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Coal Or Prophane?

Discussion in 'Forges, Ovens, Kilns, & Salt Pots' started by Robert Legacy, Mar 8, 2017.

  1. Robert Legacy

    Robert Legacy New Member

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    Hey Forgers. I' am new here and seek advice about building a forge. I wanted to build a gas forge but find the ceramic board and a couple of other kinds of insulation expensive and hard to get in Ontario. I don't have a problem of the building part, with all the information out there. I just wonder if its much cheaper to run a coal forge, and is one better than the other. I still have to acquire a decent anvil first to be able to work the steel. I appreciate any help and look up to those that are experienced. Thanks.
     
  2. John Noon

    John Noon Well-Known Member

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    For me when I started getting set up originally the price of coal was $1 per pound and three weeks to receive the shipment in Manitoba from southern Ontario. Propane is just down the road and easily refilled.
     
  3. Mythtaken

    Mythtaken Staff Member CKM Staff

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    In my opinion as someone who doesn't forge, I think gas is the way to go. Not because it's better than coal (coal can heat the work more evenly and hotter than gas) but because it's more convenient for the average knifemaker. A gas forge can be lit and ready to go in a few minutes. When the work is done, you shut it off and walk away. It takes time to build a good coal fire and a lot more to cool it off.

    Of course it all depends on how you work. If you plan to spend many hours forging at time, or you want to make bigger items, coal can be more cost effective. Other considerations include where you live. In the city, not all your neighbours will enjoy the smoke from a coal forge. Insurance and local fire regulations can also make an otherwise cheap forge setup pretty expensive.
     
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  4. dancom

    dancom Dust Maker Best Shop Tool

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    I vote for propane. Not quite as romantic as a coal fired forge, but predicable supply, burns fairly clean, instant on and little clean up.

    Now if I am grilling a fine steak that's another matter.

    Dan
     
  5. Robert Legacy

    Robert Legacy New Member

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    Is it a special coal or is the kind at Canadian Tire for BBQ's alright?
     
  6. John Noon

    John Noon Well-Known Member

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    BBQ is charcoal and will not burn as hot or long
     
  7. dancom

    dancom Dust Maker Best Shop Tool

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    But cooks a damn fine steak eh John? Montreal steak spice anyone?

    Hot is about adding oxygen to the fuel. Even Kingsford briquettes can produce phenomenal temperatures with lots of oxygen to increase combustion rate. Just as we used regularly melt glass bottles in the campfire by blowing on the fire, that extra blast can really raise the heat. Yes, the fuel is going to burn up quickly, but it how long depends on how much energy is stored in in the fuel to start with. Grandpa's furnace coal was dense and dark and messy. That is the stuff you want for a forge. But your neighbours and your wife will think you've gone mad and it will smell like you've left the emergency brake on and drove for 100 km on the highway. "Hmmm honey, is that clutch or break burning?"

    A side note. In the 1980's I worked as a technician for a traffic control company. We'd to install traffic lights which required a certain amount of cables to be pulled underground. In the Alberta's winter months, we'd use coal and straw to thaw the earth so we could keep working at the site. Drive by that work site on a still night and get a whiff of the coal burning. Mmmm. Memories.

    Dan
     
    Last edited: Mar 9, 2017
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  8. John Noon

    John Noon Well-Known Member

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    I think it is Kingfords lump charcoal that is about the closest to coal or coke in local store. Home hardware can get coal in from Thak in Ontario but it is pricey
     
  9. Robert Legacy

    Robert Legacy New Member

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    Thanks guys. We used to have a couple of places in Welland that sold real coal, but not any more. I'll keep searching . It good to have you guys to pic your brains. Cheers.
     
  10. Mythtaken

    Mythtaken Staff Member CKM Staff

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    @Robert Legacy look for a local blacksmith's club or guild. They will know where to get good coal.

    BTW, BBQ briquettes are really good for starting your coal forge. Mix a few in and add some starter fluid.
     
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  11. John Noon

    John Noon Well-Known Member

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    I thought there was a abandoned ship unloading site around Welland maybe a rail yard with tons of coal laying on the ground. of course that was 70's era
     
  12. FORGE

    FORGE Maker of the Year Best Knife

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    I vote for Prophane ,doesn't it tick you off when you can't get back into this and fix mistakes ?
     
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  13. Illuminaughty

    Illuminaughty New Member

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    Hey I definitely vote propane. I used bbq charcoal before and was able to get the heat I wanted however I also went through 40LB in one weekend.
    With the propane I can run for a long while however depending on how you build your forge you'll need to consider a substantilly higher inital investment over a coal forge. Made my coal forge from a recycled bbq and ceramic briquettes and a blower fan. Really cheap.
    For my propane set up I went with a ceramic blanket in an old air compressor tank and I'm running my ron reil type burner off a 100# tank. If you plan on doing any welding I would highly suggest opting for the 100# tank.
     

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