|Me striking for Jack in his Worcester, MA shop|
I'm not sure exactly what happened after that, because we don't have any lightsabers, but we do have these incredibly awesome lives where we get to work and learn and make things and meet people who do the same things and different things. We live in different cities and have totally different lives but we have a lot of really awesome things in common and it's really cool to have a good friend grow in a craft with you, especially if they knew you before something that's such a huge part of your life now was just a potentiality.
One thing we worked on together a little bit this summer was hearth melting. He recently embarked on a journey across the vast United States where he stayed with such bladesmithing luminaries as Dave Delagardelle of Cedarlore Forge and Jeff Pringle, learning and making and doing travelly things. After that he spent five months in Australia and New Zealand, sailing and cliff-adventuring, battling giant spiders and learning the sand-smelty ways of a smith named Anton A., and brought his knowledge back to the New England for further experimentation.
So, this past summer, we built a few small melting furnaces from bricks, ground clay/mud, and some fibrous plants. For air we used a small shop-vac on the blow setting and a tuyere of 1" black pipe. For fuel we used hardwood charcoal. Our only real process references were Jack's teachings from Anton, my observation of Jesus Hernandez's hearth melts in Baltimore in March, and online tutorials by Zeb Deming and Lee Sauder. We had, of course, plenty of steel scrap to melt, mostly mild steel cutoffs and railroad spikes, and were more or less going for blade steel, so we positioned the tuyere as best we could imagine would foster the correct reducing atmosphere to allow the nearly-molten steel to absorb carbon from the charcoal.
|Contoocook River bog iron|
Our first run was pretty inconclusive due to a bad tuyere height, so the right part of the furnace failed to meet the right temperature. We fixed that on the next couple of runs and came up with several very solid, dense remelt pucks, which we compacted with a sledge on a stump and split up to bring back to our respective shops down south in Mass.
|Me standing on our third stack|
The other incredibly cool thing is that its product is entirely indistinguishable from bloomery material. Hearth-melted steel, heated with charcoal and air in a stack of organic matter, is going to be exactly the same as anything made in an iron-age furnace. It's an easy way to practice the working of period material without the humongous learning curve of direct-reduction bloomery smelting from ore.
|Dense hearth puck and old NH-made wrought/steel axe|
And, as I promised, some tantalizingly coy model shots with the irresistible axe:
For those of you who can't get enough, here's one more: