Can't get first coal fire going!

Man, I'm having a devil of a time lighting my coal forge. This is the first time I'm trying it and it's kicking my butt.
I have an electric blower and it's hard to give it just a "little" air. I've created a fire out of wadded up newspaper and put a little bit of coal on it and it just won't catch. The paper burns up, the coal drops to the bottom of the firepot and that's it. Very frustrating.
Can anyone help me?
rvb
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

A little bit of kindling (wood) should help, at least until you have some coke to work with.
--
Cats, Coffee, Chocolate...vices to live by

Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
On Thu, 22 Jan 2004 20:32:04 GMT, Ecnerwal

Thanks. I'll try that next.
rvb
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
On Thu, 22 Jan 2004 20:32:04 GMT, Ecnerwal

I rebuilt my fire and will test it out tomorrow morning. I took some digital pictures of the firepot and would like to get feedback on whether or not this looks right.
I have wadded up newspaper, some kindling, and then just a little bit of coal on there.
Thanks,
rvb
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Don't just wad the paper up. Take a couple of sheets of newspaper and roll the edges in until you have what looks like the head of a mushroom. Fill the hollow part with some wadded up paper. Clean out your fire pot and light the underside of your mushroom and put the whole thing directly over your air source. Cover the edges with coal and hit the air. This should all happen in just a few seconds. After you hit the air you will know right away of the fire is out or not. If you get flames, cover the entire paper with coal and let the air blast away. Repeat if the fire went out.
This is how i light mine every time I use it and seldom have to try more than once.
Bob www.warnerknives.com www.serviceusa1.com

Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

When you say cover the edges with coal, what do you mean? How much is covered?
rvb
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Just cover about an inch or so of the mushroom edges. This blocks out air from anywhere but your blower air. when you hit the blower the fire will take off and you will get flames shooting out around the coal on the edges. once this happens just cover up the entire thing.
I am not sure what you have for an air source but there needs to be a way to control the airflow. If you run wide open all the time, you will burn a lot of coal and you will also burn up some of your steel due to high heat. I have a small squirrel cage fan for my air source. I use a plastic coffee can lid with one screw through it to hold it over the intake of the fan. Just rotate it to open or close the airflow. You have infinite equipment this way.
Bob www.warnerknives.com www.serviceusa1.com

Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

I have an electric blower with a sheet metal "damper" similar to your coffee can lid. If I close (cover the fan intake) the damper, less air is generated. If I open (swing the damper away from the fan intake) the damper, more air is generated.
I would really like to get a hand-cranked blower because it seems you have much more control over the volume of air than with an electric blower. Plus, my forge is small and portable, but not very practical for attending meetings where there is little, if any, electrical power.
Thanks for all the help. I'll let you know my results after today.
rvb
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Bob wrote:

Plenty of paper seems to be part of the trick A half dozen full double-page sheets of newspaper isn't too much. My approach is much like Bob's, except that I start cranking slowly (I use a hand blower) as soon as the lit paper goes in, and then put coke (first choice) or coal wherever the flame's coming out. The few times I've had to start a fire with no coke at all, this has worked fine even without wood kindling, though as another poster noted, it makes a lot of smoke.
Good luck
- ken
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
rvb wrote:

First things first. You WILL want to be able to control the air. With the blower going flat out, you will burn a lot more of your work than you will want to, and you will waste a lot of coal while you do not have iron in the fire. Either a speed control on the power line, or a baffle or gate on the ductwork would be a great idea.
You have coal that is known to work for this, right?
To light a forge with green coal, I have almost always used a bit of wood to get things going. Generally it takes very little air to get the fire cooking right along. Once the fire is going, and the coal is coking off (all the volatiles and corruption making smoke) I will wet down a bunch of coal to build the fire up with.
Once you do get it going, make sure that you coke off some extra coal to use for starting before you shut down.
Easier to demonstrate than to type it all out.
Cheers Trevor Jones
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
On Thu, 22 Jan 2004, rvb wrote:

This is why I don't have an electric blower. But if you want one, you can either rig a rheostat on the power supply or put an adjustable vent on the tuyere, so that you can dump most of the air until you need it. FWIW, most people get _way_ more blower than they need. Closer to a hair dryer than a vacuum cleaner.
I've created a fire out of wadded up newspaper and put a little

Would you try to light logs with newspaper? You need some kindling in between. A handful of very dry chips or twigs on top of your paper, or if you have something like shavings from a hand plane or drawknife around and dry, you can skip the paper. Have a handful of larger chunks, an inch or three long, close at hand. Now light your paper or shavings, when they're burning well drop the heavier wood on top and give the forge a _trickle_ of air. When the bigger wood is burning well, add coal, a little bit at a time, to the _sides_ of the wood fire. Get too much coal over the middle of a new fire (or even an established one) and you will have more smoke than you can believe.
(My own first ever coal fire I had no problem lighting, but I just dumped the coal on top in a big mass. I filled my entire street with smoke so thick I couldn't see the house twenty yards away. Then I heard the sirens. It was really quite reasonable for the neighbor to call the fire department--a whole house had burned down on our street a few years before, without making nearly that much smoke! The firemen were quite relieved to see that things weren't nearly as bad as they looked, and I eventually figured out how to make a good fire.)
The key to lighting coal is to add it slowly to a wood fire that's going well. The key to smoke control is to never put on so much coal that you cut off all the flame on top. Ultimately, you are trying to have a coke fire (clean and smokeless) in the middle, with wet coal around the sides of it, turning into more coke for you. You feed coke from the edges into the middle as needed, and ease more coal up to the sides of the fire to take its place. The coke is much fluffier and more porous than the coal, and about half the density. It also lights more easily, so by the time you are building your second fire, you should have some. You can throw coke directly on top of the wood without smoking up the world, and it gives you a head start on a clean, usable fire. Coke is really a lot like charcoal, just made with coal instead of wood, by incomplete combustion that burns away the volatiles and leaves the carbon.
When you're done with a fire, just turn off all the air and let it go out by itself, don't quench it with water. If you want lots of coke, dump some coal on the middle of the fire when you're all finished, blow it a little, and when the smoke really starts boiling out turn an empty bucket down on top of the fire and wiggle it down tight. Then go away. You should have lots of coke under the bucket the next day.
Coal forges are one thing that you clean up at the beginning of the day, not when you finish. Much easier when they're cold. Separate the coke from the uncoked coal. Down in the bottom you'll find some melted slag--the clinkers. They're dense and often have glassy places on them. Be sure to get all of them out before you put your paper and kindling in for the new fire. Clinkers are basically just ashes, but because your fire has an air blast and runs hotter than an ordinary fire, they melt into glassy beads and bristly cinders, instead of staying fluffy flakes. Clinkers rob heat from your fire and block your airflow; you don't want them in there. If you notice that your fire has lost that roaring sound it had in the first hour or two, you likely have some clinker built up down by the air grate. If you notice that plus the fact that you're blowing and blowing but the work is taking forever to heat, you _know_ you have a clinker down there. (Unless your air bypass has fallen open. Check that first!)
Hope this helps. Best wishes, and welcome to the Black Booger Guild!
Conrad Hodson
who was running a coal fire this very afternoon
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
wrote:

Thanks for all the help. I'll let you know my results after today.
rvb
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Try a few ounces of kerosene. Yeah, the books all push the 'traditional' method of paper, but the kerosene will save you a bunch of time.
Daniel
rvb wrote:

Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
We used to just set a propane torch into the coal or use a rosebud from an oxy/acet outfit for a short burst.

Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
I take three or four sheets of newspaper and scrunch it up pretty tight and set it over the tuyere opening and light the bottom of the paper. then i stack the coke around and then the coal (if you don't have any coke made yet, coal is fine, but smokier). then i add a *little* stream of air from by hand-cranked blower. works every time.

Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
I Know its cheating but it works like a hot damn. Try one or two cups of kerosene over your paper. Not too much, then let it get a good start before you turn on the air. Don't substitute anything else for clean kerosene and you should have an easy fire every time.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

Hi. I use a few ounces of fat on the paper. Much more fat drains off my BBQ meat than I could ever eat or dip my punch in, and it does burn well (think about a flare-up on the grill). Seems to light with just a few sheets of newspaper.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Eric Chang wrote:

Well, I've successfully lit the fire using newspaper and some kindling. I have some coke now, but it seems I still need the kindling with this darn electric blower. F'ing thing.
I suppose I should try and install a dimmer switch or some other rheostat thingie to it to control the air, but I'm looking for a hand-cranked blower so that I can take it to hammer-ins and stuff where there may or may not be any/enough electricity to go around.
Does anyone have or know of someone that has a hand-cranked blower for sale?
rvb
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

Polytechforum.com is a website by engineers for engineers. It is not affiliated with any of manufacturers or vendors discussed here. All logos and trade names are the property of their respective owners.