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I Forge Iron

Pig hunting meets blacksmithing

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I was pig hunting yesterday, when I found something interesting. The area where I hunt is in south east Ohio. The area (near to Chilicothe) was a big iron smelting center for many years. A lot of the old furnaces are still standing. Any way, I was scouting along an abandoned rail road bed. We had found where the porkers had been rooting up turtle eggs out of the rail embankment. The rail line runs next to a creek. We stopped to check it out, when my blacksmith spider sense went off. I saw poking out of the sandy crushed stone, a blob of iron. Overall, I found three or four big blobs of iron, one of which is pretty big.

I have attached a photo of one of them. My suspicion is that it is cast iron. I broke off a small piece and looked at the grain structure under my loop. Very brittle, and you could see flecks of graphite like material through out the iron. Either way, a very cool find.



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Hi Phil, if you found that chunk of iron near the site of one of those old 'iron ore ' furnaces, you probably already know that the iron they made in those was called( ironically) PIG IRON.

From what I can gather about the history of those furnaces, the name came from the shape of the molds they tapped the molten metal into, which resembled a sow with pigs.

I have pics of our local 'Laurel Furnace' in the Gallery.
I think pig iron is a close relative to cast iron, as it was quite brittle and had to be further refined to produce maleable iron.

So you went pig hunting and found pig iron.........that's cool!
James Flannery

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If any of you fine folks can get to, or live near enough to visit the area, those furnaces are pretty amazing. They are massive! The one near to where I was hunting is in the state park. It gives me a HUGE respect for what the ones before us had to go through just to produce iron. Mining the ore, limestone, baking it, loading all of that, plus the charcoal, tending it etc. All before front end loaders, trucks, electric! Just amazing. The hills around the furnace are just covered in tailings, cinders, etc.

That is pretty ironic, pig hunting, pig iron. Both are very useful to me, one just tastes better after 8 hours on my smoker.


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I went to the IronMasters conference they held at the U in Athens OH and the first day was a tour of some of the old Hanging rock iron smelting sites; one of the ones off in the woods still had it's original arched stone charging bridge in place---with a 50' tree growing out of it.

Monuments to Industry of years gone by. (The last of the old stone smelters in that region went out of blast around WWI) Some of the massive state parks or woodlands owned by paper companies were originally the coaling lands for the charcoal furnaces---they needed enough acres of trees that they would re-grow enough to use again by the time they worked their way around to them---lots of sq miles of trees!

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