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Andrew W

My first smelt attempt (partial success!)

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First off, hello! This is my first post here--I've been lurking for months, reading the archives and enjoying how much knowledge everyone has shared. I appreciate what you've all built here.

Last week I smelted iron for the first time. I'm a medieval technology historian, and my book-research specializes in early medieval English iron bladesmithing. I'm also a novice bladesmith, and I've always wanted to smelt my own iron, since I saw Darrell Markewitz give a demo at the Kalamazoo ICMS in 2013. I drove up to Mark Green's place in December, and he walked me through the process. I was excited to build my first stack and try for myself.

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And I made metal!

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Unfortunately, my tuyere melted part way though (I used a ceramic kiln shelf support, and it didn't make it). I think this is what caused most of the slag in my stack to freeze up. I still got 4lb of iron (as well as a bucket full of iron-heavy slag for resmelting later), so I'm pleased for a first attempt.

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I've got a copper pipe on the way for next time, and I'm hoping I can achieve a solid bloom on try #2 next weekend.

So far, the iron is forging up well!

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Here are two blog posts with some more photos and a discussion of the equipment I used, if anyone's interested:

1) http://andrewwelton.com/smelting-iron-a-first-attempt/

2) http://andrewwelton.com/forging-a-bloom-into-iron-bars/

Thank you to everyone here for sharing so much knowledge. You helped me avoid a lot of newbie mistakes :)

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Edited by Andrew W
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Welcome aboard!  Very nice return for your first smelt, too.  Of course, having Mark to help advise is worth its weight in ore. B)  Looks like you got a little cast in that pic on the stump.  All of which reminds me, one of these days I have 50 lbs of nasty, quartz-filled high-phosphorus ore to smelt...

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"Looks like you got a little cast in that pic on the stump."

I did, yes (600g when I sorted it, and 1840g low-carbon iron). I found most of the cast down in the bottom when I tidied up. I've added it to the "once I make enough to decarb in an Evenstad hearth" pile.

Edited by Andrew W

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Awesome! Thanks for the links too. Nice documentation on the process and failure points. Like Alan, I too have 50 pounds of ore waiting. It's magnetically screened and sifted Arizona black sand. There's also about 160 pounds of charcoal in closed bins, and about 100 fire bricks waiting. I need to quit my day job.........:(

Can you expand on that ore recipe from DARC, or provide a link to it?

Edited by Joshua States

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47 minutes ago, Alan Longmire said:

it is a VERY deep rabbit hole with no end...

Never Ending Bottomless GIF - NeverEnding Never Ending GIFs

Sorry Alan coulndn't resist on that one.   I may have to read up on that one.

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21 hours ago, Alan Longmire said:

Be warned, once you jump into Darryl's blog it is a VERY deep rabbit hole with no end...

Not another one.....

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Nice man!

Hey, I don't know if it would work, but I can get mild steel saw shavings by the bucket... Cheating by standards of some I know, but it's here and it's free B)

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Checked the mail tonight and found this waiting for me.

 

Ready for round 2 :)

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hooyah! 

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The steel I made in this smelt has worked up very nicely.

(The welded-on edge of the longest blade is hearth steel I made from scrap metal from the shop floor—everything else is bloomery steel from this smelt).

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Nice. Keep us posted on how those progress.

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Nice going sir! You have some handsome work there.

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What Charles said, i would be very interested in seeing those blades when they are finished, very nice looking so far. 

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Here are three of them!

Horn handles, as per the early Anglo-Saxon period originals on which they're based.

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Looking good!  Especially the top one.

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My second and third tries went well!

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Smelt #2 gave me a nice big bloom! So I fired up the furnace again the next day.

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And made another :). We managed to hammer this one thinner and cut it in half.

14lb and 8lb, including the fluff. I used less ore on the second smelt, so I'm happy with the lower yield.

The copper tuyere made the difference. No airflow problems, no rogue hot spots, and the blooms formed exactly where they were supposed to.

The second, smaller bloom is a bit dry. I turned my back for 5 minutes and the tuyere backed up. I tapped the slag and saved it in time, but I think I overcompensated. My goal is to strike a better balance on attempt #4.

 

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Next, I took all the fluff that came off these three smelts and ran it through a hearth.

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This is about 3lb of scraps. Some of it's cutoffs from the knives I made from smelt #1, some of it's cast iron, and the rest is crumbly bits that flaked off the bloom while we were compacting it. I tossed it all into the hearth.

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And I got a lovely lump of steel!Image may contain: outdoor and food

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That's half the steel right after I folded it to 18 layers.

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Way to go!  

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I know what I'm doing next Wednesday.

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