Medieval European Smithy Fuel

I have a simple question but have been unable to find much relevant information. What did medieval blacksmiths use to fuel the fire in their forges when making iron weapons and armor. Did they use wood, or the remaining embers? Or did they have access to coal? Assuming that it varies based on the region and the time period, I am most interested in 14th and 15th century Germany and Italy.

Additionally, does anyone know of a good source of information about blacksmithing in that time period? Other than The Knight and the Blast Furnace.

I'm no expert, by far, on this subject, but it seems to me like coal would be longer burning than wood and also make a hotter flame. I'm pretty sure they would start with wood to get a bed of embers to put the coal on. IF they had access to coal, that is. If not, then I guess wood or... :wtf: ...animal dung? I HAVE heard of that before. Just my two pennies......McM
You can run a forge with wood. But wood is wet, therefore you loose energy when burning it, as you have to get rid of the water as well as other impurities. That 's why people, already in the antique, invented the charcoal. You get rid of everything, except the stuff that burns. Now you have "clean" fuel. To start a fire you can use dry wood, this was done in many smiths. I also know a lot of modern smiths which start their fire with wood. However most modern smiths use either stone coal or coke, which is stone coal without the impurities, we are mostly taking about sulphur. For the simple reason that stone coal or coke is much cheaper than good charcoal.

In the middle ages charcoal was used to fire a forge as well. I am a hundred percent sure that there was no smith that used only wood for his fire. What was used as well, at least since the 14 century, I believe the first account is from Sweden, is stone coal. But the usage was limited, compared to charcoal. One big problem in late medieval Europe were the forests. Since charcoal was the same for the medieval person as oil is for us today, many forests were chopped down completely. This was particularly the case in the Oberpfalz. That 's a region north of Nürnberg, where a huge amount of iron and steel came from in the middle ages. The first written account of iron ore being mined in Auerbach, which is in the Oberpfalz, dates back to the year 900. Which means even before 900 steel was produced there. 400-500 years afterwards they started to run out of wood for the coal production. I know of a "Große Hammereinigung" (big hammer unification) from 1341 from Amberg and Sulzbach, (seated in the Oberpfalz as well, the main producers), this was something like a mutual agreement about the mass of iron which is going to be produced, how the people are to be paid and various other things. In 1348 the hammers around Vilseck had to close down since there was no forest around which could deliver wood for the production of charcoal. This Hammereinigung also limited the amount of iron the people were allowed to produce. This part was definitely added when they realized that they are running out of wood. Nürnberg started a few reforestation programs, and all of them worked.
The price for wood and coal dropped in the second half of the 15 century. Due to the black death a huge amount of the population died in the middle of the 14 century. In a few years the demand for wood dropped rapidly. And around a hundred years later many forests had recovered a lot.

I am not so familiar with blacksmithing in the middle ages.... even though I am to become one '^^
However if you are interested in armouring I recommend you the work of Dr. Mathias Goll.
And if you are interested in late medieval techniques about steel or metal production in general you have to take a look at "De la pirotechnia"
Coal mining would have been much more small scale than it is today, obviously, so it would not have been as widely available. Charcoal would have been much more easier to obtain and can make a pretty hot fire with bellows. It would've also been considerably cheaper and of course much higher quality than modern charcoal, most of which is just compressed sawdust!

That said, there are certainly benefits to using coal, and as such it was probably used by at least some bladesmiths. Where, whom, and how much, it was used, I cannot say. Probably it was available to anybody who could pay the going price, and that would have been the main distinction. Charcoal was cheap and easily available; coal was more expensive, but if you could afford it, it was there.
Hey, thank you guys for the responses. You cleared up my confusion very completely.

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