Bituminous coals from West Virginia and the Appalachian basin make excellent blacksmithing coals.

Coal from the Sewell vein, Pocahontas vein, and others are known as "metallurgical coal" or "met coal" because of their high heat and low impurities such as sulfur and ash. Met coal is very good for blacksmith forging because it converts to coke leaving few impurities (clinkers) in the fire pot.

Coal from the Pittsburgh vein, Redstone vein, and others are called "steam coal" because they are ideal to fire a steam boiler (locomotive, power plant, etc.) You can forge with these coals, but you will have to contend with clinkers.

Some coal companies sell "washed coal". The wash process is actually a way to separate slate and other non-coal binders from the coal using controlled specific gravity to float the coal. Washed and sized coal burns hotter and cleaner than raw coal.

You can forge with either raw coal or washed coal.

The West Virginia Coal Association supports a coal education program which will answer your questions on coal, types of coal, how coal is used, etc.
The ABA tries to maintain a list of coal vendors who sell to blacksmiths. Blacksmith coal is a small market, so there aren't many vendors. Download the vendor list.
For a comparison of heat output and impurities of the different coal veins, download the coal test list.

This 'coal tree' indicates some the various products we make from coal.
Click thumbnail to enlarge.
From the WV Coal Association.

The essay, "Coal miners", which previously appeared at this website, has been moved.

side draft forge hood

Illustration: Side-draft flue

The best way to draft coal smoke from your forge is to build a side-draft flue. The flue pipe should be at least 10" or 12" in diameter and stand 3'-4' taller than the peak of the shop roof.

A properly-built side-draft flue will pull every bit of smoke from the forge. No more smoke-filled shop.

The smoke shelf makes the flue work. Smoke and hot gases must speed up to get past the smoke shelf restriction, thus creating a vacuum at the opening of the flue.