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Hard Coal - the real thing


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Hello,

In magazines I read about modellers who use real coal to fill their tenders, wagons and decorate their collieries. The deep black colour and the shimmer is hard to copy with any artificial material. So I bought a sack of smith's coal. I realized that it is really Hard Coal!

Now my question: How would you crush it to 00 size? I

Coal.JPG

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The bag and hammer (good name for a pub) approach will yield a variety of lump sizes, and these can be ‘screened’ to represent coal of different grades.  Coal is not just lumps of black rock, you know, and output from different pits or sometimes different seams in the same pit had different calorific values, sulphur content, and other attributes.  The customers, railways, industry, domestic coal merchants, and so on, could specify the exact coal they wanted and the size, sometimes mixing coal from different collieries. 

 

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1 hour ago, njee20 said:

Put it in a bag and hit with hammer?

... and keep on hitting it.  It takes quite a lot of effort to reduce it sufficiently.  Most of the pieces just slide relative to one another on each blow, so you have to persist.

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Plastic bags are no good the sharp coal just shreds them so I use an old cotten cloth money bag but the bottom corner of an old pillow case might work as well.

  Also make sure you do it on a hard surface like a concrete path - the wife's kitchen work surfaces are not an ideal alternative not unless you budget for buying her a new kitchen. 

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Use a piece of board underneath to avoid damage to the surface underneath.

 

I do a small(ish) lump at a time.

 

Various sizes of sieve are then necessary to screen the result.

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I use a pepper grinder, available at Poundland - produces nice variety of sizes and is a neat way of storing it - you have to break the coal up into chunks that will fit in the grinder obviously...

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2 hours ago, Londontram said:

Plastic bags are no good the sharp coal just shreds them so I use an old cotten cloth money bag but the bottom corner of an old pillow case might work as well.

I would suggest this as an ideal use for odd socks.  My washing machine frequently produces them.

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2 hours ago, Londontram said:

Plastic bags are no good the sharp coal just shreds them so I use an old cotten cloth money bag but the bottom corner of an old pillow case might work as well.

  Also make sure you do it on a hard surface like a concrete path - the wife's kitchen work surfaces are not an ideal alternative not unless you budget for buying her a new kitchen. 

 

In fact more than this, be very careful where you take it afterwards. Many varieties are quite "tarry" that's to say they aren't totally hard and dry. If you crush some into a light coloured carpet by mistake you could be in big lumber as the mark will be hard if not impossible to get rid of.

 

John.

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Slower, but just as effective is nibbling the lump of coal with a pair of pliers if wielding a hammer isnt your thing. Still need a means of catching the bits and be mindful of slithers flying off in all directions, especially towards the eyes or the better halfs best dresses!!! You end up with a lot of dust either way which is useful for weathering on tenders, coal bunkers, staithes etc. 

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On 18/07/2021 at 19:15, Michael Hodgson said:

I would suggest this as an ideal use for odd socks.  My washing machine frequently produces them.

My machine eats them.

another 1 went yesterday, no where to be seen.

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On 18/07/2021 at 18:40, Ray Von said:

I use a pepper grinder, available at Poundland - produces nice variety of sizes and is a neat way of storing it - you have to break the coal up into chunks that will fit in the grinder obviously...

 Sounds a good idea; might give it a try to emulate Exmouth Junction “dust”.

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There was a sock stuck in the filter of our washing machine last time I cleaned it. Obviously still being digested, as the other missing ones had disappeared

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You need a rock grinder. Industrial laboratories have a grown up version of the coffee grinder that can reduce any mineral to a pre set size. I still have the remains of three jars of anthracite that little brother ground for me forty years ago as we experimented with getting 7mm wagons to discharge through the end door.

Plan B has already been described but I might use the leg from a pair of old jeans rather than a sock. Once you have had a good bashing, the next step is to sieve the coal to a consistent size. School geography departments and field study centres often had a tower of sieves that could separate a sample of mixed sand and gravel into different sizes. Given the small amounts involved, it might be possible to make your own sieve from a small plastic container by drilling holes to the size required. A second sieve with slightly smaller holes will remove the dust. Using the sieves under a gently running tap will help as will a tiny drop of washing up liquid.

Without wanting to stir another debate, have a good look at period photos of your chosen locomotives in your chosen region before selecting the size of drill.

Edited by doilum
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I have some lumps of iron ore I brought back as a souvenir from the mine at Kiruna when my parents were living north of the Arctic Circle.  The lumps are rather too strong for the hammer approach to work, and I suppose the Swedish ore is in any case much purer than would be usual for a model of a UK ore wagon.

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18 minutes ago, Michael Hodgson said:

I have some lumps of iron ore I brought back as a souvenir from the mine at Kiruna when my parents were living north of the Arctic Circle.  The lumps are rather too strong for the hammer approach to work, and I suppose the Swedish ore is in any case much purer than would be usual for a model of a UK ore wagon.

Kiruna and Kittemat. Memories of my first O level Geography class!

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4 hours ago, Ray M said:

My machine eats them.

another 1 went yesterday, no where to be seen.

It’s not your machine, Ray, it’s space elves from the planet Zarg.  Using their highly advanced space elf technology, they beam single socks to Zarg and transmogrify them into wire coat hangers before beaming them to your wardrobe.  I hate wire coat hangers and have never acquired any myself, yet my wardrobe is polluted with them and space elves from Zarg are the only rational explanation.  
 

Nobody knows why they do this, but my theory is that it is to wind me up.  

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I just get the small shovel out and head for the bottom of the coal bunker, there's always a variety of dust in the bottom after the coal man has been..

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On 20/07/2021 at 10:30, Michael Hodgson said:

I have some lumps of iron ore I brought back as a souvenir from the mine at Kiruna when my parents were living north of the Arctic Circle.  The lumps are rather too strong for the hammer approach to work, and I suppose the Swedish ore is in any case much purer than would be usual for a model of a UK ore wagon.

Depends where it's from. Some of the Cumbrian iron ore was high quality stuff, I've got a nice lump of it at home from Egremont.

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1 hour ago, TheQ said:

I just get the small shovel out and head for the bottom of the coal bunker, there's always a variety of dust in the bottom after the coal man has been..

Treasure it! I managed a couple of kilos from my parents house before we sold it.

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I was lucky that one of my former neighbours still used coal for heating. Filled up a large container with small bits from the bottom of her bunker. Graded it through a series of sieves and any larger bits were crushed in a stone pestle and mortar. Fine dust was used on some HHA wagons, different grades used to cover false loads in 16 tonners and in loco tenders.

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