Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Why Bloom Iron ?- two

(day 5)

This will only be a fast post (and a bit out of sequence) as I'm off to Peterborough in a couple of hours for a public lecture :
Society for Creative Anachronism, Trent University, Peterborough Ontario
Lady Eaton College / Building 7, rm 208
7:30 PM

'Medieval Iron - an Overview'
A fast look over Iron as a material, iron work as a process, and iron objects of the Middle Ages. A focus will be to take a look at the kinds of objects of special interest and utility to the re-enactor. There will be a simple overview of blacksmithing equipment from the period - and what you would need to get started *historic* forging. Illustrated with images and replicas.

The objective of my iron smelting work has been to produce a very low carbon metal. This most definitely was the primary objective in 'ancient' times. A low carbon iron metal is easiest to forge, so is the desired material for general blacksmithing work.

'Redemption' Bloom - November 2006

Modern Artist Blacksmiths usually use the term 'traditional' when they are talking about equipment, methods, and by extension materials, from the 'Industrial Age' - being roughly 1800 - 1900. This brackets the last of the large scale bloomery furnaces and the invention and growth of the Bessemer furnace, so the last decades of commercial wrought iron metal. (Generally commercial wrought iron was out of production and use in North America by around 1900. Actual wrought iron metal has not been produced in industrial quantities any place in the world since roughly 1975. See : Wrought Iron Work : What it IS - What it MEANS.

In the last post, I referred to 'historical' as the period which brackets the implementation of water powered machinery (in Europe) - being roughly 1000 - 1800. This is a great generalization, because there are a huge number of changes in the methods used to produce iron within those centuries. There is a gradual shift from small scale direct bloomeries to larger scale more 'industrial furnaces' over that period. High carbon cast iron will begin to be produced into the 1500 - 1600's, plus the introduction of coke (from coal) as fuel.

Almost by default, I'm then referring to the time from the first discovery of iron smelting up to the end of the Viking Age becomes 'ancient' - roughly 2500 BC - 1000 AD. As this is a massive time frame, there are certainly a number changes in iron making processes. All however are some variation on the small scale direct reduction bloomery furnace.

It has been with this series of ancient furnace technologies that I have been directly experimenting and implementing.
'Celtic Iron Age' : A re-enactor using a simple drum type bellows with a ground pit blacksmithing forge

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February 15 - May 15, 2012 : Supported by a Crafts Projects - Creation and Development Grant

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