Friday, September 23, 2016

Scottish Coal - the Bad, the Ugly (where is the good?)

One of the tasks for the central week of Turf to Tools 2 was to get a basic equipment set up for basic blacksmithing operations at the Scottish Sculpture Workshop.

After way too much time expended attempting to source equipment, and manage excessive shipping costs, Eden Jolly at SSW ended up using measurements I supplied and simply casting a new forge fire pot. Cast Iron pours is one of the features of the facilities at SSW!
Eden's fire pot, set in place and ready for the fuel.
As it turned out, two critical elements remained to create an effective forge.

The first problem has proved providing suitable air flow. As built above, there is a choke point at the lower 'chip breaker'. This was fabricated out of scrap materials available around the workshop, forming the 'slotted cylinder' type seen above. Problem ended up being that the available air opening was effectively a rectangle about 1/2 wide by about 1 3/4 inch long. Too small to easily pass the required air for ideal combustion. After trying three separate blower / gate combinations, we did manage something that if a bit loud, would at least allow for a reasonable sized fire.

We used up the last bag of (more or less) acceptable coal on hand - remaining from the 2014 project.

Eden went to the local coal merchant.
He asked for blacksmithing coal
He was sold what they call 'Smithy Nuggets'.
The bags are actually labled 'Best Home Heating Coal'
What we got.
Sorry - this is Anthrocite - hard coal.
Not Bituminous or soft coal.
Hard coal is fine for steam engines or heating stoves. It is not the type of coal needed for small scale (ie normal) blacksmithing forges.
See the yellow crystals on the surfaces? That is sulpur.

This is what happens when you try to burn this quality fuel in the forge.
After about 10 minutes of a full air blast.
Eden still struggling after 20 minutes of blast.
This level of dense sulphur ladden smoke is toxic to the worker. I've already gotten lungs damaged from working with high sulphur coal at a museum in the late 1980's. By the point that the second photo was taken - I would not get any closer to that fire or smoke.

The sulphur also damages the metal itself, making forge welding particularly almost impossible. (Maybe more on that later.)
Since the next phase of Turf to Tools is to compress and repeatedly forge weld up the blooms into solid bars - I was not willing to subject our hard gained bloom iron to contact with this fuel.

We have hopes that we may be able to get some better quality (workable) coal from the near by Transport Museum in Alford.  (later today)

At this point the Bloom to Bar part of the project is three days behind. It will have to be laid aside to ensure all is ready for the second iron smelt experiment (fuelling with Peat) taking place TOMORROW.

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February 15 - May 15, 2012 : Supported by a Crafts Projects - Creation and Development Grant

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