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I Forge Iron

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My grandfather worked with iron all his life. In a shed near his place of business was a square brick item about 4' x 4' and about waist high. It is filled with sand and has a pipe running through it that can be turned. Someone told me that he would pump hot air from his shop to this thing and he would smelt iron here. Have you ever heard of this? What would this be called? I can send a picture. I won't let anyone tear it down because it has historical significance to me. Can you tell me how this works?

 

Edited by Dianne Orr
correct spelling

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We need photos in order to be of any help to you.

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Photos from different angles and of all the details would be great.

Also, I love that we're getting a question about smelting from someone named "Orr"!

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Dear Dianne,

There may be a difference in terminology which might be getting in the way.  The technical definition of "smelting" is converting ore to a metal.  That is how most of us here on IFI understand the term.  On a large scale that is what is done in steel mills, ore, limestone, and coke in, metal out.  A lay person may not use the term correctly.  From what you describe the brick structure with an air pipe sounds to me like a forge.  A forge is used to get metal hot so that it becomes malleable and can be shaped with a hammer.  It is much more likely that he was blacksmithing with a forge rather than smelting raw ore on a small scale.

"By hammer and hand all arts do stand."

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And to throw in another term; many people confuse "smelting" iron with "melting" iron---very different things! ("Smelting" is like taking grain and grinding it into flour; whereas "melting" is like taking flour and baking bread with it.)

I agree it sounds like a forge to me.  The pictures will tell.

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Welcome aboard Dianne, glad to have you. It's almost undoubtedly a forge. A bellows would be used to pump air through the pipe to make the fire HOT and bring the iron/steel to working temperature. It's that large because there is no telling what will need to be repaired or made on a farm or for farmer customers. 

Are you still there, Darlin? 

Frosty The Lucky.

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