Tai
R.H., I think the main advantages to gas are speed and convenience,... but don't let it make you "lazy", (you'll miss out on a lot).  :P

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Tai.... Charcoal heats much better than gas.....in the right kind of forge of course... thats my opinion.

 

:D

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Guest Tai
Yes, I agree. It heats the steel better and faster than gas, but it requires "more work" to prepare and maintain the fire. Charcoal and wood require more skill and experience to use efficiently, that's all. It's a great way to "learn" and once you get comfortable with it, it's hard not to prefer it.  :)

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Tai, just for the record, my first forged knife was forged in Charcoal, age 12 yrs.

With hand-powered bellows, no hair dryers.

And it was water quenched, with no cracks. And it was L-6.

 

:0)

 

AS before, I SAID I think charcoal is the better fuel overall, just not particularly to start out with. I use gas and will continue too in my present situtation because it is more economically viable as a full-time fuel. I just feel in a lot of situations, it's a good place to at least start with.

 

As far as skill and expierience goes, a got a couple of hours in the charcoal fire.

Be happy to forge along with you anytime.

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