Fire management in a coal forge

Hey, I'm a brand spankin' new smith who's having a bit of a problem. I've fired my forge twice now since I've built it, and it makes me
happier than anything I've ever seen, but I'm afraid that I'm really no good at using it. I've been reading everything I can, and I can get a *decent* fire going which gets my iron up to yellow, now and then (but that's something I can improve on my own, I think) The problem comes in two places: Putting the fire out, and starting it again the next day.
Fire out- What's the best way? I've read that you shouldn't just throw water on the thing since that could crack the firepot / tuyere. One thing I read recommended that I shovel the whole fire into a water-filled bucket. I guess that works fine for making sure it's out, but how easy is it to re-use that coke the next day?
And up again- Okay guys, this is a little embarrassing but... how do you tell coke from clinkers? Either my fire isn't producing clinkers (miraculous!), or I'm a little clueless. All of my sources just tell me "separate the coke from the clinkers, using the coke for yaddah yaddah yaddah". I can tell coal from not-coal just fine, but beyond that I can only make an educated guess. Please, in as much detail as you can, describe a piece of coke as opposed to a clinker.
One other question- Does anybody know of any classes on Smithing of any sort being offered around New York?
Thanks a lot for any insight you can give.
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You are dead right about not throwing water on a hot forge.
As another poster said, not all coal is "blacksmithing coal". Some kinds of coal don't coke up much or at all. Others have a much lower btu content than we want. I have seen some (in Europe) that were so oily that flames shot 5 to 10 feet in the air above the forge!
Cleaning the forge and managing the fire: The clinker (melted ash) will almost always drift towards the bottom of the firepot. It got there because the fire is so hot that as the ash forms, it melts into a sticky, glassy glob, sticks to its neighbor piece of ash/clinker, and is then heavier than anything else in the fire except your workpiece. So, if you don't find it there in the morning, it's because somebody moved it!
The firepot in my main forge is about 4 inches deep. Here's how I put that one out: When I put my fire out, I first pull the coal to one side of the hearth, Then I begin to pull the coke to another corner, just skimming it off the top of what's left of the fire. This leaves about 2 or 3 2/2" of "stuff" left in the bottom. I let this go out by itself. Many forges will go out by themselves anyway, but mine has a very good draft, so it will comsume all the coal and coke, so that's why I have to "tear it down". Now, the next morning, all that's in the bottom of the firepot is either clinker, unconsolidated clinker (ash) or coke. The clinker is usually stuck together in a glassy mass, sometimes in small pieces, sometimes in a large "doughnut". We often have clinker contests at the school to see who can extract the largest clinker from their forge!
During your management of the fire, you should never be "stirring" it. If you do, you may be mixing coal, coke and clinker together during the day and this will sure make it harder to separate later. As you know, the forge works by blowing air through glowing coke to make hot gases which heat the work. This process consumes the coke. The heat from the glowing coke heats the coal that surrounds it and evaporates the volatile matter in the coal so it becomes coke. Okay, so as you blow the fire, the coke burns away and you have to replace it with freshly make coke. To do this, you gently push freshly made coke from the edge of the fire INTO the center of the fire so it is in a position to intercept the air blast. Then you refill the spot left by the coke with fresh coal. Repeat, repeat, repeat. So, you see, any clinker that has formed HAS to form from the dissapearing coke, which dissapeared from the center of the fire. That means that ALL the clinker HAS to form where the coke dissapeared from, which is the bottom center of the firepot. During the day, one must clean the fire, removing at least a portion of the clinker. If you don't, the clinker will take up the room at the bottom of the firepot where the coke is supposed to go, If this is the case, the clinker will be down there, glowing, but not producing any heat for you. What's worse is that oxygen int the incoming air blast won't be used up on its way to heat your work and your work will oxide much faster.
Hope this helps.
Go to ABAANA.org and look for the affiliate closest to you in the New York area for classes. Most ABANA (Artist Blacksmith Association of North America) "chapters" have meetings where folks get together to "beat on iron" and they always welcome a serious newcomer, which you seem to be. All you need to do is to attend a meeting ask the questions and all will become clear.
Many of these clubs offer classes. Any of them can also direct you to craft schools where blacksmithing is taught. You are in one of the best parts of the country for craft schools of this sort. I don't mean to choose one school over another, but the John C. Campbell school in Brasstown NC has a lot to offer in the way of blacksmithing. Take a look: > http://www.folkschool.org /
If you have any other questions or "yah-buts", feel free to post them here or email off group, Pete Stanaitis ------------------------------------------------------
Mountain King wrote:

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snip stuff well answered by others

Not sure what part of NY your in but one of these should help. Capital District Blacksmiths Assoc. can be found @ www.cdblacksmiths.org , the New York State Designer Blacksmiths @ www.nysdb.org and Northeast Blacksmith assoc @ www.northeastblacksmiths.org .
Andrew
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I'll start with the last first (while whistling "In the Hall of the Mountain King"). I took the beginner course at Peters Valley Craft Center (www.petersvalley.org) under Dick Sargent. Excellent smith, a great teacher and all around superb course. I don't know if by New York you mean the city, but Peters Valley is tucked up in a deep corner of north Jersey (well away from damn near anything). I'm looking to go again this year, I just haven't decided on what course.
As for clinkers, take a chunk of unburned fuel and compare to what you just dumped out of the pot. If you find chunks of glassy looking items in the burned stuff, that is likely a clinker. All coal burns differently; some will produce huge chunks of clinkers while others burn down to fine pellets of the stuff.
And, if you still can't find any clinkers, tell us who your supplier is!
SF!
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A piece of coke is very light like coal popcorn ,clinker on the other hand looks like melted glass with crap mixed in,picture a beerbottle melted in a bonfire The toolgypsy
wrote:

I'll start with the last first (while whistling "In the Hall of the Mountain King"). I took the beginner course at Peters Valley Craft Center (www.petersvalley.org) under Dick Sargent. Excellent smith, a great teacher and all around superb course. I don't know if by New York you mean the city, but Peters Valley is tucked up in a deep corner of north Jersey (well away from damn near anything). I'm looking to go again this year, I just haven't decided on what course.
As for clinkers, take a chunk of unburned fuel and compare to what you just dumped out of the pot. If you find chunks of glassy looking items in the burned stuff, that is likely a clinker. All coal burns differently; some will produce huge chunks of clinkers while others burn down to fine pellets of the stuff.
And, if you still can't find any clinkers, tell us who your supplier is!
SF!
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