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Author: Harald

An Introduction to Iron Smelting – Part II: Tools of the Trade

An Introduction to Iron Smelting – Part II: Tools of the Trade

Now that we have covered the basic theoretical background of iron smelting, it is time we take a look at the more practical aspects of this wonderful madness. After all, this is what you came here for. Right? Let us start with all the equipment which you will need. The iron smelter’s tool chest is a fairly basic one, especially when compared to the varied range of specialised tooling used by most blacksmiths. You can do a lot with very…

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The Truth About Power Tools

The Truth About Power Tools

You have done it. You have made your decision to pick up a craft as a hobby. You are attracted to the old-timey romance of blacksmithing and the challenges of making knives. You want to start forging. Now what? You have seen photos of a proper professional workshop full of large, intimidating and expensive machinery. You might have seen a video of someone squishing large blocks of damascus steel with a hydraulic press. When you take a look at the…

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Why ‘Amateur’ Is NOT a Bad Word

Why ‘Amateur’ Is NOT a Bad Word

Amateur. You have heard the word before. Usually in a demeaning and derogatory manner. What a bunch of useless amateurs. Do not mind him. He is just an amateur… What if I told you that it also carries a very positive meaning? In last week’s post I urged you to to ‘Stop Making Excuses and Start Making Things’. If you decide to follow my advice, then you will be entering the world of craft as an amateur. Therefore I feel…

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Stop Making Excuses and Start Making Things!

Stop Making Excuses and Start Making Things!

We are now at that time of the year when people make all of those noble-sounding, predictable, New Year’s Resolutions. You know the drill: Stop Smoking, Drink Less, Eat Healthy, Get in Shape, etc. On average these last until about mid January and by springtime, they are reduced to nothing but a distant memory and the rare pang of guilt. Eventually they all morph into a resolution to try again next January. So the cycle continues. How about you do…

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The Ironworker’s Craft Goes Online!

The Ironworker’s Craft Goes Online!

The time has come. A year of intense studies is officially over. A few days ago I officially graduated from University College Dublin with an MSc in Experimental Archaeology and Material Culture. My thesis bore the simple title of ‘The Ironworker’s Craft’ and dealt early medieval ironworking in Ireland (400-1100 AD), beginning with iron smelting and ending with the forging of artefacts. There was even some space left to devote to metallography. What I was interested in was addressing 3 main research…

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Going Postal – A 21st Century Odyssey

Going Postal – A 21st Century Odyssey

Those of you who might have checked this page in the last two months would have noticed that everything dead quiet for the last two months or so. It is nigh time that I offer an explanation for another break in the delivery of content. The short explanation would be that I was bereft of my computer as well as most of my notes, research and photos, due to a lot of stupidity (partially on my side), incompetence and bad…

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The End of an Era: A Year in Perspective

The End of an Era: A Year in Perspective

On the 16th of August I handed in my master thesis, titled ‘The Ironworker’s Craft’, which I submitted at University College Dublin, as the final part of the MSc in Experimental Archaeology in Material Culture. Thus ends an 18 year period of my life, which was mostly spent in various educational institutions, although those who know me can testify, that I was quite proficient at distracting myself with various ‘side projects’ during that period. Six years of this period were…

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More Smelting Experiments at University College Dublin

More Smelting Experiments at University College Dublin

It was Tuesday the 20th of June and the weather was approaching that rare state of the skin-melting Irish heatwave. (Yes, these things do exist. The Sun rarely gazes upon this green island, but when it does, it does so with a vengeance most vicious.) In order to ease ourselves into the spirit of the summer solstice, and to show the treacherous orb in the sky that we do not go down so easily, we ran another bloomery smelt. (I…

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An Introduction to Iron Smelting – Part I: Theory

An Introduction to Iron Smelting – Part I: Theory

Smelting your own iron by digging up ore, clay and sand, and turning them into a bar iron using heat and hard work alone, is a transformative process which carries much mystery and appeal. The whole act of taking what is essentially dirt and transforming it into iron and steel, which can then be turned into objects both useful and beautiful, still captivates the imagination of artisans, archaeologists and chance observers alike. I have already touched upon the topic iron…

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An Ode to the Bog

An Ode to the Bog

Thus I found myself, wearing an orange hi-viz vest in the middle of a stripped bog. The sun was shining and there was a pleasant breeze. I was on my knees, crawling through the black soil, scooping up with my bare hands pieces of rust-colored, crumbly rock. It was a day out, a field-trip with friends and colleagues. They were engaged in similar activities, devoting their attention to the ground bellow them. You may wonder what all of this is…

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