Each year our shop uses about two tons of bituminous coal. Our fires are burning in the forge seven days a week for half the year, and are busy throughout the winter months as well. Each fall it is our chore to refill the coal bunker. It is a woeful site to see an empty coal bin! You can see the line from the coal when full on the bricks of the upper right side of the coal bunker.
The Fields Blacksmith Shop coal bunker built into the hill behind the shop. It is like a stone and brick tunnel that goes 14 feet into the hillside underground. There is no way to put coal into it from the outside. All the coal is hauled through the shop and into the bin using a wheelbarrow.
The coal to fill the bin is waiting outside the shop. We shovel a wheelbarrow full of coal and wheel it through the shop. Weave it around the anvil and tools then push it up a ramp. Keep pushing hard as it plows through the coal and stop when you reach the back wall. Pull one of the removable sides off the wheelbarrow and dump it sideways. As the coal piles up the roof is too low to dump the barrow forward!
Keep loading and pushing the wheelbarrow. It takes 15 shovel loads to fill the wheelbarrow. Each load make a small difference in the pile. It may take around 100 loads to get it all in. Here is what the pile looks like after 35 loads have been taken into the coal bin. We are making progress! Only 65 more trips!
After bringing in 5 wheelbarrow loads a shovel is used to level the pile in the bunker. You have to make a path for the wheelbarrow to drive up the coal to dump the next 5 loads! Keep piling it up until the wheelbarrow won’t fit over the coal and starts hitting the roof. Then keep filling in front of the pile until the coal bin is full.
It is a long and steady job to fill the coal bin for the next year. It usually take us about two weeks. We try to do at least an hour of moving coal each morning. It is better to move the coal in a light rain, as then the damp coal doesn’t make any dust. It isn’t much fun loading coal in a cold September drizzle. Hopefully we will get it done before October. At least when it is done the coal will be stored accessible from inside the shop and dry. We won't have to go outside in the winter and shovel a path through the snow to get some coal!
Coal is something that warms you twice. You are warmed once when you move it and again when you burn it! If you visit the Fields Blacksmith Shop you can see for yourself how much progress we have made, and how much is in our coal bin.
I have been blacksmithing for 15 years. At The Farmers' Museum I teach classes, present blacksmithing demonstrations daily, make historically accurate tools and hardware, and research life and work in the 19th century. My past experiences include billboard painter, 15 years teaching American History, management of a small town library, and leadership in several blacksmithing organizations.