On Friday 5th July the SSW technical team successfully smelted some iron! The iron smelting event, kindly hosted by the Williamson family in their lovely garden in Rhynie, enjoyed a great turn out and the hand-built bloomery furnace worked a treat.
Through the expertise of SSW technicians Beth Bidwell and Eden Jolly, the furnace was constructed using dry clay, sand and sphagnum moss. This mixture was rolled into balls, stacked together on concrete bricks and wrapped with a gauze-like material to form the bloomery. Drying out the furnace was sped up through the burning of wood. A vacuum was attached to the furnace to circulate enough air at the base of the furnace. Traditionally, leather bellows would be used, but as many of our suppliers went on holiday in July, the leather-man was unable to help.. Also scratched from the ingredients list was the iron ore for smelting. As this is a key component for iron smelting, our technical team got creative and concocted their own unique iron ore. And yes, the iron-ore man was off enjoying his holiday too..
Once the furnace had begun to heat up, charcoal and iron ore were thrown into the furnace at various intervals. At the end of a lovely hot afternoon, the smelted iron bloom was extracted from the base of the bloomery furnace. A brick was removed to gain access, and Eden pulled several lumps of iron bloom out into public view.
Organised in conjunction with Rhynie’s archaeological dig, the day was concluded with an evening presentation on the importance of archaeological excavation and the value in revisiting primitive methods of making. Acting as a finale to the fortnight dig in Rhynie, the talk was accompanied by an energetic ceilidh at Number Fourteen, where Rhynie Woman had held a very tasty cafe throughout the run of the archaeological activity.
SSW will be following up on the Rhynie Smelting event with Summer Fire on the 24 August. This event will be held at SSW and will include more iron smelting and an anticipated iron pour. Keep your eyes on our blog and facebook page for updates!