Once again this year, Lee Sauder of Rockbridge Bloomery invited a small select group of fellow researchers (demented crazies) to spend a week at his home and workshop in Lexington Virginia.
This year the participants included his long time smelting partner Skip Williams, knifemaker Jesus Hernadez, Dick Sargent (Peter's Valley Craft School), Sheldon Browder & Steve Mankowski (Colonial Williamsburg) and myself.
Our focus this year was the 'Aristotle Furnace', based on vague historic descriptions which had been researched and initially tested out by Skip Williams. He had introduced us to the system at last years Smeltfest *. This year we concentrated on trying to both understand the variables and get a working method established for this furnace.
In brief this furnace acts as a small and quick acting re-melting hearth. Iron introduced into the top falls and melts, absorbing carbon and collecting into a metallic 'puck' in much the same way a full scale bloomery furnace converts iron ores. In this case however, the product is a higher carbon 'steel' material. The process takes from 12 to 20 minutes, and consumes very little charcoal.
Over the 7 days of Smeltfest, some 30 individual tests were run. Variations in tuyere size, placement and angle were tested out. The individual pucks were consolodated to bars, and further polished and etched to determine carbon absorption into the mass.