Author Topic: Coke or Coal?  (Read 495 times)

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Offline OilyRascal

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Coke or Coal?
« on: February 05, 2018, 08:32:05 PM »
Backstory:  I live in a rural area of Arkansas.  The train first came into the county in 1890.   I had heard stories of a "coal depot" just through the woods from me.  I always assumed this was stock for powering the trains.  The tracks are dormant with only the grading of the right-of-way and the occasional culvert to find.  I went on the hunt for local old folk, hoping to learn something.  I had a near 100 year old man describe to me the location of the coal depot.  I went on a hunt, ,and found a lot of something.

The something I found, and that I have shown around has been described to me as "coke", and I have heard mixed stories of it being used as raw material at a local carbon plant (which would have only been a matter of 3 miles away).  There was also a sizable wooden structure that had fallen on top of a root cellar.

My interest is in coal that might be used to forge.  I need some guidance from those in the know as to what to look for to forge with.  Are coke and coal the same?  If not, how do I tell the difference?  Which do I want?  I understand I'm showing my ignorance.
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Offline kwoswalt99

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Re: Coke or Coal?
« Reply #1 on: February 05, 2018, 08:45:48 PM »
You want coke to forge with.

Offline john k

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Re: Coke or Coal?
« Reply #2 on: February 05, 2018, 10:11:47 PM »
Simply, Coke, is coal that has been cooked.  Coal burns, but after cooking and it gets kinda fuzzy, porous, and very lightweight, it is coke, and then you really get the heat.    Coal will smoke, a lot, green gaseous smoke full of sulphur,  so back in the day special plants would do the cooking where it was not objectionable.  Then the shops that burned the coke, in town,  did so without all the smoke.  Well, some, but not the rotten egg sulphur smell.   Hence the old term, Pour on the COAL.  Coal and coke will burn when almost still wet.  Getting it started burning can try ones patience.   Neither are related to modern charcoal.
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Offline bill300d

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Re: Coke or Coal?
« Reply #3 on: February 05, 2018, 10:30:51 PM »
Coke is to coal like charcoal is wood. Coke is what you get once you burn the volatiles out of the coal much like charcoal and wood. Bituminous coal also known as soft coal is usually used for smithing. Some like coke although it's a little harder to keep lit.
In a pinch you can use anthracite or hard coal. Coal has a black shiny surface coke is a dull gray color. You can find more info over at the iforgeiron forum.
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Offline oldgoaly

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Re: Coke or Coal?
« Reply #4 on: February 05, 2018, 10:42:25 PM »
As the others have said coke is coal with the impurities cooked out. Coke is harder to light, needs more air and burns hotter. Now you can use coal in a forge for most things, coke is best for forge welding.  I got some rural king coal, oh that stuff is hard to get going takes all the air my blower can muster, damn it sure burns hot!!!! 
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Offline OilyRascal

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Re: Coke or Coal?
« Reply #5 on: February 06, 2018, 04:05:46 AM »
Makes sense!  It is light, and porous like a sponge, so I suspect it is coke - just as I was told.  I sure appreciate the teaching.  Now -  to find a forge.
"FORGED IN THE USA" myself.  Be good to your tools!

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Offline oldgoaly

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Re: Coke or Coal?
« Reply #6 on: February 06, 2018, 09:07:21 AM »
Is there a lot of it? 
coke is used in a cupola to melt iron. I have collected most of the parts to build one out of 100# propane tanks. But the bad shoulders and knees have slowed me way down.
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Offline john k

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Re: Coke or Coal?
« Reply #7 on: February 06, 2018, 10:23:14 AM »
We have found some bags of Railroad Coke,  or so we were told.  This stuff is the size of large potatoes,  too big for a forge.  Forging coal,  and coke, should be no larger than walnuts,  but don't worry, just break it up.  There are even coal hammers, most home owners with a coal furnace had one, sharp point on one end, about 3lbs.  Bagged forging coal, is sometimes labeled Pocahontas. 
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Offline OilyRascal

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Re: Coke or Coal?
« Reply #8 on: February 06, 2018, 02:05:35 PM »
Is there a lot of it? 
coke is used in a cupola to melt iron. I have collected most of the parts to build one out of 100# propane tanks. But the bad shoulders and knees have slowed me way down.

There does seem to be a LOT of it.  The coke I spotted was about the size of a basketball, and visible at the surface.  Raking the top soil back exposes pieces much smaller, down to the size of a half dollar.  I am told there was a "coke mountain" there.  What I found was in a pit area, and where the dike had been cut.  The wood structure was uphill from there.  I owe the site a second visit. 

I can appreciate the bad shoulder, and bad knee.  I had reconstructive surgery on my right shoulder about two years ago now....reattach muscles, reattach rotator cuff, and grind out some bone spurs.  Still not right.

We have found some bags of Railroad Coke,  or so we were told.  This stuff is the size of large potatoes,  too big for a forge.  Forging coal,  and coke, should be no larger than walnuts,  but don't worry, just break it up.  There are even coal hammers, most home owners with a coal furnace had one, sharp point on one end, about 3lbs.  Bagged forging coal, is sometimes labeled Pocahontas. 

It appears I'll be needing to break it into smaller pieces, or start picking up the smaller pieces.  Does the coal hammer resemble a body hammer?
"FORGED IN THE USA" myself.  Be good to your tools!

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Offline john k

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Re: Coke or Coal?
« Reply #9 on: February 06, 2018, 02:07:17 PM »
It is thick bodied, sometimes a square body,  head on one end and point on the other.  3-4 inches overall.   If it dirty, from being in the ground,  wash off the dirt, let it dry in the sun,,,, it will burn. 
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