Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Slag Tuyere Rings

(for any archaeologists reading)

These are some shots of slag rings recovered from two of our recent smelts (at Smeltfest 2012, Lexington VA, March 2012)

Lee Sauder has been using a heavy forged copper tuyere on all his smelts for the last several years. The tuyere was forged from a plate roughly 3/8 inch thick. First the piece was cross peened along the long axis to both spread and thin the rectangle into a triangle shape. Then the resulting form was wrapped into a cone. The finished cone is roughly 2 cm ID on the furnace end, about 4 cm ID on the bellows end. The piece is maybe about 40 cm long altogether.

In use, what happens is that the heat the tuyere end is subjected to quickly travels back to the larger end exposed outside the furnace. The combination of radiation to the outside air, and rushing cold air down the inside surface, all combines to keep the tuyere end well before the slumping or melting point of the copper material. The result is virtually no effect to the the copper tuyere, even after many firing sequences. I think Lee has used this same tuyere for something like 30 smelts, with no damage at all!

As the rings would sit against the furnace wall

Inverted, showing the slag and ore fragments on the top surface

The slag will harden to a shell around the tip of the tuyere. These rings do not solidly attach fuse to the copper, normally hand pressure will break them clear.
You can see that both the internal and external diameters are indicated in the slag rings.
You can determine the upper and lower surfaces, with the heavier accumulation on the 'up' side of the tuyere in the furnace.
You can get some estimate of the tuyere angle. The slag has formed proud of the furnace wall, so if you assume the inner wall to be vertical, the inside surface does record the tuyere angle.

Inner surface (inverted here)
The inner diameter and thickness of tuyere can be determined.

Both the rings show cracking in roughly the same place. I think this is an effect of the cooling rate of the slag and the shape of the rings. One of the collected rings had in fact separated into two pieces ( the ring on the left in the images above).

One ring was broken into two pieces

We have worked with ceramic tube tuyeres as standard here for the last while. These are uniform, cheap and fairly durable. They also are quite obvious as a physical remain. Same goes for the iron (steel pipe) tubes we have also made use of. As the iron tuyeres are consumed with every smelt, I don't think that this material likely for VA process - just from a practical standpoint. (wasting iron to make iron?)

Copper tuyeres might be another mater. They would be 'relatively expensive' as objects, but because of their proven durability would be worth the investment for repeated smelt operations. The copper would be too valuable to discard, likely just being cut up as raw material for bronze production at the end of their smelting use. Any finds of copper cut to rings as a bronze related find? It would be the easy way to re-cycle the material.

Anyway, the slag rings are quite distinctive. Lee said he gets these every time. Worth a check against remains?? (Kevin Smith had mentioned that he had recovered some semi circular slag fragments from his excavation of an 'industrial' VA iron smelting site at Hals in Iceland. It will be interesting to see if these modern pieces in any way resemble his artifacts.)

We messed with using a copper tuyere a long while back, but at the time I did not have any heavy copper bar or sheet. The copper tuyere I made up was only 1/8 thick material, and did not transmit heat fast enough to keep the end from melting back to the furnace wall. This would have certainly produced some droplets of copper into the slag someplace. Perhaps another signature to look for in the archaeology?

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

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