Experimental IRON SMELTING

How did the Norse during the Viking Age make iron blooms from bog ore?
Experimental Archaeology can give insight into the techniques used in Northern Europe to operate direct reduction iron smelting furnaces.
This is a record of the ongoing series by Darrell Markewitz, assisted by members of the Dark Ages Re-creation Company.
Wareham, Ontario, Canada is this centre for practical research into Norse methods in North America.

Experimental Overview
Available in three forms:

The first is a point form version of the main information, presented with reference images from the individual smelts.

2001 to 2005
2006 2007
2008 2009
2010 2011
2012 2013

The second is a simple table styled version of the main data. Go on HERE.
The third is an expanded data base styled version of all of the recorded experimental variables for each smelt. Go on HERE.

Experimental Iron Smelting - On YouTube:
Stone Slab with Blow Hole
Ocotober 2007
Demonstration at Quad State
September 2008
Icelandic Work Dynamic Test
October 2008
Icelandic 4
November 2008
Vinland 1
June 2009
Cutting a Bloom
(Vinland 1)
Vinland 2
Ocotber 2009
Vinland 3
November 2009
CanIRON 8 Preparation
November 2010

2001 - 2005


The earlier smelts carried out with members of the Dark Ages Re-creation Company
are documented here: www.darkcompany.ca/iron

In and effort to designate which experiments were carried out with the assistance of DARC,
look for boxes with this colour.


Individual Smelt Reports
These consist of the initial descriptions (usually modified from the original e-mail posting),
plus the bare experiment sequence data in table form.
Experiments listed in bold type are detailed below

Smelt 1
June 2001
Smelt 2
May 2002
Smelt 3
June 2003
Smelt 4
June 2004
Smelt 5
October 2004
Smelt 6
October 2004
Smelt 7
Feburary 2005
Smelt 8
Feburary 2005
Smelt 9
May 2005
Smelt 10
June 2005
Smelt 11
September 2005
Smelt 12
September 2005
Smelt 13
November 2005
Smelt 14
Feburary 2006
Smelt 15
March 2006
Smelt 16
March 2006
Smelt 17
June 2006
Smelt 18
September 2006
Smelt 19
October 2006
Smelt 20
October 2006
Smelt 21
November 2006
Smelt 22
November 2006
Smelt 23
June 2007
Smelt 24
June 2007
Smelt 25
June 2007
Smelt 26
October 2007
Smelt 27
October 2007
Smelt 28
November 2007
Smelt 29
March 2008
Smelt 30
March 2008
Smelt 31
March 2008
Smelt 32
April 2008
Smelt 33
April 2008
Smelt 34
May 2008
Smelt 35
May 2008
Smelt 36
June 2008
Smelt 37
September 2008
Smelt 38
Octoer 2008
Smelt 39
November 2008
Smelt 40
May 2009
Smelt 41
October 2009
Smelt 42
November 2009
Smelt 43
June 2010
Smelt 44
August 2010
Smelt 45
November 2010
Smelt 46
March 2011
Smelt 47
April 2011
Smelt D24
June 2011
Smelt D25
July 2011
Smelt 48
October 2011
Smelt 49
November 2011
Smelt 50
May 2012
Smelt 51
May 2012
Smelt 52
August 2012
Smelt 53
May 2013
Smelt 54
May 2013

Black Rock Forge
February 2006
Smelt Sequence
Experimental Data
Smeltfest 06
March 8, 2006
Smelt A Sequence
Experimental Data
Smelt B Sequence
Experimental Data
Smelter Layout
scaled drawing
Construction Method
field drawing
Tuyere Position
field drawing
Wall Erosion
field drawing
Second Firing
field drawing
Early Iron 3
October 7, 2006
'Loki' Smelt Sequence
Experimental Data
Smelt B Sequence
Experimental Data
DARC Fall Smelt
November 5, 2006
Smelt Sequence
Experimental Data
'Redemption' Smelt
November 6, 2006
Smelt Sequence
Experimental Data

'Hot Swap' Double Smelt
June 9, 2007

Smelt Sequences
Experimental Data
Debris Field Plan
field drawing
Smelter Cross Section
field drawing
Front Elevation
field drawing
Top View - Detail
field drawing
'Towards an Icelandic Smelt'
An evaluation of the Hals site
Icelandic ONE (Thanksgiving)
October 8, 2007
Smelt Sequences
Experimental Data
Smelt in Progress
Quicktime Movie (1.9 Mb)
Theoretical Set Up
field drawing
Front Elevation
field drawing
Cross Section
field drawing
Icelandic TWO
October 27, 2007
Smelt Sequences
Experimental Data
Base Construction
field drawing
 
Front Elevation
field drawing
Top View
field drawing
'Martin Team' (course)
November 25, 2007
Smelt Sequence
Experimental Data

Smeltfest 08
March15 - 21, 2008

An Overview
Draft - taken from Blog
Smelt A Sequence
'Front Plate' test
Experimental Data
Front Elevation
field drawing
Smelt B Sequence
'DARC Dirt 1' test
Experimental Data
Smelt C Sequence
'Front Plate' test
Experimental Data
Front Elevation
field drawing

'Aristotle's Furnace'
Field Drawing

'DARC Dirt' - 2nd Test
April13, 2008
Written Report
Draft - taken from Blog
Smelt Sequence
Experimental Data
Front Elevation
field drawing

Iron Smelting at Thy
(Heltborg Museum - Denmark)

April 29 - May 4, 2008

Smelt Sequence
'Espelund A'
Experimental Data
Front Elevation
field drawing
Smelt Sequence
'Espelund B'
Experimental Data
Front Elevation
field drawing
   
Smelt Sequence
Method vs Ore Test
Experimental Data
Front Elevation
field drawing
'DARC Dirt' - 3nd Test
June 14, 2008
Written Report
Draft - taken from Blog
Theoretical
layout drawing
Front Elevation
field drawing
Smelt Sequence
Experimental Data
Slag Balances
Experiment Measurements
Quad State Demo
September 27, 2008

Written Report
short overview

Smelt Sequence
Experimetal Data
Work Dynamic Test
October 12, 2008

Written Report
detailed overview

Smelt Sequence
Experimetal Data
Front / Plan / Section
field drawings
Icelandic 4
November 8, 2008
Written Report
short overview
Smelt Sequence
Experimetal Data
Theoretical
work layout drawing
'An Iron Smelt in Vinland'
Recreating the clues from L'Anse aux Meadows
(drafts - INDEX to Individual Segments)
Working Area
blog posting
Vinland 1
May 30, 2009
Written Report
short overview
Smelt Sequence
Experimetal Data
Theoretical
work layout drawing
Front Elevation
field drawing
YouTube Video
General Overview
YouTube Video
Cutting the Bloom
Vinland 2
October 11, 2009
Written Report
detailed overview
Smelt Sequence
Experimetal Data
Theoretical
work layout drawing
 
Box Bellows Plan
working drawing
Front Elevation
field drawing
Vinland 3
November 7, 2009
Written Report
detailed overview
Smelt Sequence
Experimetal Data
Theoretical
work layout drawing
Vinland 4
June 12, 2010
Written Report
detailed overview
Front Elevation
field drawing
Theoretical
work layout drawing
Vinland 5
August 23 , 2010
Blog Posting
brief report
Smelt Sequence
Experimetal Data
Debris Field
Comparison with Archaeology
DARC at CanIRON 8 Preparation A
November 6, 2010
Draft Report
photo essay
Smelt Sequence
Experimetal Data
YouTube Video
Extraction Sequence
'Africa' - Smeltfest '11
March 22-23, 2011
Written Report
detailed overview
Smelt Sequence
experimental data
Front Elevation
field drawing
Iron Smelt At Brown (course)
April 22 & 23, 2011
Written Report
detailed overview
Smelt Sequence
experimental data
Front Elevation
field drawing
Archaeology & Experiment - Iron Smelting
Details of the 4 day program
Furnace Temperatures
experimental data
Ores Used
experimental data
DARC at CanIRON 8 Preparation B
June 11, 2011
Written Report
detailed overview
Smelt Sequence
experimental data
DARC at CanIRON 8
July 282011
Written Report
detailed overview
Smelt Sequence
experimental data
 
Slag Pit Furnace
October 9, 2011
Written Report
detailed overview
Smelt Sequence
experimental data
Slag Pit Plan
field drawing
Furnace Temperatures
experimental data
Bellows Test
experimental data
Front Elevation
field drawing
Slag Pit Furnace 2
November, 2011
Written Report
detailed overview
Smelt Sequence
experimental data
Front Elevation
field drawing
Production Smelt
May 5 , 2012
Blog Posting
brief report
Return to Icelandic
May 26 , 2012
Blog Posting
brief report
Earth, Air Celtic - Demonstration
August 11, 2012
Blog Posting
brief report
International Congress on Medieval Studies - Demonstration
May 11 , 2013
Blog Posting
brief report
Introduction to Iron Smelting - Course
May 25 , 2013
Blog Posting
brief report

Formal Papers

Continuing Adventures in Early Iron Production
An overview of experimental iron smelts, 2001 - 2008.
An updating and revsion of the paper delivered at the 'Friends of the Medieval Studies Society of the Royal Ontario Museum
 1st Annual Symposium' in March of 2006.
The Full text of the revised verson can be found at Continuing Adventures in Early Iron.
The text of the original paper (35 page version) can be found at ROM - Adventures in Smelting .


Towards an Icelandic Smelt
Based on the remains at Hals

Prepared with the assistance of Kevin Smith & Neil Peterson
This is an 'in house' document outlining the archaeology and thought behind the Icelandic / Sod Smelter series
 Prepared October, 2008 - Continue to 'An Icelandic Smelt'


Concerning the Shape of Blooms
Although originally published on the blog 'Hammered Out Bits' this short article has a more formal structure (footnotes and references).
 Original date February 9, 2010
The text can be found mirrored here - Shape of Blooms.


Iron Smelting in Vinland
Conveting Archaeological Evidence to Practical Method.
Presented at 'Forward Into the Past', Wilfred Laurier University, April, 2010
The full text of the revised verson (V3 - June 2010) can be downloaded as a PDF : Iron Smelting in Vinland.


Other Articles, Notes & Reports

Archaeology & Experiment :
Iron Smelting


A hands on experience in Experimental Archaeology

A 4 day hands on program for senior students, combining class room sessions with the direct experience of building and operating a short shaft, slag tapping, direct process iron bloomery furnace.

For more details to to Archaeology & Experiment


Is my BLOG - on it you will find a regular series of short postings on various aspects of Experimental Iron Smelting
Go to 'Hammered Out Bits'
The following articles are from the very start of the Experimental series, and are considerably dated. (Included to document the entire process undertaken.
' Iron in the Viking Age '
A set of point form notes that accompanied a 2002 lecture
Go on 'Iron in Viking Age'.
' The Limits of Experiment '
This outline detailing the 'unknowns' was originally prepared in Spring 2004 - with only TWO experimental smelts to draw upon.
Go on 'Experiment Limits'.
' Iron Smelting Series - An Experimental Philosophy '
These notes cover discussions and decisions made by the primary smelt team of DARC during the smelter prep on May 15, 2004
Go on Directions of Experiments.
Know Your Source!
Darrell Markewitz - an Iron Smelting CV
Compiled for my Canada Council Grant, Spring 2008
Go on Iron CV.
Many of the following are more 'internal' documents, but may prove of interest to others involved in Early Iron.
Air Flow Rates
A table of measured rates from our standard equipment  (Revised October 2007)
Go on Air Rates.
Bellows Air Test
Measuring Operator rates using a reconstructed Norse blacksmith's bellows
(Report October 2007)
Go on Bellows Test.
Iron Content of Ores
A table of major components in our standard ores (Revised 2009)
Go on Iron Ores.
Blooms On Hand
A table style summary of smelter production up to April 2006
Go on Bloom List.
Charcoal Pit Burn Experiment
Photo Essay - 'a demonstration of an experiment' 
(July 2007)
Go on Charcoal.

'Heat by Colour'

A visual reference - Colours

Details on how to build small scale test bed and teaching equipment - made from easily available materials :

the Econo Norse Smelter
Developed by the DARC smelt team - using standard fire brick packed with sand
Go on Econo Norse Handout.

the Flue Tyle Smelter
Developed by Sauder and Williams - using a ceramic chimney liner
Go on Flue Tyle Handout.

45 Gallon Drum Charcoal
Developed by Lee Sauder and Williams - a simple method described
Go on to http://iron.wlu.edu/reports/CharcoalBarrel.htm


Originally published in Expedition Magazine :
University of Pennsylvania Museum, Volume 49, Number 3 - Winter 2007

Elizabeth is one of the consistent participants in the EARLY IRON series of symposiums. At Early Iron 3 (2006) she interviewed Lee, Skip, Mike and myself. This article is the result. The link will give you a direct download of the article as a PDF.
I would like to thank ROYAL OAK CHARCOAL who have supported this ongoing series with the kind donation of the fuel used in the majority of these experiments since 2003. Each smelt consumes as much as 100 kg of charcoal, and it is safe to say that the full extent of this research program would have proved impossible without Royal Oak's generous support. Over the years, Royal Oak charcoal has proven consistent and of high quality.
Thanks goes to McDonald's Home Hardware of Dundalk Ontario.
Glen and Brent McDonald have patiently helped with many strange requests for over 20 years.
More importantly, they have provided charcoal at reduced costs for the 'Vinland' series of smelts, plus that used for the CanIRON 8 demonstration.

The Turf to Tools project, at the Scottish Sculpture Workshop, August 2014,
is in part supported by a Travel Grant from the Canada Council for the Arts


We acknowledge the support of the Canada Council for the Arts, which last year invested $157 million to bring the arts to Canadians throughout the country.
Nous remercions le Conseil des arts du Canada de son soutien. L’an dernier, le Conseil a investi 157 millions de dollars pour mettre de l’art dans la vie des Canadiennes et des Canadiens de tout le pays.

" From Turf to Tools is an ongoing investigation in to landscape, material and craft, inspired by local archeological investigations in Rhynie, Aberdeenshire (Scotland).

From 11-24th August, the collaboration of Scottish Sculpture Workshop artist Eden Jolly and master blacksmith Darrell Markewitz, with Dr. Gordon Noble, archeologist at University of Aberdeen, will seek to recreate a ceremonial axe – as seen on the Rhynie Man standing stone – through smelting and forging locally sourced materials. "

Backround documentation and discussion leading up to the Turf to Tools project can be found via blog postings on 'Hammered Out Bits' :


For more details on the Turf to Tools project (several photo essays and commentaries) :

Turf to Tools - Project Outline
A Scottish Late Iron Age Smelt
Some Considerations for Iron Ore
Pictish Late Iron Age Smelt - Overview
Pictish Iron - Bloom to Bar

 

'Iron Blooms to Working Bars' was a special project from Feburary 15 to May 15, 2012.
It was supported by a Crafts Projects - Creation and Development Grant.
The Ontario Arts Council is an agency of the Government of Ontario.

The purpose of the grant is to cover three months deicated time to allow development of a practical understanding of how to covert raw blooms into working bars, and if time permits, into finished objects. Part of the process will be to document the ongoing project, and publish the results via a dedicated blog, this web site, and possibly through demonstrations, formal papers or jounal articles.

Links to OTHER EXPERIMENTERS

Go on Links

OnlineConversion Home
Length | Velocity | Temperature | Volume | Weight | Area
Density| Energy | Force | Power | Pressure | Time

Google
WWW www.warehamforge.ca

Introduction to Smelting Iron

Normally 1st weekend in June
(Friday evening - all day Saturday)

This HANDS ON course is dependant on registrations
(requires full class of 4 students due to materials cost)

This 14 hour session will involve the student in the construction and operation of the 'EconoNorse' small scale iron smelter. On Friday evening students will first assemble the smelter, then a lecture will cover the theoretical and historical background of smelting iron: ores, furnaces, process, equipment. An early start for a LONG day Saturday will start with the pre-heating the furnace. The actual process of the smelt takes roughly 6 hours. After this, the resulting iron bloom will be extracted from the furnace, and given a primary consolidation. The iron produced will be cut to sections and shared between the participants. This program does not require any previous metalworking experience, and is of interest to students of history as well as blacksmiths.

For more details on this special program - go Smelting Course .

Fees: 'Iron Smelting' - $400 +HST

pull out guide
Main Sections

GALLERY

CUSTOM WORK

ARCHITECTURAL

for GARDENS

REPRODUCTIONS

TRAINING

IRON SMELTING

VIKING AGE

SITE INDEX

The experimental work documented here is supported by
the Wareham Forge


OTHER WEB PUBLICATIONS


Who is Darrell Markewitz?
Unless otherwise indicated :
All text and photographs © Darrell Markewitz, the Wareham Forge.