About coal selection:
There are variables when it comes to coal. Just like there are variables with everything else. Some of the things you might consider are the type of forge you have, the type of forging you want to do, the amount of money you want to spend among other things. But a good rule of thumb is that you can get a bituminous coal that is metallurgical grade. You can't go wrong with it. You get a hot fire and low smoke, low sulphur.
How much coal do you need?
Bit of a tricky question! This of course depends on how much forging you will be doing. If you are doing an afternoon of forging then 20 pounds of hardwood lump charcoal should be plenty and 5 pounds of coal should do.
How hot the coals burn:
The hardwood lump charcoal burns the coolest but it is more than adequate for most forging. I have used it many times to make knives and swords. Bituminous coal is the next coal, it is a softer coal and it burns hotter than the lump charcoal. Anthracite coal is a hard coal and it burns the hottest.
Which should you use?
For amateur blacksmithing it doesn't matter much. Use whatever you can get. It is when you want to do some really good forging that you need to think about the coal. For example: Need to worry abou the carbon content of a sword you are making? Or the impurities that it will pick up? Then you might want to consider a coal that is metallurgy grade.
Or is time a factor for you? Got a lot of forging to do and need to efficiently get through it? Then you might want the hottest fire which is given with anthracite.
If you are getting into blacksmithing you should try all kinds of coals. Get a feel for them and how they burn, how much smoke they give off and all the other aspects. Blacksmithing is a hands on trade so get your hands on it and experiment/observe.
If you are just tinkering around with blacksmithing it doesn't matter a whole lot what you use and I recommend you pick up a bag of Hardwood Lump Charcoal. I use it all the time and like it a lot. It is available at home improvement stores (only during grilling season) and also available year round on amazon.com:
Here is some on amazon:
Cowboy Hardwood Lump Charcoal - 20 pound bag
This 20 pound bag will last you a few hours of forging. Depending on how you use it.
Want to start out with a small amount of coal so you can get a sense for it. Depending on your forge and what you are doing you should be able to get a day of forging out of a 16 pound box of it. This stuff has free shipping. It is bituminous coal which means it is the softer coal and easy to light. But very hot.
16 pound box of bituminous coal for forging
Here is a 25 pound box if you want more coal!!!
Blacksmithing and Heating Coal 25lbs
25lbs of high BTU Stove Coal. 1.5" to 2.5" nugget size. Coal can be used in model railroading, stoves, forges and foundrys as well as landscaping. Comes shipped in a 12"x12"x6" box.
Here is the forge with a Hardwood Lump Charcoal fire.
This is bituminous coal. And it is perfect for blacksmithing. These small nugget sized shapes are easy to handle and burn well.
Here is the firepot with Bituminous coal burning. It makes a beautiful fire. Very hot and easy to maintain.
I bought the bituminous coal on ebay. And I got 19 pounds of it stuffed in a shipping box to the max! Yes, maximum coal in that box. It is metallurgical coal which is superb for blacksmithing. That means high heat, good carbon content, low smoke and low sulphur content for clean burning.
Here it is on ebay:
Bituminous Metallurgical coal on ebay
Anthracite Coal - I bought this on ebay also. I got 15 pounds of it. It is harder and the nuggets are more defined.
I also have a tutorial on how to make your own lump charcoal from wood. Check that tutorial out right here: How to make hardwood lump charcoal for forging
The Backyard Blacksmith
The Backyard Blacksmith shows you how -- with some patience and a working knowledge of metals, basic tools, and techniques -- blacksmithing can be easy to learn, and a rewarding hobby. Through instructions and illustrations, readers will learn to make simple tools and useful items, such as nails, hinges, and handles, and also an interesting mix of artful projects, such letter openers, door knockers and botanical ornaments. Written by an expert in blacksmith and metal artist, this book provides readers with a basic understanding of blacksmithing, including an explanation of tools like an anvil, an anvil stand, hammers, and tongs. Heating techniques like coal forging and fire tending are explained in detail, along with different types of metal like wrought iron, cast iron, and steel. You can also buy this book directly from the blacksmith Author Lorelei Sims. Check out her website right here http://www.blacksmithchic.com
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