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I Forge Iron

2013 "ore to knife" class

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I had the pleasure of running my annual" ore to knife" class last week.
 we worked all week , one smelt on monday built and run by me and then the students built and ran their own furnace building it on tuesday and running wednesday. 
 It was a full on week... and  hot!
 I was busy smelting on the monday so did not manage to get any photos on that day .
 ran smelt processed 40kg  of magnetite ore through furnace and got a nice solid 10 kg bloom (weighed after putting it under the hammer.....)
 the students started the furnace and materials processing.....
charcoal needed to be sorted into the rite sizes....
the furnace material needed to be mixed up ....equal parts horse manure , sand and cley (with a little hay chopped up in it.....)
The students decided to do a mix of magnetite and hematite for the second smelt . so rock needed breaking up...
then the furnace build began....
The initial base was dried with gentle aplication of a blow torgch to firm it up and then on with the furnace...
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Posted · Hidden by Glenn, July 30, 2013 - No reason given
Hidden by Glenn, July 30, 2013 - No reason given
the furnace needed adornment and this class had a real flair for that aspect .....
the snake was made from china clay and had a few problems while heating up.....
 first it started to curve...
and then explode....
after a hard days furnace building we lit a fire in the furnace and put it to bed to dry out overnight.........
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after a night of drying out the smelter is ready for lighting
A libation is pored ( a fine home brewed Norwegian beer)
and the burn is afoot.....
even though the smelt is afoot the decoration continues, ochre , charcoal and china clay as paint medium...
we make a guess at the sweet spot for slag tapping.......(turns out to be the wrong place but nice idea)
and the smelt continues.....
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we had numerous slag runs, If our slag daemon had still been intact this would have been about the right spot.
 My life will be forever changed by the echo of Jack Jack saying (like only he can)...... Ssslllaaag, I cant help hear it every time we tap the volcano.
the charges were meticulously weighed, this smelt was aiming for steel. every 10 minutes a charge was added. 2 kg charcoal was to 1.5 kg of ore (50% magnetite and 50% hematite), we were aiming for carbon steel...
hard work smelting , with all that charcoal burning a little impromptu cook up made sense. (while the furnace was being tapped) sirloin stake .....don't you know.
steak is good.....cut up with a knife made at last years class smelted from ore.....
finally the smelt was done , more votives were added to the fire...
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Do you collect your magnetite and hematite locally Owen? I'm not a blade guy but I do get an urge now and again. Starting from "dirt" and taking it to a finished blade is awfully tempting and there are a couple local guys who'd be pretty easy to talk into a weekend of fun with fire.


Collecting 10kg from 40kg ore sounds like a very respectable return. Did you put it directly under a steel hammer or did you start with wood? Was that 10kg of finished steel or?


Looks like a great group and a fine class. How much was "tuition?"


Thank you for posting the pics.


Frosty The Lucky.

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Dear Frosty,

 the magnetite ore I use is swedish processed ore , I bought 1.4 tonnes of it with my friend Mick maxen. we have around half a tonne left.

 The hematite is ore that has been mined by one of my previous students who is a hobby miner in cumbria...(which is pretty cool!!)


I have changed my point of weighing bloom , I used to weigh the bloom as it comes out of the fire with the slag knocked off , we used to get a steady 1/3 return on our ore . I now weigh it after squishing it under the hammer . I do this asap after knocking the majority of slag off. 1/4 now seems average (when using an ore to fuel mix of 50/50). 

 refining the flattend bloom reduces the product weight considerably often by a further 50%


I am not sure that I should mention tuition ....it may contravene site rules.

 this thread was just soposed to be a documentation of the process.


If you are interested in seeing any of the 8 pictures that have been removed from this thread  the whole thread is available in its un butchered form on other forum.

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During the running of the furnace we put 55kg of ore through and 90 kg of charcoal including the heat up and burn down cycle. the furnace ran for nearly 7 hours.
All things must come to an end and in this case it was a gentle kick that did it
With the furnace down there was a little digging around to find the bloom 
My current way of reducing the ore is to smack it flat under  my 200weight hammer, however before we do this a lot of the slag and crud needs to be removed from the bloom and so the good old sledge hammers come out.....
once the slag is knocked off we are left with the product of 7 people working hard for 2 days 
Here is the bloom (probably weighing around 15kg at this point)
its then off under the 200 alldays and onions where it becomes a nice dense pancake.
after 3 days of smelting and furnace building time for a beer.....in this case a Becks to put the bloom in perspective . The three pieces here are mondays and wednesdays blooms mondays at 10kg and wed at 11.5 so in old money thats 48 pounds of dense usable bloom.
so 3 days in and 50 lb of bloom.....
 In many ways that is just the beginning of the story , and certainly just the beginning of the work.
More to come.
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Day 4 ...Thursday...
 I set about bashing bloom.
 In the past I have found that making iron and then processing it into steel is a much simpler task that making steel and then having to process the steel into a usable form.
 the smelt on monday was such a success that we decided to aim for making steel on the second smelt and as a result we had both iron(y) and steel(Y) bloom to process.
 as I expected the iron was a lot easier to process than the steel.
 Leif (one of the students taking the class) squished down some steel bloom under my sahinla as he had experience using a similar hammer whilst I started bashing the iron bloom.....
 the other students squished bloom or practiced their forging.....
I decided to try and emulate a process I had seen on the internet posted by lee Sauder who managed to fold and form bar straight from a bloom.
 so I proceded to forge bloom.
I did the heating in my gas forge ... My forge runs hot enough to forge weld wrought iron materials. I burned a full bottle of gas (47kg) in a day and a half.
to my surprise the bloom came together into bar stock.
but needed a little babying under the hammer
I take my safety kit seriously but wearing my forge welding armour ment that I lost 7lb over the day , despite drinking copiously.
In the end it was worth it though, I managed to forge a solid 1.5 inch square bar pretty much straight from bloom, 6.5 kg in total and I must admit that this made me feel very chuffed.
 Having usable material after 3 hours of forging is quite an achievement . If I can emulate it its a real game changer for me and this material.
the bar behaved almost identically l to old wrought iron and from this point was a pleasure to forge out.
the steel bloom however was still a bit of a XXXXXX to work and despite being of a nice solid nature I needed to fold it up to 4000 layers before I was happy with it.
here is the steel bloom before folding.
I got a little involved in this process (bit of a battle as always) so did not take any photos for the rest of the day.
 In the end I finished processing material on friday morning. 
4.5 days into the process and we were now at what would normally be the beginning of the process ......
Ready to start forging and shaping blades from our san mai steel and iron bloom material.
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Thanks Owen, looks like a class to die for. Using refined ore helps convince me a two day trip to the closest magnetite outcrop I know of, coupled with how many folk and how long it took to get your results I'm thinking has convinced me to live vicariously through you.


I'll also be waiting with bated breath for pics of the blades you forge from that billet.


Try not to take edits too hard, recent abuses of the legal system have the IFI Admin pretty gun shy.


Frosty The Lucky.

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  • 2 weeks later...
And so we continue...
 4/12 days in to the class and we are at what would normally be the beginning of the bladesmithing process...
 we have taken ore (magnetite and hematite) and smelted it into 2 bloom one high carbon steel and the other lower. those two blooms were processes into bar stock with the high carbon steel as core material in a san mai (3 layer) billet.
 From this point on my photos get a little more spare as I was concentrating on making sure that we got knives made in the time allotted!
 The bloomery material is lovely to forge and grind almost as if it is rewarding you for all the hard work getting it to that state.
 so we started forging.....
Bashing out tangs....
and blades
There were a few de laminations but the great joy of this material is that it loves to weld to itself.......
When the forging was done we did one normalisation. My normal practice is to do 3 but I did not want to reduce the herdenability of the material  too much .so I stuck with just the one.
and then the grinding began, its a common misconception that forging is the most important part of being a bladesmith and in this case its certainly true, our blades were a nebulous blob of bloomery iron a couple of days ago.....
 However it is my experience that its the grinding that makes a lump of hammered steel into a blade.
 and so the grinding began...
It is my practice to grind blades to an even shape that has an edge thickness that will be thin enough to harden but is still thick enough to grind out warps. in this case the blades were ground a little thinner to make sure the bloomery steel would harden in oil.
so more grinding
when the blades were an even shape and had an edge thickness of 1.5mm or less they were hardened.
 unfortunately I didn't get any pictures of this... The blades were hardened from 800 DEG C into a commercial fast oil at 100DEG C . All the blades skated a file and a couple through hardened .
 I then tempered the blades at 200DEG C.....
so far so good...
 Back the grinders to thin blades down before final sharpening.
All the blades were sharpened on the belt grinder on the slack belt.
 It was quite possible to get this material to shave hairs, I love the crackl ping of a thin blade shaving hairs.
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all in all this was a satisfying and very busy week.....
Watching the rock turn into bloom , and then the bloom turn into steel bar and then the bar turn into knives .
 .....But all good things must come to an end and this was no exception.
 the last day was spent busy , sharpening blades and  burning in and shaping handles.
 The handles were glued on with hot cutlers resin (which I use a lot) .
 The students made very different knives from one another and I hope they went away with a realisation of what they had achieved during the week.
 Defiantly a journey of discovery  on many levels.
Here is the class after 7 days hard work.
and their blades and finished knives , everybody opted for a knife shape they would use after the class. From rock to .......
and some close ups of the hada...
I would like to thank my students for a great class, It was a real pleasure to help you all along with this week. Personally I have emerged from it with a new eye to the material and a fiercer flame kindled as a result.
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Looks like a great class. Very cool indeed to go through the process of ore right the way through to a knife.

One day i'd love to do this sort of this, but make a hammer out of it.


I'm intrigued about your student that is a 'hobby miner' Owen.

I go to the Lake District a lot to walk the mountains and am always interested in the mining industry. Are they on this site by any chance? I'd love a chat about that!

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  • 1 month later...

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