Iron Smelting in Rhynie

In conjunction with the archaeological excavations currently taking place in Rhynie, the SSW technical team are about to have their first attempt at smelting iron. Through the ceramic expertise of Beth Bidwell, SSW will be building a bloomery furnace from a variety of dry clay, sharp sand and sphagnum moss. All these ingredients will be mixed and packed together into muddy balls to build the furnace. Once dried, the chimney-like furnace will be filled with charcoal and set alight. Air will then be blown into the base of the furnace through a tuyere to increase the temperature, and iron ore will be added to the top. As the charcoal burns away, the ore will drop into the hottest part of the furnace, more charcoal and ore will be added, and the process repeated until the iron ore stock has been exhausted. Hopefully by the end of the process the result of the team’s endeavours will be a glowing lump of iron called a bloom – the raw materials for making tools.

Beginning this week with the building and lighting of the bloomery furnace at Number Fourteen, The Square in Rhynie, this ongoing project aims to recreate age-old iron ore smelting techniques. The project will continue later this year with Summer Fire at the end of August, where the SSW technical team hope to successfully cast an iron axe from the bloom produced. The axe created will draw on the famous Rhynie Man stone carving, as well as the Sutton Hoo excavation for inspiration.

The bloomery furnace will be built at Number 14, The Square in Rhynie between Thursday 4th – Friday 5th July. SSW’s Senior Technician Eden Jolly will also be giving a talk on iron smelting at Number 14, The Square on Friday 5th July, 7pm.

We hope to see you there!

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