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So, I was cordially invited to participate in an iron smelt sometime this spring. In the discussion about how it was going to happen, I mentioned that I was preparing to make a bunch of softwood charcoal (https://www.bladesmithsforum.com/index.php?showtopic=32964&page=13, post #253) and would gladly contribute all of it, should I be able to participate. So, today I tried it out. First I had to build the retort. I'm using the barrel off of a small cement mixer that the motor burned out. I cut the bottom off a barrel I got with about 45 gallons of heat treating oil for the burner area and made an opening for the burner. I split the wood into roughly 2x2x17 inch long pieces and loaded the retort. The cover is 3/16" plate with a bunch of drilled holes and a handle. I have an old plumber's stove (for melting lead) and I was going to use this as the heat source. After dicking around with it for about 15 minutes, I decided to just use some old pallet wood and build a small fire. After about 10 minutes, it started to off-gas through the holes in the retort cover. It was still smoking after the fire went out about 45 minutes later. I fed the fire a little anyway and it was cooking really well for a couple of hours. The funny thing is, it wasn't really hot. I could touch the top & sides of the retort with a bare hand. It's been cooking for about 3-1/2 hours now. and I'm letting it do its thing. More tomorrow morning.
I wanted to start a thread where I could document an ambitious project I've started on, working with the Claude Moore Colonial Farm in northern Virginia, to demonstrate iron-making in a period-appropriate fashion. The farm is the only privately operated National Park in the US, and demonstrates year-round a 1771 tobacco farm. Staff work the fields, run the farm house, and offer interpretive services year-round, there's a book store, several activities with gardening and animal husbandry, and three times a year they hold a Market Fair which has some things in common with a Ren Faire, except without any of the fantasy. Volunteers running booths dress appropriate to the time, and offer demonstrations of arts and crafts from the time in character. While they have a blacksmith who's worked the Fair for the last 5 years, the question often arises "where did the iron you're working come from?" My attempt will be to offer a visual answer to the industry preceeding the blacksmith's work in the 18th century, in the guise of an itinerant iron master. With full disclosure of the large Iron Plantations (Hopewell Furnace being a choice example) along the East Coast, smaller works were also in abundance, and so we'll show what one of those works at "farm scale" might have looked like.
I was wandering if it is possible to take regular mild steel (table legs, steel cans, fridge doors etc.) And make it usable for knifes. I was thinking about making a tatara/bloomery and processing it through that instead of iron sand. Of course it would have to be cut up real small but I enjoy the extra work as long as it's not a waste of time. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.
I wasn't sure whether to post this in the Bloomers and Buttons section or not. I have several pieces of steel laying around including some broken files and such. My question is could I put those into a crucible with some mild steel to get a larger piece with a more reasonable carbon content? I'm not asking for practicality, just curiousity. Thanks