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/tg/ - Traditional Games

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From the "setting inspirational" side of things. A brief pictorial guide to making iron, and a few related bits of scenery. Pictures will be re-ordered a bit from the order in which they were taken to make things flow a bit mroe logically. To copy this expect three days of labour for seven people who haven't got a clue what they're doing, and one guy with twenty years of experience.

First we'll need a good pile of charcoal. Fill a large steel drum with wood.
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The barrel is open both top and bottom, it stands on a grid to keep the wood off the ground. Now put on the lid, add an air intake on the far side and a chimney near the camera, and then seal up everythign else with soil.
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Light a fire at the bottom of the chimney to get the airflow going, then push in some burning tar-rich wood through the air inlet until it sits right under the middle of everything. Eventually there will be a lot of smoke.
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Eventually the one big chimney and inlet is replaced with three smaller ones. If things slow down a bit much, pop the lid and let things get going. Stand any closer than the guy in the blue shirt here and you can kiss your eyebrows goodbye.
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Once things are going you put the lid back on and hope things work out better this time. Eventually you'll get some charcoal, around 50% of the volume is lost along the way.
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A lot of smoke.
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I am intrigued. Keep going.
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Charcoal-chopping not pictured, as I spent that evening in the ER.
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Next go out into the forest and dig up some soil.

It helps if the soil in that specific spot happens to be bog iron.
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Get a few logs, splitting mauls, wedges, sledgehammers and saws. Get to work.
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Assemble like this, and make a fire on top of the hole you left in the middle. Once the fire is going, poke it down through the hole.

The ore seen here isn't the same as dug up two posts ago, it's from another place two counties south. What we dug up has a mid to lowish iron content, this stuff has a high iron content. Contrary to what could be expected the best thing to do isn't to just use the high iron ore, it's to "dry", so the slag won't run off properly. A low iron content on the other hand means you won't get as much iron per run. So you want somethign in between, and if necessary you mix ores, or a high iron ore with somethign that contains no iron at all but makes a nice slag.

We roasted the high iron ore instead of the local ore because the guy running the whole thing had a good supply of roasted local ore, but was running low on roasted high iron ore.
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While things burn, start chopping a lot of firewood. Maybe 300kg or so.
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Pretty much done here. Note how the ore has gone from orange to red.

Roasting the ore helps drive out water that's gotten locked into the crystalline structure, and thus wouldn't dry out after a century in the Sahara. it also oxidises any FeO and Fe2O3 into Fe3O4, which might seem like a bad thing since our ultimate goal is to reduce everything to just plain Fe in the end. However, Fe3O4 ends up more porous than the others, and stays so as we reduce it, so that the reducing gasses can get to all the iron much more easily. So Fe3O4 is what we want.

If things get too hot during the roasting small amounts of slag will start seeping out, mixing with the ore to make bluish grains. This is bad, as the slag encloses the ore and keeps it from reacting. Crushing the slag grains fixes this.
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Get rid of any bits of wood and coal with a sieve, mix suitable amounts of the two ores.
Caps anyone ?
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We'll try out two different furnaces here. First is a pit furnace, which has a cylindrical bottom part, and then widens out at the top. Start with keeping a slow fire burning in it for a few hours. This dries it out, and warms up the surroundings so it won't get cooled down as much. Then we fill the bottom part with firewood, the firewood used for that should be as long as the cylindrical part is high, all standing upright. Next line the upper part with .longer sticks. And finally dump a bunch of smaller sticks in the middle.

The charcoal we made is for the other furnace.

The heat of the furnace will ignite things on its own. Once again there will be lots of smoke.
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It's good to have some charcoal at hand though. When the fire breaks through the wood, dump some charcoal on there to partially smother it. I think that's to make sure one spot doesn't burn down a lot faster than the rest.
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Assorted tools.
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When the wood has turned to charcoal you get someone on the bellows, and add the ore. I poured on two scoops, and lost most of the hairs on my right forearm in the process.
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When the level of the charcoal has gone down to the start of the cylindrical section, up the airflow. When the charcoal is mostly gone you're done.
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There's probably going to be a hunk of slag on top, pry that loose and lift it out. Then get the flat-tipped iron spit and chop the iron bloom loose from the walls of the furnace. The lift out the bloom, and once out, squeeze it together as best you can as it's quite porous.
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Before it cools too much, grab a large wooden mallet and try to pound off/out some of the coal, slag and porosity.
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Then it's off to the forge to beat some behaviour into the iron. Here's yours truly having a go with the sledgehammer.
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The end result.
Awesome stuff so far. Genuinely makes me curious about similar modern adaptations against things we consider old-fashioned and their modern uses as opposed to what we put this stuff to work as, back in the year dot.
... wut?
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Next is the shaft furnace. This is just a cylindrical shaft in shape. Also, while the pit furnace had a tuyere (the tube you blow in air through) extending into the furnace, the shaft furnace (or at least this shaft furnace) simply has a hole, which the pipe from the bellows stops a bit in front of.

The advantage of the hole is that the tuyere plugs up with slag quite easily. The downside is that the furnace gets the hottest where the air gets in, which in this case is right at the wall. As a result quite a good chunk of the wall simply disappears each run.

Just as with the pit furnace, you want to pre-heat it for quite a few hours. Then to get it going you toss in a few buckets of firewood, once again producing huge amounts of smoke. Get the bellows going right away.

I should probably mention. You add half the ore at first, wait a while, and then add the rest.
Most of the people reading this would look at the pics and say "wow look at that place its so messy and wild", but when confronted to the place I grew up into looks like a fucking manhattan private clinic room. man...
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I think you can guess how all of this smells.
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As the firewood burns up and turns to coal, fill the furnace to the brim with charcoal. Wait a while, then poke things so that the settles down. Fill up to the brim again, then add a bit of ore on top, and some more coal over that. Let things burn down so that the coal is level with the top of the furnace again, and then add more ore and coal. Repeat until all the ore has been added, a dozen or more times for us IIRC.
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Well, we had a proper house to sleep in, with both a door and two windows. Indoors and outdoors fireplaces for cooking, and running water in the stream outside. Plus I got to keep most of my food for myself, the mice only nibbled on a pair of apples.
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With all the ore added, keep the bellows going until the charcoal is pretty much gone.
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Towards the end, increase the air flow to warm things up in the hopes of getting the slag the run off. If things go well it'll look like this.

We did two runs in this furnace. The slag didn't want to run off properly for the other run, so it certainly isn't a given that it does.
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The ore is probably mostly iron and silica, possibly combined to form fayalite or similar. It behaves quite a bit like glass, once cool it turns a bluish grey with a metallic lustre.
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First beating of the bloom from the run where the slag didn't want to leave. So a lot of it falls off here instead, hopefully without taking too much iron with it.
pretty damn jealous OP, continue.
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After the blooms from the shaft furnace had been through primary forging in the forge on-site all three where taken to a more modern facility a bit away to be shaped into bars and cut up so everyone could get a chunk. Doing this with sledgehammers would have taken more time than we had, and probably more skill too...
where did you do this and how do I do this?
Pant apples?

>continue, this is the good stuff, no wonder blacksmiths got all the sex
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End result.

Left we have 1/7 of the iron from the pit furnace. As it is you can use it to make nails, hinges, hooks, etc. For a sword or similar folding is recommended.

On the right is half the iron from the not so successful run of the shaft furnace. Here we'd need a bit of folding just to make a decent bar out of it. We drew lots for that one, and the two halves of the not so good run.

The two smaller bits at the bottom are slag.
Shit that is a lot of work for two measly bars. I suppose if you had all the steps ready it's be an assembly line, but damn.
So will our friend Kay Em be doing a bit of swordsmithing in the future? May I suggest anything but the katana.
There's a reason we swtiched to mines.

This appears to be blacksmithing for the farmer, not the soldier.
On a scale of Perez Hilton to Theodore Roosevelt, how manly did this entire process make you feel?
Thanks for the album cover.
Im guessing English is not your primary language. However I am glad you shared this with us. It was extremely interesting.
Mind if I get this archived?
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On the history side of things I guess the air breathing shaft furnace might be one of the oldest, if not the oldest, means of turning iron ore into metal. At some point bellows were added. The bellows we had for the shaft furnace were a kind introduced in the 16th century, though not common until the 19th.

The shaft furnace turned up in the region in the middle ages IIRC. The one we used, including the bellows, was based on a book from the 18th century. Just across the stream from where we were there was actually the remains of a 14th century pit furnace. Sadly an old, now partially stone-lined pit in the ground doesn't make for interesting photos...

There were something like 94 known medieval pit furnaces just in the parish we were in. This is probably due to the huge amount of wood needed to feed the furnaces. And since proper saws where rare at that point in time, healthy trees were seldom sued for fuel. Instead they mostly felled dead, but still standing tress, as these would be easier to process, along with whatever dry wood could be found on the ground. When all the suitable wood in the immediate surroundings had been used up it was easier to make a new furnace somewhere else, and carry the ore there, than to start dragging wood to the old furnace.

Supposedly many of the peasants in the region used to start making iron once everythign had settled down after harvest season, and did so until Christmas or the new year. Then they spent spring forging items from it, to sell in the spring markets around March-April. IIRC there was also a good sized export of iron nails through Trondheim back towards the Viking age.

I took a course being held by a smith in co-operation with a "folkhögskola", I guess I could say it's kinda like a community college, and they usually focus mostly on craftsmanship of various kinds.
I don't know if this would count as an image dump thread or not so any advice on that?
out of curiosity, why were you doing this?
You could get that weight of hot-rolled steel in just about any carbon content you want for like, 40$
op, you are the best.
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A forge. Not all that common today for "roof maintenance" to include chopping down the trees that are starting to get too big.

The smith behind it all actually sat down back in 1998 and calculated how much iron made this way would cost if the people doing it where to make a normal craftsman's wage from it: 3542kr/kg. Modern, basic carbon steel in similar dimensions cost 6.90kr/kg at the time.

Getting your ore from a mine won't really change things, larger blats furnaces can be fed with bog iron too.

Let's see here, utterly covered in charcoal dust and ore, smelling like a tar pit, some blood stains, living off a diet based on bacon fried over an open fire...

Go ahead.
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Running low on pictures, so here's the 14th century furnace.

To learn a bit about historical iron making.
Manliness incarnate.

You could be reading a gay porn magazine while you waited between the steps and still seem like the epitome of manliness.
>3542kr/kg vs. 6.9kr/kg
That's 232.37USD/lb. vs about 50 cents a pound.
For the lazy.
I'm glad of modern amenities sucha s cheap iron.
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>making iron
How can trees get to grow so big in a roof? Is there soil up there?

Anyways, thanks for the dump, OP. I really enjoyed it.
Manliness is overrated.
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>Is there soil up there?

Yes, to some degree at least.
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>Charcoal-chopping not pictured, as I spent that evening in the ER.

well done... well done.
now the obvious question is, what're you planning to do with it?

forgeweld with a good steel to make a seax? interesting paperweight? something else?
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Lessons learned: keep your head away from sheet metal chimney hoods (See the wooden plank on it here? Yeah, that wasn't there the day before.) when the nearest open medical facility is a hundred kilometres away.

Also, scalp wounds bleed in a rather impressive way, and circulatory shock ain't fun even when it's kinda minor.
tumblr pls go
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As I have neither the tools nor the skill to do anything really with the iron at the moment, they'll remain paperweights for now.
You replaced a cutting hazard with a fire hazard. Good job.
This was really cool, OP. My question is how do you know the soil you're working with has iron in it? Will it have a more orange tint to it?
The spot we went to for some soil was found after the smith had heard that people in the area used soil from that specific spot for their potted plants. So if plants like the soil it might be a good sign.

Another thing to look for is of course old riverbeds, lake bottoms and the like in regions downstream from ore-bearing mountains.

Colour can be a hint at least.

He had also heard that you could taste things to determine roughly the iron content, though he had never noticed any particular taste.

To be certain though you roast it, and then test with a magnet.

Big iron can have all kinds of grain sizes btw. A finer grain means more surface area, and thus a faster reaction with the reducing gas in the furnace, so pick the fine powder/soil if you can. With some furnace designs though I think this could result in the ore ending up as a compact lump instead with poor gas flow through it, so to feed a modern day furnace the ore is mixed with additives and binder and shaped into maybe 1cm large pellets. I suspect that's rather large for these furnaces though, that's to feed a modern blast furnace that counts its production in hundreds of thousands of tons per year (25, for the one in Luleå)
>Big iron can have all kinds of

Bog iron...
Interesting, thank you.
clearly, the solution is to head over to when peter and petr are doing seaxes or the likes.

or a trip to london and Owen Bush' workshops...

(I'd like to see the reaction to airport staff to the ingots in luggage...)
I took a tour of some African village that had iron smelters once. It was in the Kruger Park, and the settlement was on a hill that had plenty of iron around.

It was a raised clay building, with a fire pit in the middle. The pit had a hole in the middle that the iron ran into. The pit was stacked with wood, and then the ore was put on top, and then the fire is set, melting the ore, letting the iron run into the hole. I'm a bit fuzzy on the details but I think they just hammered the firepit and remove the iron, then rebuild it with clay.
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More or less the other end of the continent, but here's a text on (not terribly well preserved) traditional ironmaking in Togo: http://www.mediafire.com/view/oce3zvk9e1kjdb9/Blooms_of_Banjeli.pdf
I think it looks like a very nice place to live.
In what country is this? Norway?
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Sweden, southern Jämtland.
Ah I love the forest I see in those pictures. It's something so completely alien to where I live.
> Trees on the roof.
. . . fucking elves.
no, anon, you're wrong:
elves live in the trees, dwarves live under the trees.
guess where they're living?
Are you the guy with 20 years of experience?
Elf detected
as a beginner in the process of building a forge I say that this is highly interesting...
When civilisation collapses, we will turn to people like OP to rebuild.
That's the fire-rose ye blessed fool! Out of that bloom of the forge comes Sword, Hammer, Knife and Plow. Friends at need, ye ken.

To be chanted, sang or both in the making, repeated till the bloom is madet:

>Iron, child of Sky, Earth and Fire, I name thee. Sky seeded thee, Earth bore thee, and Fire quickened thee , blessed in the heat of his breath.
I am [Skarmr], the forge master, and I welcome thee, Flame-Rose.
Gay is the epitome of manliness. it's all the manliness of fucking, but with less women and more man.
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>historical iron making
>using steel drums
>not in the glorious mountain home
They are clearly a colony sent to the surface to make money off of the warmongering humans by supplying them with superior weapons.
>not "are you a prophet.jpg"
What would people have used to make the charcoal before convenient things like steel drums were available?
hey KM, any idea of how this process different during the bronze ages or earlier?
Can someone screencap this? Am on phone.
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You could probably make a brick kiln or so, but generally it seems you built your pile of wood, and then covered that with soil.

Yeah same here, someone make large single pic for this thread because I am going to use this in my next campaign.
Is there any specific type of soil necessary? I just got a ton of wood because my neighbor cut down several trees and am considering trying this.
Is anyone going to screencap this?
OP has learned the manliest of things
>The answer to the riddle of steel
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Not really. A quick look around though and it seems you could get some lead simply by tossing bits of galena on a good campfire. For copper we need to get things a bit hotter, ie we need to start blowing on the fire. Inventing the bellows will make things easier.

Many ores like to be roasted first (generally those which are mroe than just metal+oxygen, you roast away everythign else, so that the only thing left to do is to reduce away the oxygen), which could originally have happened on its own as the smelting fire was heating up, but would eventually become a separate process step to make sure it as done properly. After all, for the roasting we want an abundance of oxygen around for the ore to react with, but during smelting we want a shortage of oxygen, so that the charcoal/wood only burns to carbon monoxide, which then in turn pries loose oxygen from the ore to form carbon dioxide.

Over time a proper furnace would probably be built up around the fire. The better the furnace, the hotter things can get, which allows for trickier metals to be produced. You don't quite need to hit the melting point of the metal in question, bloomery iron/steel making never does for example, but you want to be somewhere in the general vicinity at least, and if you can't hit the melting point of the metal then you definitely want to hit the melting point of the slag.

For bronze I suspect you'd simply mix ores in suitable amounts before the run, and as these alloys have a lower melting point than pure copper, it would probably make things a bit easier.

So overall it seems the same basic ideas hold true for a lot of metals, and pre-iron age stuff would largely just be somewhat more primitive versions of all this. Though I'm sure each ore has a few peculiarities that you need, or at least should, account for.

Making some copper in a hole in the ground: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8uHc4Hirexc

Early bellow tips and tuyeres would have been clay instead of metal.

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