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I Forge Iron

Fuel in medieval times

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13 hours ago, Dez Moore said:

I'm not sure what's so funny latticino, I'm perfectly serious

My apologizes, I thought you were joking. 

Very good info from Frank and Charles, as usual.  I believe the colliers typically belonged to a kind of societal outcast class, needing to live in the forest areas and tend their large burns.  I believe that historically they were responsible for a good deal of deforestation of old growth forests, but would have to research to confirm.  Check here to get you started: https://www.engr.psu.edu/mtah/essays/making_charcoal.htm.   I can see the colliers being a good source for a main character in a novel. Character development with movement through the steel making trades might be both educational and intriguing.

Good luck with your aspirations.

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2 hours ago, Latticino said:

I believe that historically they were responsible for a good deal of deforestation of old growth forests, but would have to research to confirm. 

In North America, yes. In Europe, much (perhaps most) of the wood burned for charcoal came from managed woodlands, especially coppices. That's very labor-intensive, so when the Europeans came to North America and found vast woodlands and few restrictions on cutting the stuff down, they went hog wild. A LOT of the North American forest went into charcoal to fuel local industry.

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We risk delving into the realm of religion here. As the peaple who lived close to the earth realy clung to their pagan roots at this time. The spirits and old gods became angels and saints. And along this path they became fae (fairies) 

as the amount of work required to fell large trees and split the logs to make charcoal greatly outweighed the work of gathering slash (from cutting timber for homes, furniture and ships) cutting slim overgrowth and copicing treats that put out water sprouts from their stumps. in japan they still make charcoal in this manner. It was not untile church and the gentry started seeing profit in industerilised iron making that felling large trees for charcoal production became viable from a labor stand point.  

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May I commend to your attention "Cathedral Forge and Waterwheel, Technology and invention in the Middle Ages" by Gies & Gies  which mentions that in some places coal was used for smithing in the high to late middle ages. Charcoal being used in parallel form the start of the iron age till *now*!

Two important items have already been mentioned Coppicing and WHERE, (If I said I was writing a coming of age story set in the 1950's and wanted to know what kind of car he would have had do you think it would make a difference if I said it was in Georgia, USA or Georgia Russia?)

Note that the smith would be BUYING his charcoal (or bartering) and not making it himself; just like he would buy his metal (exception: some early medieval remote Norse farms show evidence of both smelting bog iron ore and forging items).  It would be the apprentice's job to clean out the forge and size any charcoal that was too large.  Remember a "typical" blacksmith's shop in medieval time would have at LEAST 5 people working in it.  (Which may include female members of the household as there are Guild rules restricting women to working only in the Smithy of their Father, Husband or Brother...)

This is my area of interest so please feel free to send me specific questions either posting them or by pm. Note my answers will NOT be based on Hollywood, video games, or fantasy novels. Rather things like "Medieval Iron in Society", "The Knight and the Blast Furnace" "The Mastery and Uses of Fire in Antiquity" "The Sword and the Crucible", "The Celtic Sword", "The Sword in Anglo Saxon England", "Metallurgy in Archeology", "De Re Metallica", "Pirotechnichnia", "On Divers Arts"; Attending academic conferences on Medieval technology when I get the chance, etc.

Time period and place please---the medieval time period covered close to 1000 years and a wide range of locations. If I asked for modes of transportation used in the Americas over the last 1000 years, birchbark canoe, Saturn 5, papyrus raft,  horse back, trains, etc would all be proper answers!

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