blacksmith artist forging metal art

Tool of Choice: The Fire


The fire; the forge

I commonly use two different kinds of forges, a gas forge or a coal forge.  The coal forge has a particular kind of relationship.  With some simple newspaper and air I can get this tool ready in 10 minutes.  During that time I am watching the smoke, the slight hint of flame coming up and most of the all the noise.  There is a certain change when the air is going through it.  This same sensation happens when steel is in the fire.  There is a small heat range that is ideal for forge welding, and at times I swear I can hear when the heat is there.  But that is a whole different topic.

Tending the fire

There are some important things going on in the coal forge when using it.  Unfortunately I can not just throw steel in there and wait, as one does with a the gas forges.  First off I use coal.  Coal needs to “cook” and >transform into “coke.”  The coke is the fuel in the fire.  It is what makes the forge able to do what it does best, burn.  A product of the process as well is klinker.  It gathers at the bottom and can really create a messy fire if not taken care of.  Klinker also with make a dirty fire and can add to the difficulty of forge welding. On three sides I have coal cooking into coke. The coke burning and in the center there is a void of intense, controlled heat in which I lay the iron.


I typically keep some kind of opening so I can see in there.  Every time I pull the iron out I destroy the fire a little at a time, which in turn has me gather it up getting it ready for the next heat.  Defiantly a relationship between the smith and the fire.  Not to sound to corny but a relationship of creation, life and death of that tool.

Breaking down the fire

The last part is calming the fire down and letting it cook, in that, the next fire you can use some coke to help restart it.  Depending on the quality of coal and circumstances of where you are will vary on how you do this part.  The coal I use has a lot of fly ash.  I typically open it up and let it cool off and gather the coke afterwords.  I have seen some place a piece of wood in their fire in hopes to restart it again later, others completely throw everything away and start clean.

So if you happen to ever watch a smith at the forge, watch how he uses the forge.  It is a tool and its silence can speak volumes.






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