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Process I learned this weekend


Joshua States

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This process is for me two distinct 

methods. One method to make steel or cast iron the other to combine the resulting metal with a lower carbon iron. Jeff Pringle has been making “Wootz” for a long time by supplying carbon from the crucible body and/or added carbon…..I do not know if he adds borax or not. I am curious in Jeff’s situation what% of the carbon is coming from the crucible vs the added charcoal. I have assembled a crucible where the only available carbon is coming from the contents of the crucible….I will run it for an hour at high temp and have a look to see if any of the sand has been reduced to iron. I will keep you posted.

Below is a pic of some carbon bonded magnetite sand I added roughly 900grams to the  crucible.

This stuff has been sitting around for about 8-10 years , time to use it or get rid of it.

IMG_4556.jpeg

Edited by Jan Ysselstein
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49 minutes ago, Jan Ysselstein said:

I do not know if he adds borax or not.

 

Not.  He uses clay graphite crucibles, white cast iron, wrought iron, sometimes a bit of ferrovanadium, and crushed Heineken bottles.  Well, green glass, anyway.  Ric Furrer specified Heineken once upon a time, dunno if he still uses them.  The glass makes a better oxygen barrier than relying on the melt's own slag, and acts as a flux as well.  

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@Jan Ysselstein

The finished blade is here: Antler handled blade - Show and Tell - Bladesmith's Forum Board (bladesmithsforum.com)

 

 

From what I have been able to discern from talking with Jeff, he has very loose control (if any) over what goes into his crucible. 

He once told me "if it's ferrous, it goes in".

From watching another smith forge out Jeff's "Wootz", (in photos online) Jeff also has a very loose definition of wootz.

Don't get me wrong. I am not disparaging his methods or his product. I don't have personal experience with either one, so I can't render an opinion.

It's pretty easy to make crucible steel, but not all crucible steel is wootz.

5 hours ago, Jan Ysselstein said:

This stuff has been sitting around for about 8-10 years , time to use it or get rid of it.

 

I have some similar product, but in much rougher shapes. I have been considering throwing it in a short stack furnace to see what happens.

It looks like this.

 

Nuggets (2).JPG

 

Nuggets (4).JPG

“So I'm lightin' out for the territory, ahead of the scared and the weak and the mean spirited, because Aunt Sally is fixin’ to adopt me and civilize me, and I can't stand it. I've been there before.”

The only bad experience is the one from which you learn nothing.  

 

Josh

http://www.dosgatosdesignsllc.com/#!

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCdJMFMqnbLYqv965xd64vYg

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Joshua,  I am away from my books right now but I have a book by John Percy. in this book he describes an historical Asian process very much related to what we are trying to do in a short stack and in my sealed crucible. I will look it up when I get home. Google books also has a copy on line but I am really tired, manana. The crucible has zero control over the end product.

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https://www.google.com/books/edition/_/RYpBAAAAIAAJ?hl=en&gbpv=1

Looking at page 265 and the description of a long abandoned iron making process.  The magnetite sand is added to the furnace stuck to moist charcoal. I did not know the reason for this until I gained some experience with magnetic sand (ore). To get the most effective reduction of iron sand ore particles should not be bunched up. together. If bunched they will start sticking and create a large mass ( of reduced and unreduced ore ). Samples of this phenomenon should still be somewhere in the retained. This separation of ore particles can be achieved in the short stack furnace by using very small (100 grams) ore additions an adding them carefully. Mixing the ore with organic material, heating them , should create some degree of separation between particles  I thought at the time. We will see in a few days.

 

The crucible borax method does not rely on this arrangement…the short stack and the charcoal in the crucible do.

 

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Thanks so much for posting that, Jan.  I knew every time I tried to smelt magnetite in a short stack it just gummed up the furnace, but I was thinking my ore had too much hornblende mixed in.  I've downloaded that book.  I may even see if I can reclaim one of the four buckets of powdered magnetite I gave a potter friend!  Years ago Chris Price and I went to an abandoned magnetite mine and collected several hundred pounds of "sand" from the site of the crushing mill, but it never smelted for either of us.  Extremely magnetic, works in a crucible with lots of loss to slag, but no dice in a stack.  We were treating it like roasted goethite, that was the problem...  I eagerly await your experience with that "ore." 

 

 

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It will be this week. I had told Frank at Mustache forge I would try to scale down  a large furnace to one making enough iron for at least a blade.  Little over a pound of iro/steel should be enough for a blade. How nice it would be for a buyer of a blade to know it went through the whole process … maybe even attend or get a few pics of their stee being made.

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Thanks for the book link. That's a rabbit hole......

You mean page 265 by the book page (rather than page 265 on the PDF page counter). Book page 265 is Smelting in the Nonkreem Valley and does contain a description of a furnace roughly 6 feet tall using sand stuck to moist charcoal.

Page 266 (PDF) or 237 (book) has a fascinating description of how they made the crucibles. They used a charcoal coating on the interior and then baked the crucibles until hardened. I have tried a new crucible treatment which I just posted about in the other thread.

 

The only direct reduction attempts I have tried other than the small button making at the beginning of this thread, was putting approximately 1 kg of sand into a crucible with powdered charcoal and mixed the two as evenly as I could manage. This lead to a carbon boil and the chunks seen above. 

“So I'm lightin' out for the territory, ahead of the scared and the weak and the mean spirited, because Aunt Sally is fixin’ to adopt me and civilize me, and I can't stand it. I've been there before.”

The only bad experience is the one from which you learn nothing.  

 

Josh

http://www.dosgatosdesignsllc.com/#!

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCdJMFMqnbLYqv965xd64vYg

J.States Bladesmith | Facebook

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Joshua , thank you , I took a look at page 237 and the charcoal lined crucibles, the mystery crucible is also brasqued with carbon and some free carbon was also added. I think by the time the dust settles we will have enough info to Point us in the right direction.

Edited by Jan Ysselstein
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Here are a couple of pics.

Agglomerating partially reduced ore

An upside down small stack charcoal furnace

a sealed, brasqued crucible full of carbon, organic matter and unreduced magnetite sand

 

The agglomerated-partially reduced ore has a reduced surface area and will work its way down the furnace with lots of unreduced ore.

 

IMG_3518.jpeg

IMG_3519.jpeg

IMG_3522.jpeg

Edited by Jan Ysselstein
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9 hours ago, Jan Ysselstein said:

Agglomerating

I learned a new word!

 

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“So I'm lightin' out for the territory, ahead of the scared and the weak and the mean spirited, because Aunt Sally is fixin’ to adopt me and civilize me, and I can't stand it. I've been there before.”

The only bad experience is the one from which you learn nothing.  

 

Josh

http://www.dosgatosdesignsllc.com/#!

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCdJMFMqnbLYqv965xd64vYg

J.States Bladesmith | Facebook

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https://www.etsy.com/shop/JStatesBladesmith

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I have added another 120 grams of carbon to make sure the crucible has an XS of carbon to complete the reduction. My plan is to try to keep the temperature below the eutectic of 1140 deg C ….that is the lowest temperature at which liquid iron can start to flow…run at low temp for 2-4hrs then give it a high temperature blast for about 1/2 hrs.  I am very nervous to do this as it could ruin my furnace …

I have a graphite crucible standing by incase this first one is a bust.

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The crucible was running for two hours and at very hot for about 20min.

It was pulled is cooling  in rice husks. This is an absolutely awesome experiment and for once it went according to my hypothesis. I will look at it in the morning….) …..The fact that a ceramic crucible did not fail is an indicator that the ore was reduced in the two hours at heat. I have a hope the test will give us enough info to move to a new process. Let’s do the arithmetic …let’s say I added 1000 grams….that would contain 720 grams of iron …our yield would be based on the 720 grams. Some pics.

IMG_4570.jpeg

IMG_4571.jpeg

IMG_4575.jpeg

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Not quite what I was hoping for , a large black mass of mostly reduced iron powder. I placed the powder in the path of my torch flame and noticed all sparks of burning iron …..no carbon bursts anywhere …all iron. I will haves look later at more detail. I will take a shot at the short stack

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Bummer.  Thanks for trying it, though.  The only time I tried direct crucible reduction of magnetite we used a little crushed oyster shell and charcoal along with the iron sand.  Got a small button of medium-carbon steel and a huge volume of slag.  Tai Goo has done it with better results, again using oyster shell.  Maybe the tenacity of magnetite requires a CaO flux?

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6 hours ago, Alan Longmire said:

Bummer.  Thanks for trying it, though.  The only time I tried direct crucible reduction of magnetite we used a little crushed oyster shell and charcoal along with the iron sand.  Got a small button of medium-carbon steel and a huge volume of slag.  Tai Goo has done it with better results, again using oyster shell.  Maybe the tenacity of magnetite requires a CaO flux?

Thanks Alan, though it did not produce a solid steel it was not all bad. All ore was reduced to iron. The oyster shells may be useful here to provide CO2 in order to maintain the CO level. I will do it again after a little reading. I will do the short stack using an adhesive that is water soluble , very diluted. Spray the charcoal sprinkle some ore on it and throw it on the fire….I am going to test common things like sticky rice flour, PVA and glucose. I will keep you posted.

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Tomorrow I will try the short stack. My fear is the furnace may be too short to allow for the stratification of the cast iron and the slag. If that does not happen the little bloom will not be very photogenic and will require more work than a clean one. Here are a couple of pictures of what cast iron blooms normally look like . I am holding back on the video showing the sparks of burning reduced iron from the first crucible until I run a couple more and we can contrast the various types of sparks as they change. 
I think I have done the math for the next crucible smelt as well…..but will need a couple of runs to pin down what is actually going on. Exiting times.

The two pictures show cast iron blooms which I will soon have to begin using when my bucket of bits runs out.IMG_4590.jpegIMG_4589.jpeg

 

 

 

 

 

Edited by Jan Ysselstein
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To keep things simple I will open the two experiments in separate posts. One on the short stack for making cast iron from magnetite sand  the other in making crucible steel ( cast iron?) from magnetite sand.

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23 hours ago, Jan Ysselstein said:

The two pictures show cast iron blooms which I will soon have to begin using when my bucket of bits runs out.

Any idea what the C content is? Any idea what other elements are in that?

These look very cool just as they are, but I'm wondering if they can be combined with the pure iron, wrought, or even mild in a standard crucible melt to yeild High-C steel?

Sort of averaging out the C content.

One of my first crucible melts used some of the cast iron buttons left over from Frank's sand melts with some pure iron. The result was less than satisfying, but that was most likely because I didn't have the furnace tuned yet.

 

Puck top.JPG

 

Etched puck.JPG

 

“So I'm lightin' out for the territory, ahead of the scared and the weak and the mean spirited, because Aunt Sally is fixin’ to adopt me and civilize me, and I can't stand it. I've been there before.”

The only bad experience is the one from which you learn nothing.  

 

Josh

http://www.dosgatosdesignsllc.com/#!

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCdJMFMqnbLYqv965xd64vYg

J.States Bladesmith | Facebook

https://www.facebook.com/dos.gatos.71

https://www.etsy.com/shop/JStatesBladesmith

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I have had the blooms of mixed low and high carbon iron tested ...they averaged 99.6 % iron and carbon combined, 3 tests.

 

I used to go to the Japanese sword shows in August of every year. I showed some of the smaller cast iron pieces to Yoshindo Yoshihara who advised me to use 3.2% carbon as a good estimate of the carbon content. That was about 20 years ago and I have been using that number ever since....I mix 50/50 of this cast iron with wrought and/or homemade iron to create a wootz ingot.

Edited by Jan Ysselstein
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Oh crap. Thanks Joshua and Jan. Now I'm super interested in yet another aspect of metal work. At this rate, I'm never getting back to making pots.

 

This looks like something you can do with a hand hammer. Okay. Time to make a foundry. Sigh

 

Taylor

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