Web links to info on medieval metal casting by Dame Aoife Finn of Ynos Mon. Links on Medieval Metal Casting (Silver, Pewter, Bronze, Gold, Iron, Steel) and Smelting
This file is a collection of various messages having a common theme that I have collected from my reading of the various computer networks. Some messages date back to 1989, some may be as recent as yesterday.
This file is part of a collection of files called Stefan's Florilegium. These files are available on the Internet at: http://www.florilegium.org
I have done a limited amount of editing. Messages having to do with separate topics were sometimes split into different files and sometimes extraneous information was removed. For instance, the message IDs were removed to save space and remove clutter.
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Mark S. Harris AKA: THLord Stefan li Rous
Stefan at florilegium.org
From: liontamr at ptd.net
Subject: Links: Medieval Metal Casting (Silver, Pewter, Bronze, Gold, Iron, Steel) and Smelting
Date: January 9, 2004 3:19:29 PM CST
To: StefanliRous at austin.rr.com
Greetings. This week's Links List comes to you via a request from Phlip for
metal casting information. Since we haven't covered that subject before,
Here You Go! You'll find info. on Silver, Pewter, Iron, Bronze, Gold and
Steel. many sites cover several metals. This is not a smithing Links List
(we've covered that subject in the past), but is all about smelting and
As always, please share this list with those who will welcome the
Dame Aoife Finn of Ynos Mon, OL
Accounts of Tin Mining in Cornwall,
Stanner Charters of 1198 & 1201
(Site Excerpt) All miners and buyers of black tin, and first smelters of tin
and merchants of tin of the first smelting have just and ancient customs and
liberties established in Devon and Cornwall. Likewise just and ancient
weights of the first and second smelting of tin, determined by the oath of
the above-mentioned jurors, and marked with the stamp of the Lord King,
shall be kept....Also all men have the common right of buying tin by just,
ancient, and free customs, as they are accustomed to have and ought to have,
by the mark from any thousand weight of the second smelting.
Regia Anglorum: Charcoal Burning
(Site Excerpt) Firstly, why make charcoal? The simple answer is that no
other combustible substance generates the heat necessary for the forging of
metals (by the definition above, 20th century coke is "coal charcoal"). The
process basically consists of Burning - or literally charring - wood at a
very slow, controlled rate so that the combustion is never allowed to
complete and thus turn the raw materials to ash. This is achieved by
controlling the amount of air involved in the reaction - basically, covering
the whole caboose in earth. The process takes about 24 - 30 hours for 3 - 4
tons of wood (the amount we had available in the lakes) and produces, in
ideal conditions, about a ton of charcoal. See Also: Iron Working
A Home-Built Charcoal Fired Foundry
by Gene Elliott (c) 2000 (edited by Steve Kaehler)
(Site Excerpt) Since I've always wanted a small, portable foundry set-up
that I could take along for field demos and other special projects, building
this furnace gave me the perfect excuse to provide my very own portable
small parts casting foundry. The picture shows the main apparatus involved.
From left to right, the molding flasks, foundry, the blower hose....
Iron Production-Techiniques and History by Bo Justusson
(Site Excerpt) Old times. There have been hundreds of iron mines and
blast-furnaces, and around thousand iron mills. Most of them in Bergslagen
(far north-west of Stockholm, see map on Early Railways-page). This
reduction has of course meant enormous changes for the people working in the
TIN SMELTING AT THE ORIENTAL INSTITUTE
(Site Excerpt) The archaeological excavations at Kestel and Gltepe in the
Taurus Mountains of Turkey, led by Professor Aslihan Yener of the Oriental
Institute, have disclosed an early Bronze Age tin mining and processing
operation. There is at least one ancient mine in the area of the
excavations, now named Kestel Mine, but there are undoubtedly more yet to be
found. The experiments aimed at establishing production techniques and were
designed to determine the magnitude of tin production at the site of
Early Smelting and Metallurgy
(Site Excerpt---and page down for a period illustrationof a smelting
furnace) Smelting was accomplished initially in an open fire. A hole one to
two feet in diameter was dug in the ground. The hole was lined with
fire-resistant clay or stone. Charcoal was placed in a layer on top of the
clay, then was covered by copper ore. Charcoal burns particularly hot,
raising temperatures enough to melt the copper. The charcoal also releases
gases that react with the copper minerals to reduce them to copper metal. A
molten mass of the dense copper formed, topped by lighter waste products, or
slag. When the mass was cool, the brittle, glassy slag could be broken off,
leaving a cake of refined copper behind. The furnace in this method is
called an open hearth. Remnants of open hearths have been found in Sumerian
Smelting, Casting, Smithing
During the summer 2000 field season at Scatness, some experimental
archaeology was carried out near the excavated Broch. A bloomery shaft
furnace was constructed from clay, and local bog iron ore was smelted. The
furnace filled with charcoal: bellows and tuyere at left, and thermocouple
built into furnace wall at front.
The North Yorkshire Moors Ironworking Project
(Site Excerpt) The North Yorkshire Moors have a history of iron working
which extends back to the Iron Age. Although modern industry has been
studied in detail for Rosedale and the Cleveland area, very little research
has been undertaken into the industry's origins. The western side of the
North Yorkshire Moors has several important sites linked to the different
phases/periods of English iron-smelting technology, focused around Rievaulx
Old Rookhope Archive: History of Iron Mining
(Site Excerpt) Iron mining and smelting started in Weardale and Teesdale at
least as early as Roman times, as shown by the slag found on small native
British settlements. The earliest documented iron working in the Rookhope
Valley is a reference to iron mines in 1154 AD. Both Weardale and Teesdale
have abundant evidence for medieval iron smelting. Medieval smelting sites
called bloomeries left distinctive heaps of slag, many of which can be found
in the Durham Dales. See also Smelting video:
provides a video of a medieval style smelting furnace complete with bellows
work. If youa ccess the page, you will either see the video automatically or
get an error message. There is nothing else on the page. If you computer
loads slowly you may wish to avoid this page as there is no choice given for
viewing the video.
An Excellent article in Adobe Acrobat on the subject.
Pewter Casting in Stone Molds
http://www.warehamforge.ca/pewter.html (Site Excerpt) The majority of
jewelry objects remaining from the Viking Age are either made of silver or
bronze. Silver is commonly found in massed hordes, with coins, ingots,
fragments forming the largest portion rather than finished jewelry. These
hordes are obviously collected wealth, hidden in times of peril by owners
who never returned. The common medium of exchange was obviously silver, gold
objects are relatively uncommon throughout Scandinavia. Although simple
sliver objects are found, many show a very high degree of craftsmanship.
Complex forming and assembling techniques are commonly seen with silver.
Sources for Pewterers
in these Current Middle Ages
Being a list of sources compiled by the Honourable Sergeant Avery Austringer
(Site Excerpt) The following is a slightly revised version of a handout
which I prepared for, Pewter Casting To Go, a class which Charles Oakley and
I have taught at Pennsic, in which we teach people how to make small pewter
castings and venerate Joe L'Erario and Ed Feldman. While I am one to
encourage people to try new things, please try them safely - liquid pewter
is hotter than the hottest thing you want to touch. It will bring water to a
boil and much popping and splattering will occur. Carving soapstone
generates a lot of silicon rich dust. The vapor over molten lead (if you use
leaded pewter) is both toxic and bioavailable. You can work with these
materials safely or you can do yourself grievous harm - it's up to you.
Stefan's Florilegium casting-msg
(Site Excerpt from one message) Beginning Pewter Casting by Lady Nicolaa de
Bracton of Leicester
--Pewter (bar or chip form).
--heat source (propane torch, stovetop element, casting pot, campfire)
--Container to heat pewter in (small pot, ladle, etc.)
--material for mold (preferably soapstone)
--carving tools (dental or woodcarving tools are best, but virtually
anything will carve soapstone)
--files (microfiles are most useful)
--tongs or clamps
--bowl of cold water
--towels or oven mitts
A note on pewter: Pewter sold today in craft stores for
jewellery-making is usually lead free; it is an alloy of copper, tin,
and antimony. A number of companies also sell pewter for miniature
casting; this may not be lead-free. If in doubt, ask. Current going
price for one pound of lead-free pewter in the Toronto area is $10-$17
CDN. Craft stores are often overpriced; ask your local SCA jewllery
- and metalworkers for sources.
CASTING SETS --WANT TO GET STARTED--FOR THE LOWEST COST?
Each of our money saving Introductory Casting Set offers contain the
(the sets differ from each other only in size of the melting pot)
*Figure Mold (your choice of a Medieval Knight, Civil War (figure can be
painted as either a Union or Confederate soldier), American Indian,
Coldstream Guard silicone rubber mold, or a 3 figure American Infantry WW2
*Ingot of casting metal (composition 10% Tin, 11% Antimony, 79% Lead).
This ingot will make 5 to 6 54mm (21/4") figures. You may substitute an
ingot of lead-free pewter for an additional $3.50.
*2 Mold Clamps ((when a rubber mold is selected or one metal clamp and a
pair of wood mold handles, when the metal mold is selected).
*Heavy Duty Gloves
Midrealm Order of the Laurel Medieval Arts and Sciences Database: Casting
Site lists several other sites and references for the art, and ranks them
according to reliability.
Pewter Casting Alloys: CARN METALS
Manufacturers of High Quality Tin Casting Alloys and Solders
This page loads to a menu (farther down the page, otherwise it's almost
blank) that had the following options: Casting alloys, mould making,
schools, help with casting problemsasting alloys, mould making, schools,
help with casting problems; Stained glass work, electronics general jointing
and construction of pewter and whitemetals; Alloys, casting using, cleaning
general info; properties and uses, tin mining, early technology.
Blowing new life in old technology - Viking Age Metal-casting.
By Anders Sderberg.
(Site excerpt) Early medieval founders cast using technology with roots deep
in the Bronze Age. The process looked almost the same as it had done for a
couple thousand years. If the Bronze Age was the golden age of bronze
casting, the craft didn't die with the coming of iron. Casting in bronze and
silver still played an improtant social part through the production of
jewellery and prestige objects, a production of social codes expressing
identity and belonging; sworn fidelity and social ranking. All confirmed by
a system of gifts, sometimes almost strong enough to give each object a life
of it's own; at least this may have been the way contempory man regarded it.
I have devoted the last three years to examining some of these crafts in
detail. I have worked particularly with reconstructed bronze and silver
casting, supportedby excavation publications and earlier experimental
projects. There have been many of them in recent decades, with varying
ambitions and results, but the most extensive are probably the Danish and
English. These projects are also the best documented.
Swedish Silver - Silver In The Middle Ages (circa 1050-1520) (An older Book
for Sale circa 1951)
(Site excerpt) In periods of strife, people buried silver, and many a
rightful owner did not live to unearth his fortune, which remained for
centuries until plow or spade happened to strike the treasure. A famous
example is the Lohe fortune, which lay hidden in the double floor of a
Stockholm house for almost two centuries, and came to light only when the
house was razed in 1937
The role of silver as heirloom and investment involved a strict system of
guarantees as to purity. In countries outside Sweden, hallmarks were issued
as early as the thirteenth century. In Sweden it was decreed in 1485 that
gold- and silversmiths should "put their mark on whatsoever they made." Duke
Karl IX in 1596 proclaimed that along with their marks, smiths should
imprint the insignia of their city arms on each piece.
Silver smithing Supplies--Silver Casting Grains and Cheap Clean Scrap Silver
SRS Lost Wax and Stone Casting Supplies (Retail Merchant)
Cire Perdue: Lost Wax Casting (mainly about GOLD in Indonesia)
(Site excerpt) Gold has always been an important medium of expression for
Javanese craftsmen. In prehistoric times, gold-foil masks were used to cover
the faces of the dead. These gold pieces were made by beating the gold with
a hammer. While this technique was widely used in various parts of Indonesia
and Southeast Asia, a more effective technique was adopted in Java during
the early centuries AD, whereby heat was used to work gold. This new method
not only cuts down the time spent in making gold objects, but is also
responsible for the creation of more intricate designs. The technique is
known as lost wax casting.
Click on the red buttons to see an illustration of each stage of the lostwax
Scandinavian bronzecasting in Viking Age and Early Middle Ages
(Site Excerpt) Bronze casting is an elegant play with a couple of
cubic-decimeters of borrowed hell. It«s quite handy as it«s limited to a
small pit, but deceptive as you easily could be seduced to think you«re its
master. Who«s terms you«re working under is obvious each time you accidently
put your thumb too close to the hearth, or when you in distraction almost
grips the crucible with your fingers. These things bite, and they bite
bad... Early medieval casting had deep traditions since Bronze Age. The
Viking Age process probably looked quite the same as it already had done for
a couple of thousand years. If Bronze Age was the golden age of bronze
casting, the craft didn«t die with the coming of iron. Metal casting still
played an important social part by the production of jewellery and prestige
objects, a production of social codes telling about identity and belonging;
of sworn fidelity and of alliances. All confirmed by a system of giftgiving,
almost strong enough to give each object a life of its own; at least this
may have been the way contemporary man regarded it.
Viking Bronze: Blowing new life into Ancient and Early Medieval Metalcraft
(Site Excerpt) This page deals with ancient metalcraft and research mainly
from a reconstructional and experimental basis. The page will provide texts,
resources and links related to the archaeology of ancient and early historic
metalcrafts. The Iron Age/early Middle Age founders cast in techniques with
roots deep down in Bronze Age and the methods presented here could, with
slight adjustments, be said to be relevant for all the Scandinavian Iron Age
and up into the Middle Ages.
Medieval Iron and Steel -- Simplified by Bert Hall
Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and Technology
University of Toronto
Pure, unadulterated iron is only moderately hard, as anyone who has bent a
nail with a hammer can attest. When it becomes red hot, say at about 700
degrees Celsius, it can be easily bent and formed into whatever shape the
artisan wishes -- straps, hinges, horseshoes. For this reason we speak of
"wrought iron," (wrought, from wreak, to bend or twist). Unfortunately, it
is also only moderately tough; it can easily be bent when being used. It
also loses any sharp edge very quickly under the pressure of work or
abrasion.Cast iron, on the other hand, is enormously strong. Cast iron takes
its name from the fact that it emerges from the smelter in liquid form (see
below) and can be cast into moulds rather like bronze or silver.
Unfortunately, it is rather brittle, and worse, it can't be bent or shaped
in any way once it has solidified. Hammering on red hot, even white hot,
cast iron will simply break it. Steel, iron with a small amount of carbon
dissolved inside its structure, combines the best of both worlds. It can be
cast into moulds from the furnace, shaped when red hot, and it holds an edge
when it has been sharpened, even under fairly heavy use. Steel is clearly
the prince of ferric metals, but it's not easy to make.
Cauldrons and the Development of Cast Iron for Domestic Use
By: Jacob Selmer
Last revised: 10/31/2003
(Site Excerpt) The study of early metallurgy and metalworking often focuses
on military and industrial applications. However, the everyday uses of
metals are sometimes overlooked. In particular, the cauldron played an
essential role in day-to-day life. Modernly, manufacturers make these out
of cast iron, but Europeans did not begin using this material until early in
the fifteenth century and mass production of cast iron did not happen until
the eighteenth century. This report discusses some of the history and
importance of cauldrons and focuses on the development of cast iron for
everyday use.Celtic cauldrons: Cauldrons in Celtic life played an important
role. More than just essential cooking vessels, they could also have
magical qualities attributed to them. Cauldrons and chalices appear in many
Celtic tales and rituals. Early Celtic metalworkers generally crafted these
cauldrons from brass or bronze, which they either cast into a single piece
or forged in multiple pieces and joined with rivets and solder.
Archaeologists found one such cauldron at Gundstrup, Denmark (Figure 1).
This highly decorated vessel from the first century B.C. consists of
thirteen silver gilt panels, combining to create a 27-inch diameter cauldron
(Lang, 83-85, Eluere, 116-117). The expense of Celtic cauldrons made them
unaffordable for most people and consequently, the craftsmen often took
great care to make them works of art.
Arch-Metals Archaeo-Metallurgical Bibliography