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P-tale-MWIFO-art - 8/26/96


"Making Wrought Iron from Ore: A Pennsic XXIIII Tale" by Wilelm the Smith.


NOTE: See also the files: BPThingie-art, Pennsic-gifts-msg, P-storage-msg, P-stories-msg, Enchnted-Grd-msg, camp-kitchens-msg, Eatng-Pennsic-art.





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.


The comments made in these messages are not necessarily my viewpoints. I make  no claims  as  to the accuracy  of  the information  given  by the individual authors.


Please respect the time  and  efforts of  those who have written  these messages. The copyright status  of these messages  is  unclear  at this time. If  information is  published  from  these  messages, please give credit to the originator(s).


Thank you,

   Mark S. Harris                  AKA:  THLord Stefan li Rous

                                         Stefan at florilegium.org



From: powers at skink.cis.ohio-state.edu (william thomas powers)

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Re: PENNSIC: Don't just stand there; Do Something!

Date: 15 Jul 1996 21:40:17 -0400

Organization: The Ohio State University, Department of Computer and Information Science


I am posting a few stories of things we did last year--hopefully as


wilelm the smith



Making Wrought Iron from Ore: A Pennsic XXIIII Tale

Section the first: "The Prepertario"

It was Pennsic XXIIII and it was hot;  but sometimes a smith's gotta do

what a smith's gotta do and no smith will take notice of a little heat

until some passerby remarks that they seem to be on fire.  And heat or

no heat we had planned to smelt wrought iron from ore using the direct

process and we were going to do it!

The basic requirements for smelting ore are Fuel, Furnace, Ore and Air.

We had the last two covered since my campmates had, of course, brought

iron ore--(from an abandoned Civil War era mine; *no*no* the local post

period one not the english post period one...); didn't your group bring

ore too? And with 2-3 forges in camp we had plenty of Air handling equipment.

That left the Fuel and the Furnace.  Now throughout the medieval and

renaissance periods Wrought Iron was smelted using charcoal as a fuel,

(first commercial use of coke was by Abraham Darby at Coalbrookdale

over 100 years after our period). In fact the term coal and collier

used to refer to charcoal specifically and you used terms like "sea coal"

or "earth coal" to refer the rock variety.  Unfortunately an iron furnace

uses quite a bit of charcoal--check out the laws enacted to regulate the

number of iron forges--(term used for a smeltery in period) to prevent

deforestation in period times! Also briquets just don't work. Luckily we

knew of a collier who lived close enough that we could hitch up the wain

in the morning and return by early afternoon with a load of *real* charcoal.

So with the lady of my household driving the team with her baby and a friend

in front and me bumping along in back we traveled to the colliery and

bought 3,0,24 hundredweights of coal (360 pounds) and admired the old

ironwork at the colliery. Then with a stop or two to nurse the child we

returned to Pennsic with me lounging on stacks of 40 pound sacks full

of sharp cornered charcoal chunks.  It wasn't comfortable but it was


Having spent most of the day cooled by the breezes of a wain with the

horses well whipped up; I was giving some thought of doing some pattern

welding--a hot task well suited to reducing me to the level of abject misery

experienced by those staked out on the Serengetti plain.  But it was not to

be; we were still lacking the furnace for our iron smelting and so I was

pressed into the clay gang and sent to labour in the lowlands, (in the

creek actually) where the location of "the good clay vein" was a closely

guarded secret--so closely guarded that we spend quite a bit of time

finding it all over again everytime we want to use it.

Now two years ago when we had last done an iron run, the creek had been low

and we pulled a cart through it to the clay area.  This year the creek was

high taunting us with its wealth as it meandered along the hot parched

Pennsic lands and the cart was no longer; but we did have a wain to carry the

clay up the hill and a large bucket to carry the loads of clay to the wain.

So we started slogging through the muddy water having great fun finding

the hidden holes and tree limbs as we searched for the elusive

"good clay" along the banks of the creek.  Finally we found it! In a bank

overgrown with bushes, about a foot under water, right below a camp!

Our band of sturdy, but derranged, desperados numbered but four; my houselord,

a large smith on loan from the Royal camp, his lady and myself. We quickly

assigned roles.  One person stood on the bushes holding them back from the

workface, while the other two groveled in the mud with their hands digging

out clay, their noses just inches from the muddy water. The lady managed the

collection bucket.  When the bucket was full it was walked back to the wain

dumped and returned and all non-managerial jobs rotated.  It is said that

unless you are the lead dog, the view is always the same and I guess our

bucketteer grew bored for as I was groveling for clay I was surprised by

a sort of tidal bore of cold muddy water assaulting my nether regions.

With a cry not a bit like "Mine Goat is Hummell!" I tried to levitate

and found to my dismay that I had not achieved enlightenment.  Turning

I saw a highly amused lady---now I was always told not to throw mud at

ladies and especially not at ladies dressed in white with a burly smith

quite a bit larger than myself as their guardian; so with much grumbling

I returned to work and plotted my revenge.

During all of this, the people who were camped on the shore were in a state

of confusion as to who these bedlamites brawling in the brook were and

what should be done with them.  Finally they asked what were doing.

Always ready to be helpful we explained that we were "sapping their bank

and did  XXX remember to bring the waterproof fuse?"; "No, really we are

collecting mud for the interkingdom mudslinging contest." "Actually it is for

mud wrestling at YYY's party----be sure to come and enter!"  Having finally

produced an explanation they looked likely to believe we left well enough

alone and left it at that.

Having filled the bucket one last time, (and having suffered several more

"waterings"); we started back toward the wain, the bucket and crew in the

fore. Suddenly a there was a freak occurrence of water and terrain and a large

wave seemed to engulf the lady from behind, much to the amusement of the

other workers....be that as it may we shared the back end of the wain with

the clay and had a lively debate on which of the passer-by we passed by

could profit from the sudden arrival of a handful of lovely high grade

clay. (what was most amusing was the folk in clean dry *nice* garb who

asked to share our conveyance without noticing that we were soaking wet,

covered with mud and sitting with several hundred pounds of wet clay---

too much sun probably...).  Arriving back at camp the clay was dumped

in the traditional clay location and we proceeded on toward clean water,

clean clothes, and a core temperature quite a bit higher than we had been

experiencing. Meanwhile the furnace crew chopped straw, mixed it with the

clay and built a fine furnace.

Continued in Part the twoth: Pennsic Tales---What hath we Wrought Iron(?)

wilelm the smith




Making Wrought Iron from Ore; A Pennsic XXIIII Tale

"What Hath We Wrought Iron(?)"

being Section the Twoth "Add Finitum"

It was Pennsic XXIIII and it was hot; during the quiet hours, 11am to 7pm,

you could hear fighters out on the serengetti spontaneously combust. But

to a blacksmith heat is a tool used to change things, we were studiously

using it to turn gatoraide from a foul concoction into a quite nice tiple

for the most part.  Be that as it may we proceeded with our plans to

make Wrought Iron from Ore, (low-tech).

Having lingered in the ritual ablutions required by all those who

participate in the mysterious rites of the Clay Fetchers Guild, (the sinister

lefts can only be hinted at).  I returned to camp to find the furnace base

already in place and the clay/straw mixture being allowed to dry a bit

before the tower was built on it. It being a wonderful Pennsic for resting

we decided to rest awhile.

The next day I was constrained by other tasks to leave camp until later

in the day.  Upon my return I was amazed by the squat clay and straw edifice

rearing up fully four feet in the center of our camp, its stalwart sides

inscribed with many a strange and mysterious inscription, such as: The

Friends of Weyland Society and others of like import and might. Since

this was a "flame powered device" and we were trying to fulfill the

letter of the Pennsic Laws, a screw cap had been carefully inset into the

top rim of the furnace!  (we also had about 1 fire extinguisher per

camp member including several ABC ones of moderate size. Unlike Benvenuto

Cellini we were not willing to trade our habitation for a good pour)

In the furnace a slow fire glowed-speeding its change from a soft mass of

clay and straw into the hard furnace that would resist thousands of degrees

and safely contain the glowing semi-liquid mass of ore and slag we hoped

to create.  Taking over the furnace sitting I carefully clayed over the

side door and filled in the cracks where the tueyre would be.  I also

added my name and fingerprints to the others destined for immortality.

As the furnace dried out we built the fire up and started adding charcoal

to the flames.  When our ironmaster saw that the clay inside the furnace

was starting to glow she made the fateful decision "Let's go for it".

The blower's long vent tube was quickly thrust into the tueyre and clayed

in place.  A bench previously made in camp from scrap wood, its legs turned

on the spring pole lathe was positioned closeby and the first of the

blower gang started cranking the blower with a steady regular rhythm.

The blower would be cranked constantly now until the run was over.

With considerable foresight we had imported an expert to examine our

ore and decide if it needed roasting. Unfortunately the answer was yes;

so out came the cans and the ore was cycled through a warming can set on

top of the furnace and then into the roasting can on one of the forges

where it would be heated until it glowed a dull red. Then it would be added

to the furnace, the ironmaster carefully adding layers of charcoal and ore.

When the roasting can was empty it was refilled from the warming can and

the warming can from the ore bucket.  Night had fallen but we had plenty of

light from the swirling blue flames that danced over the furnace showing

that a reducing atmosphere was present and hopefully our dull brown dirt

was being changed into bright metal.

The ore still had some surprises for us though; as it heated in the roaster

it would sometimes pop with a report like that of a firecracker and the lid

would resound with the impact of the shards making us jump.

As we settled into a routine the traditional iron-making rites were

done. We cooked sausages over our wonder-cooker---"40 degF to 2000 degF in

30 seconds"  One exploded off the "Pennsic XX memorial brat fork" and fell

into the fiery furnace. With great presence of mind our ironmaster fished

it out of the fiery furnace, brushed of the glowing bits and passed it

around for consumption--not bad, hardly crunchy at all!

Still more time passed the blower making a constant background noise

punctuated by the solid thuds of the punkin pole being thrust into

the top of the furnace to make sure that the charge settled evenly

and to set the sparks soaring into air above the fire.  Now was when

we serenaded the furnace with polish, german and spanish songs, followed

by a spirited rendition of "The Shooting of Dan's Guru" by a peer

who will remain nameless as long as those weekly cheques don't bounce....

For a while our camp was graced with the presence of a person on vigil

taking out some quiet time and cranking the blower.  Charcoal-Ore-Charcoal,

Charcoal-Ore-Charcoal, cranking of the blower, thuds of the punking pole,

flames and sparks dancing higher and lower--on, on into the night.

Finally our ironmaster stopped adding ore and we ran on just adding charcoal

and then, still cranking the blower, letting the fire burn down.  When it

was about 1/2 of the way down the furnace the command came, "stop cranking".

The run was over.  Now the furnace would be allowed to slowly cool and

in the morning we would gather round to fish out a bloom if we were lucky

and try to figure out what went wrong if we were not.

Now if you believe that, I have the location of a vein of magic pennsic

clay I can sell you. Its been handed down through our campsite for *years*

and if word leaks out that I am offering to you for the low price of

1995 hundred dollars in easy weekly payments.........

As soon as *we* cooled down a bit, made the pilgrimage to the facilities,

replenished our fluids and basically allowed the furnace temperature to

drop below that needed to solidify a bloom, we were yanking the tueyre out

and trying to fish out likely chunks of slag/bloom. The furnace was still

glowing inside and the heat it threw out would make a small dome tent on the

serengetti at mid-afternoon look positively like the nord Nordmark winter.

Tongs and forge rakes flashed; the welding gauntlets were called for and the

punkin pole was wielded once again as piece after piece was pried from the

walls or raked from the glowing coals left in the furnace to the tune of

shouts and chortles of the iron crew.  The best, (most likely), were

carefully set aside for closer examination in the morning and the rest was

raked inside a fire brick wall.  At last, having ensured the safety of the

camp while we slept, we stumbled to our beds while visions of wrought iron

danced in our heads.


Morning gradually insuinated itself into our shaded camp and started chipping

away at my all too short slumbers.  However when I staggered into the

fire-zone of the camp, dragging my right arm behind me, (guess who was

on the blower-team last night!), the ironmaster was there before me,

hunkered down and grading the results of the run.  Several nice pieces

had already been hit on the hand crank grinder and showed bright metal

under their slaggy coat. We had succeeded!  Starting with brown "dirt"

we had smelted wrought iron using the direct process and a furnace that

would not have looked out of place in many archeological digs of early

period ironworks!

And so with the happy iron makers slumped around the furnace looking

at each other and grinning insanely we take our leave of this storied

place and.....

(cue in song--"This iron and no other was made by ourselves, we'd

pawn our own plasma to.....").

BTW the next step is to reheat the blooms to welding temperature and

consolidate them by gentle hammering to drive out most of the slag.

Folding and welding repeatedly will refine the wrought iron until it

is ready to use in the blacksmiths forge.  My plans are to do a blister

steel run using some wrought and forge a pattern welded knife from

blister steel and "homemade" iron.  It won't be a fancy blade, just

something an early smith might carry as a use knife.

wilelm the smith who tries to make something every pennsic, (niello, brat

fork--story to come, penannular brooches, cast bronze medallion, pattern

welded billets, bodkin points--where I learned I could forge sitting down,

and try to teach a skill to someone to help "pay" for all those who have

taken time to teach me.)


<the end>

Formatting copyright © Mark S. Harris (THLord Stefan li Rous).
All other copyrights are property of the original article and message authors.

Comments to the Editor: stefan at florilegium.org