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An Introduction to Iron Smelting – Part V: Building the Furnace

An Introduction to Iron Smelting – Part V: Building the Furnace

Your tools are gathered, your clay mixed, your ore processed, and you have chosen a furnace design to follow. Now you are ready to give building the furnace a try. How well you do this will have an influence on how smooth the whole smelting operation runs. After all, you do not want to be standing in front of a leaning shaft, with ever larger cracks spreading across the furnace, wondering if the thing will make it to the end. Especially…

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An Introduction to Iron Smelting – Part IV: Furnace Design

An Introduction to Iron Smelting – Part IV: Furnace Design

You have a space for smelting selected, your equipment is gathered, you clay is mixed, you charcoal chopped and your ore crushed. Now you are finally ready to build the furnace. We are getting dangerously close to the actual smelting here. And that is what you came here for in the first place. Right? But first you will need to choose what sort of bloomery furnace you want to build.  There are many possibilities and examples available – both historic…

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An Introduction to Iron Smelting – Part III: Raw Materials

An Introduction to Iron Smelting – Part III: Raw Materials

Now that we have all the tools gathered, it is time to start dealing with the required materials. Therefore in this part of the iron smelting series, I shall devote a few words to the building materials used to construct the bloomery furnace. While I am at it, I shall also be instructing you on how to prepare the ore and charcoal for the smelt. While I am writing this post from the point of view of a bloomery smelter,…

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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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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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