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JeffEvarts

Believe-ability of "primitive" iton smelting videos

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Youtube is repleat with fake-science videos, but these do not seem to be those. I have seen a couple "primitive technology" channels on youtube who have done other credible fire-technology work claim to reduce iron using very simple hand-spun centrifugal fan blowers made from sticks and mud. Here are two examples:

Both, if you click on their  channels, appear to have made iron, but I'm having trouble believing it. I have smelted copper in a bowl forge (MUCH easier) using hand-pumped bag bellows, and that was certainly hard enough for the 1.5hr time required to get the temperature up and allow the metal to cohere. I've also smelted iron twice: once with 4 people operating  4 sets of double hand bellows, and once with an electric blower, both took substantial fractions of a day.

I just can't imagine that these guys are getting enough air through these dinky little stack furnaces using spinning sticks to actually reduce iron in the (apparently) much-less-than-a-whole-day time frame.

Main Question: Anyone have practical experience trying to do human-powered forced air iron smelting? (regardless of the non-powered tools)

Second Q: Anyone done it like these guys?

-Jeff Evarts

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I have only smelted with electric blowers, so no hands-on experience with these guys' techniques.  I hate to sound like one of those ignorant youtube commenters, but here is my (non-ignorant, I hope) take on it:

The first guy's setup would certainly work for a very small furnace, say around a gallon capacity, capable of producing unconsolidated bloom bits in  1.5-2 hours, based on my experience with the Aristotle furnace.  I have serious doubts about the wickerwork one.

/begin youtube rant mode/ I find it interesting that both of these "primitive" guys are using a modern idea (the centrifugal blower) instead of the actual primitive tech that has been proven to work for thousands of years.  Bag bellows,  single or double-acting bellows, Japanese-style box bellows, even the piston-type blowing engine (itself similar to the bamboo tube pump bellows used in southeast Asia) common in the late 18th-early 19th centuries.  These all preceded centrifugal blowers, they all did the job well, and all could be built and operated by a single person if need be. If you're going to try to do something, it pays to know how it used to be done.   I yawn in their general direction. :lol:  I mean, with all that bamboo, dude #2 could have easily rigged a pair of single-acting tube pumps in far less time than it took him to try to engineer something that never existed.  His own iron-age ancestor would have had the bamboo tube-bellows ready to go before he himself had gotten the second hole drilled in his fan shaft. :rolleyes: /rant mode off/.

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I have extremely limited experience with this stuff and I think I've see the first video before (won't load at work). I just watched the bamboo one (well, skimmed through it because it was a lot of wasted footage) and I have to agree with Alan. I think the centrifugal fan replaced the mechanical bellows largely because a mechanical advantage could be applied to the drive, thus lowering the input energy and increasing the output air flow. Neither of these two guys used that technology.

In all fairness to the "primitive skills" genre of boobtube videos, they are not trying to recreate the technology from a historical perspective. They are trying to apply modern knowledge to survival skills should the apocalypse happen. It's the lack of knowledge in the progression of the technology that makes them fall short. The resultant lump of stuff that came out of those furnaces looks remarkably like iron or steel to the ignorant eye. It also looks remarkably like the lump of stuff that came out of my first remelt attempt, and like the stuff that Mark Green lets flow out of his furnaces to consolidate on the ground and be cast aside as slag. While these lumps could make a nice pinging sound when knocked against a rock, I would never even think of trying to create a tool out of them, let alone a weapon. Unless of course I planned on really trying to figure out how the human race used their first attempts at smelting to make a weapon's tech advance.

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