Iron Bloomery

Guys, (longtime lurker here)
I thought you might be interested in some metalworking content:
http://bellsouthpwp.net/m/o/molly9 /
These photos are from Red Top Mountain State Park's "Hills of Iron" program back in March. We gathered and roasted local limonite, made charcoal, built the furnace, and forged iron bars. We've done it 3 times now, successfully. Batting 1000.
I finally got around to making a webpage...no captions, but the images are a sorta timeline. I Hope the page is somewhat viewable; I'll answer questions if'n ya'll got em.
Dave
Demo smith and Ironmaster, Red Top
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Fascinating stuff! Just added it to my links list. I hope you go on recording your work.
Does the end result exhibit grain, like traditional wrought iron? Or is it more homogenous like modern mild steel? What is the final carbon content like, pretty low I'd assume?
Regards,
Adam Smith Midland, ON

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Adam Smith wrote:

Carbon content is low, as evidenced by the ability to hammer a bar.
We have not spark tested nor micro-looked for grain. I tell visitors it'll penetrate your bronze armour. I do have photos of a cut and polished section: it shows the usual embedded slag and porosity of the bloom. I'll try to post that as well.
It's "Charcoal iron", from local rock. And trees
~Dave
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:(
Access Denied. Bandwidth limit exceeded.
mark h
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Mark Henry wrote:

Me too. Looks like you guys are better at metal than Web. - GWE
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Grant Erwin wrote:

Apologies. Bellsouth cannot handle the visitorship. I'll fix that
~D
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Ditto, I'll have to catch it after midnight I guess...
That's what you get for posting your link on RCM, Dave. <g>
Tim
-- "California is the breakfast state: fruits, nuts and flakes." Website: http://webpages.charter.net/dawill/tmoranwms
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Try again....
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nada
Dave wrote:

--
















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Yer i cant get to it either.

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"Dave" wrote:

You might try compressing your images to conserve bandwidth; IrfanView is free and can be used for this purpose.
Jon
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Jon Danniken wrote:

I got on - nice set of pictures that is for sure. How many days did you cook wood for charcoal ? I would guess a number for that melt and for home.
Nice to take material out of the local forest and come up with something that you can work with and improve. Real metal.
Martin
--
Martin Eastburn
@ home at Lion's Lair with our computer lionslair at consolidated dot net
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Cool stuff. Is that built out of local limestone? How does that fare?
Tim
-- "California is the breakfast state: fruits, nuts and flakes." Website: http://webpages.charter.net/dawill/tmoranwms
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Worked great for me, Dave, first try. What a wonderful experience for you. That must be very rewarding.
Keep up the good work.
Harold
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Cool. I seem to remember reading that the vapors from charcoal making are used to provide the heat to make the charcoal. It looks like your vent is on top. Have you tried it at the bottom to use the vapor as fuel? Have you made anything from the steel? Karl

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Magnificent! Well done.
-- Jeff R.
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Very cool! I have wanted to do this for some time. Maybe you could include some text and drawings describing your work.
brad
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Hello, Dave.
I finally got through!
My first impression is that this is by far the most attractive looking catalin forge which I have ever seen. Whoever did the rock work on it is certainly a first class mason.
I first learned about the bloomery process from Thomas Powers, who is one of the "gurus" at the Anvilfire forum. I am sure that he will want to take a look at these pictures.
I understand that there was once a time when making and working wrought iron was what blacksmithing was all about, and that blacksmiths still prefer wrought iron to steel, because of its superior working characteristics.
Mike Mandaville Austin, Texas
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Thanks for the feedback and patience; I'm not sure how many hits Bellsouth takes before the Bwidth is exceeded. Meantime I'm leaving the pics up so that, well...."Diffusion of Knowledge" and all that.
Answers to questions... A 55 gal.drum of @ 200lbs of seasoned oak yields about 70 lbs of charcoal. There is a loss to powder and fines in crushing and screening of about 15 lbs. We save this to make "lute"(?)...clay/sand/ash/charcoal powder mix to re-line the furnace. Powder can also be mixed with water and starch or molasses to form briquettes of any size. Or...pyrotechnics!
The active cook time of the barrel is about 3-4 hours. The pics show the different phases of the process...from 15 minutes after lighting up till about an hour, fluffy white/gray steam exhales, which changes to steam/blue smoke. Blue smoke then dominates, rushing out through the holes in the lid (@6 SQ inches) with greater intensity until the gasses ignite. Ignition takes about an hour and a half, plus. At this point, we are Colliers, and we keep the heat to the barrel. It'll roar, and this gas can be piped underneath for more efficiency. After 4 hours or so, I lay on a last charge of wood fuel and cover everything with sheet roofing, seal the holes at the bottom with dirt, and go take a shower. The metal holds the heat in and reduces the burn rate of the fuel so that final cook time is longer. 12-14 hours later the metal covering is removed and any remaining fuel coals are scooped into another drum and sealed. This makes our preheat charcoal, as it is pine we use for fuel, and not as good for smelting.
The stone used to make the furnace is mostly schist taken from 300 feet away, and 30 feet downhill along the lakebed. Using a wheelbarrow, these rocks were EXPENSIVE! there is some local "Corbin Gneiss" as well as Tennessee fieldstone/limestone left over from other park projects. The furnace was first fired using vitrified clay thimbles as liners. Second firing we used refractory gasket rope and 5 gal metal buckets...this was all done on the fly, as I'm a volunteer, and we used what we had. The furnace now has a permanent liner of a product called "Kruzite castable". We formed it using 8 inch and 12 inch sonotubes. We lined it with the aforementioned lute, and that works well to keep molten stuff from adhereing to the walls. The shaft size is 8 inches diameter and 37 inches tall. The tuyere opening is 1-7/8 diameter and 10 inches above the base. This is permanent in kruzite, and allows for modification of sizes/configs. I built it overlarge to be able to "build down" and experiment. Packing clay to raise the base,config the taphole ETC.
Blower motor was found in an RCM'ers junquebox <G>, as well as most other hardware/plumbing. Peephole is local mica sheet and a ring magnet on a tee. Elegant.
I posted 2 pics that should have been on the clunky website to the dropbox: http://www.metalworking.com/DropBox /
Look for "Bloom.Txt" and "Bloom9011/Bloom8443"
~D
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Hi Dave, nice site. Regarding the bandwidth issue, the problem is not the number of "hits", but rather the quantity of data (measured in bytes) that is downloaded by your visitors. I looked at your site last night (between "bandwith exceeded" errors) and noticed that your large images are very data "heavy" (i.e., they have very large data byte sizes).
To reduce the problems with "bandwidth exceeded" errors, you need to optimize your photos so that they are not so data "heavy". You see, there are two parameters when discussing the size of digital images: there are the pixel dimensions (e.g., 800 x 600) which specify the viewable ("physical") width and height of the image; and there is the data size which specifies the amount of bits of information (measured in bytes, or 8 bits) in the data file that represents the image. (The problem you are experiencing is in this latter category.) Typically, there is a correlation between these two specs: a "physically" larger image (in terms of pixel dimensions) generally requires more data (bytes) to represent the image than does a "physically" smaller image. But there is another relationship between these two parameters: quality which determines how much data is used to convey a particular visual artifact within the image. To express this as a simple equation, you'd have:
dimensions X quality = data size
So there are two ways to reduce the data size of your images (so your web server does not exceed its bandwidth limits): reduce the pixel dimensions or reduce the resolution (or both). Most people like to see larger images, so we'll focus on reducing quality. Here's where the magic happens.
The human eye is an amazing device, but it is not designed to perform quantitative analysis of an image. In other words, it looks at patterns and colors and shapes, but does not individually analyze minute differences in adjoining pixes. So if two adjacent pixels in an image are very close in hue and/or saturation, we can make them identical and the eye won't be able to see the difference. In other words, we've (intelligently) reduced the actual quality of the image (less data), but the subjective quality -- what the eye can perceive -- is undiminished. And that's how image optimization programs work: they first reduce the amount of differences in the pixels of the image (so there is less image data to "describe"), and then they use mathematical algorithyms to further "compress" the data so that even less bytes are used to represent that image. Here's a simple example of a compression technique:
If your image data is: 11111100011110000 You could compress that to: 6x1,3x0,4x1,4x0
That simple example may not look like much of a savings, but the reality is that tremendous data compression can be achieved with these kinds of methods.
Ok, perhaps you don't want to know all the nitty-gritty that goes into digital image data compression. But here's what you should know: by using an image optimization program, you can take an 800 x 600 pixel image that "weighs" over 200,000 bytes, and compress it so that it only requires 20,000 bytes (for example). That will reduce your web server's bandwidth load by 90%. And the optimization programs are so good, that the human eye probably won't see much -- if any -- loss of quality (especially when that image is being viewed on a computer monitor). Of course, the more you compress the image, the more the visual quality of the image is reduced. But you can substantially reduce the data size of an image before it starts to look degraded.
There are a number programs to perform image optimization. I use Adobe Photoshop, but that is (an expensive) professional-grade graphics tool. There are some programs that are free and will do a fine job. Since I don't have a lot of experience with these other free or lower-cost programs, I can't make any recommendations. But people have mentioned IrfanView as a free option.
I hope this helps.
- Michael
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