Sunday, September 30, 2007

Thanksgiving Smelt - Preparations

Today I went out to make use of the wonderful fall weather - and start preparing the smelter area for the experiment next weekend.

I managed to lift out the still fairly intact furnace from our last series and move it aside in one piece. This was pretty remarkable as that furnace had withstood five separate uses, including the spring double smelt. Although it was bloody awkward and damn heavy, I have placed it at the base of one of the small hawthorn bushes propped up in its original orientation so it can can be observed as it weathers. (The weathering of used smelters is another long range project that I am continuing to record.)

There was one major surprise found when I dug away the embedded bricks used to support the earlier structure. As the image I took of the discovery was badly washed out, I will report on that later (with a better image)...

The following small images show the work so far:

First the smaller bricks used to support the previous smelter were removed. After the furnace was lifted off, any remaining brick fragments and larger clumps of slag were dug out of the base area. The hole created was then backfilled with a mix of earth, sand, ash, small fragments of slag and some charcoal fines. This material was the debris remaining from the last smelt.

To clearly distinguish this lower level (basically just support, a layer of heavy brown paper was laid down over the area. I do not expect any liquid slag or excessive heat to penetrate down to this level. The paper allows clearly visible separation at the lower ground supporting the structure. At the same time should any hot liquid slag penetrate this far, the paper will not halt its downward movement.

A new artificial ground level was established above this. Raw earth from elsewhere in the yard was laid roughly level and compacted (using a brick as a mallet) to a depth of 10 cm. To contain this layer a line of heavy clay bricks was positioned just proud of the existing line of concrete blocks. This construction gives enough space to build up the stone front for the clay cobb cylinder of the smelter.

There are a number of flat stone slabs of various compositions and sizes on hand from earlier gathering trips. The current plan is to build up the body of the smelter on Saturday (October 6). Initial pre firing to stabilize and dry the clay will tale place into the evening, with finial preparations and the main smelt sequence on Sunday (October 7).

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February 15 - May 15, 2012 : Supported by a Crafts Projects - Creation and Development Grant

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