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I Forge Iron


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  1. Thanks! The responses here already look like good leads for making connections. As for ancestors not doing it, that's actually the point... nobody in the eastern U.S. did metallurgy at all, even as a group, before Europeans arrived (and there's only a handful of possible examples in the Pacific Northwest which are inconclusive). That puts this continent at least 5,800 years behind Asia/Europe/Africa, which is GREAT fodder for changing the subject when someone asks me "so why again were you burning rocks all weekend?" I will definitely look into ABBG!! As for charcoal, I watched some videos online using a 15gal drum inside of a 55gal drum (basically what Nobody Special described below, but on a smaller scale) and thought I'd go that way. Turns out 15gal drums are *really* hard to come by around here, but I found a guy at a machinist's shop who offered to craft a "charcoal maker" doohicky for me out of a 55gal + the pressure tank for an air compressor. I fired that over the weekend and let's just say it wasn't as effective as I hoped. I think the tank is way too far from the fuel to be properly heated; I ended up really cramming fuel in there and then hitting it with a leaf blower to get it really hot, and only then did I see volatiles coming out of the compressor tank (I made a short video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TW2ZBzOGa40). Are those beds things I could get at? I mean, are they either publicly accessible (and legal to remove rocks from), or on private land that I could ask for access to? No idea how much I need. No idea how much ore I want, so can't even guess how much charcoal
  2. Answering one of my own questions, this article seems to have some good resources for bloomery construction, especially the bits about the tuyeres: http://iron.wlu.edu/reports/Eindhoven Smelt Report.htm
  3. Hello all! Very excited to have found this website I recently purchased my first home, in the Atlanta suburbs with an acre of woods sloping down to a stream out back, and immediately started fantasizing about what I could do with my first bit of land. Fast forward a few months, and I've cleared and leveled a spot where I'm telling friends I want to build a little bloomery and smelt some local ore. Why? I don't need a reason. But for the sake of the missus and other people who don't "get it", I'm saying that I want to demonstrate that it's possible, using only implements available to pre-1492 locals, to source ore and smelt it into tools more useful in some respect than polished stone tools. I expect to learn, along the way, some reasons why the pre-1492 locals never did get around to doing this, although my suspicion is that they only lacked whatever happy accidents got the ball rolling in the old world. I feel no particular need to do anything authentically, since we have no evidence of any hot metallurgy east of the Mississippi before the Europeans arrived... so using more advanced techniques is fine... but where practical (this is a hobby) and safe I'd prefer to stick to materials a local would have had access to. I think I need to: make charcoalfind local ore that could be extracted with with stone or wood implementsconstruct a bloomeryconstruct tools for fussing with the bloomery (tongs, anvil, hammer, bellows, tuyeres, ?)fire the bloomery, producing a bloom of questionable construct a forge for re-heating the bloomfire the forge and beat the iron into some kind of useful shape (perhaps a pick, hammer, or other implement to make the next go easier)Now, that's actually probably a bit too tall of a project, given that I've done exactly none of this before, so I'm already stepping down my expectations e.g. I want to make charcoal but I don't see the need to tend a collier's pit for 7 days straight so I'll be using some safer/faster if perhaps less efficient method. I also don't feel the need to prove that several of my friends have nothing better to do for several full weekends than work a bellows all day long for me (I already know this is true), nor that you can construct a bellows using only hides (we know this to be true), so an electric blower seems like a good concession to make. Here are some of my questions: - Where can I get local ore? I know NW Georgia and as far south as Red Top Mtn had historic low-purity mines, and Birmingham AL had some very rich hematite operations, but I don't know how to get my hands on it. The mines aren't active so I doubt it's for sale, and from what I can see nobody actually sells ore in less than hundreds-of-tons orders anyway. Can I walk off with rocks from public land, e.g. I think I saw another post on here mention finding ore-bearing rocks around the shore of Lake Allatoona? Is there some other source I'm not considering? - How much ore should I be trying in a maiden attempt here? Too little would be frustrating for obvious reasons. Too much might make the process impractical (time or scale), or maybe reasons I haven't thought of (is it reasonable to break off a smaller hunk of the bloom to shape into a tool?). - Is a 1:1 charcoal:ore ratio appropriate, and is that by weight or by volume? - Any ideas on tuyere construction using primitive materials? Making terra cotta pipes with local clay sounds like a PITA but an option, but I'm not sure how I'd keep them from breaking in action. Should I give on this one? - How much clear space do I need around the bloomery to be safe? Horizontal and vertical (the backyard is heavily wooded, I'd have to do a LOT of cutting to get a 100% clear path to the sky). Also, when I started my little clearing I dug down 4-6" below the eventual floor-height, pulling out all the roots and such for fear of a forge on the dirt above getting hot enough to make them smolder right through the dirt... My research on charcoal-making has me convinced they could smolder and start a fire a week later when they finally hit open air. Am I being safe enough? - Recommended reading on bloomery / forge construction? I'm thinking square/round, angle and elevation of tuyeres, shape/size of mouth and should there be a depression so I can angle a slag-poker in there, so on. - Tongs? I don't want to be unsafe just to prove a point, but having some way to handle the hot stuff seems like it would've been a major obstacle to bootstrapping a local metal industry, so I'd like to at least think about how that could be done without already having iron. - What steps and resources am I leaving out? - What safety am I forgetting? Thanks!! -Steve
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