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I Forge Iron

Greetings from South Carolina


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Hello to everyone. I just found this site today, and decided to join it. While I am not by any means a professional blacksmith, I do enjoy the art and the craft of working metals. By profession I am a professional archaeologist, which means that in better economic times I spend all my time in the field digging up the past instead of enjoying working iron.

However, thanks to economic downturn (unemployment for an extended period of time) I have finally been able to manifest a long-time dream and construct myself a forge and place to work once more. It's not very sophisticated by contemporary standards, but by mine it is paradise. It is based around a semi-subterranean pit lined with fired clay, paved with quartzite, and covered by a large steel dome. The tuyere is of fired clay molded around parallel bamboo sections, and the fuel is charcoal. Air power is from a box bellows. The anvil is currently a solid block of Carolina granite mounted on a large stump. It works great and I like it.

I hope to learn a lot from all you folks here at the site, and am more than happy to share anything I can with anyone who asks. Looking forward to a very productive and enjoyable tenure here. Thank you one and all who have made this site possible.

Alan Quartermaine Kirkland

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Welcome aboard Al, glad to have ya.

I would've thought solomon's mine would've eliminated the need to hold a paycheck job. Hmmmm? ;)

Sounds like you've designed your forge around examples from antiquity. I like maphic or ultramaphic boulders myself but our granite is rather coarse grained and not so great for anvils.

We'd like to see pics of your set up and some of your work. It's the perfect reply to the folk who are waiting till they get all the RIGHT tools to start smithing.

I think you and I could have a good time in the field.


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Solomon's mine kept its diamonds, barely got out of that alive. Lost the girl, but finally made it home. Found another girl, but, alas, no more treasure.

Thanks. It is actually an aggregate of elements from several culturally-different Iron Age smithy set-ups. The result is pure me, although I have to acknowledge the debt to the far-smarter prehistoric smiths who developed them. So far all this operation has really cost me is about $6 in string. Everything else was just paid for in sweat. The dome (I will provide pictures as soon as I find out how to post them) was donated by a friend who had it lying in his yard, and wanted to get rid of it. Originally this project was going to be a fired clay dome-and-chimney structure, but this is so much better.

It also makes its own charcoal (functions as a retort), fires ceramic vessels (functions as a kiln), and can be set up to melt with a crucible. I have been taking pages of notes the whole way through its construction and metamorphosis, and photographs.

As to my work, sadly I have not had the chance to really start making pieces with it as of yet. The first ceramic project was to fire a replica of a heart-shaped Bronze Age crucible, so that melting and pouring copper could be done. The only iron work has been to test the heat range with a railroad spike, and it did that just fine (even with the absence of forced air, just natural draft). My first project will be to make a set of all-purpose wolf-jaw tongs so that I can stop using a pair of channel-locks. Then a punch, chisel, and second hammer. THEN I can actually start making things. It's all about making the tools to make the tools to make the neat stuff.

But I will, and I will be glad to share my work with all interested. My whole objective was to make myself a smithy that utilized only the raw materials I had available to me around my home steading. So far, so good.

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For good reading about do it yourself field expedient smithing try: "The Complete Modern Blacksmith" By Alexander Weygers.

I used to work for the state of AK as an exploration driller with the foundations section of DOT. We spent most of our time somewhere camping near a bridge site in the Alaskan bush and I used to set up a field smithy when we were going to be on location long enough. Weyger's book became an immediate hit with me when I found it.

It doesn't really take more than campfire heat for general smithing, the coals are plenty hot. It isn't ideal for a number of reasons but it'll do in a pinch.

How are you mixing the clay for your crucibles? Copper is going to be a stretch as it's a pretty high temp melt and oxidizes easily. It's doable just not easy.


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