Who has actually tested some anthracite coal?

We all know that some forms of coal don't work well for blacksmithing. But does anybody out there have some testing of "non-blacksmith coal" that they'd care to share. Don't be shy. I don't think anybody will flame you for trying some "mystery coal" and then ratting on yourself.

Blacksmiths must use more than one kind of coal. For instance: When we were in France at a blacksmith conference at Arles-sur-tech some years ago, they were burning coal that had more volatiles than I have ever seen before or since. The smoke from it would go a couple of feet into the air and then actually ignite again!!!

I might even have a picture or two of the flames.

I got some coal at a blacksmith auction once. It looked like the old stoker coal that our neighbors used back in the 1940's. Dull gray, it was and no pieces were larger than about 1/2" cubed. It would NOT coke up at all. It did not get very hot in the forge. Don't remember ash content or smell (sulphur).

Don't tell anybody I told you this, but I gave up and buried it (about

50 pounds). Ashes to ashes, dust to dust, coal back where it came from, says I. Wait till the archeologists find THAT some day!

I was browsing through my 1973 copy of "Marks Handbook for Mechanical Engineers" a few years ago and found 55 pages in it about coal. Very enlightening.

Pete Stanaitis


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I don't know much about coal at all (I'm learning), but I've got a story to relate that will add some data.

In our guild forge (bgop.org), we burn anthracite in a pot belly stove to heat the place, so we have both anthracite as well as the bituminous coal for the forge. Recently, at the annual shop clean up, some amount of coal on the floor was cleaned up, and thrown into the barrel for the forge. It turns out a great bit of that was the anthracite for the stove but whoever was cleaning up didn't realize the difference. The two types of coals were too mixed up to make separation an option. So recently, we have had to try and use this mix of anthracite and bituminous coal in the forge.

It didn't work well at all. Hard as hell to keep the fire burning and hard to get enough heat out of it to forge with. I don't know how much of this was the particular coal we had, or if it's true in general for trying to use anthracite for forging.

The anthracite we have are fairly large chunks (like 1" size roughly). I'm guessing that larger size really needs a larger sized pot and fire to burn well. So the normal size of the forge pot might simply be too small to burn that larger sized coal. But I suspect it simply doesn't burn as quickly or as hot as normal blacksmith coal, even though the anthracite in general has a higher BTU/ton rating. Maybe a larger sized fire pot, and maybe greater air flow would be required to make it usable? Or maybe it simply doesn't tend to burn as hot no matter what you do making it a very poor choice for forging?

All I know for sure, is that it was a true pain in the ass for us when it got mixed in. Luckily, most of that "mistake" has been burned up now.

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Curt Welch

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