5
$\begingroup$

Basically, assuming you have all of modern human knowledge about smelting iron/steel, and the technology level you have is approximately bronze age, what would be the most effective approach to turn iron ores into usable iron tools? Specifically, the approach that would result in the highest quality result, as well as be as easy as possible to do at a large scale (if these don't conflict).

You can assume the technology available includes clay or adobe bricks, pottery, copper and bronze tools, and anything else a later bronze age civilization could be expected to have, in addition to whatever knowledge is needed for the process (this is handwaved, there doesn't need to be a plausible reason they'd know how to do it).

From what I've read, bloomery furnaces with charcoal as fuel were almost always the first ones to be used when civilizations entered the iron age. However, since we now know about all sorts of methods of making iron and steel, I'm wondering if that knowledge could be exploited without today's existing infrastructure. For example, using coke instead of charcoal, or preheating the air used in the furnace, or even using a blast furnace immediately instead of starting out with bloomery furnaces.

I'm not too knowledgeable about this sort of thing, but it's important for a story I'm writing. Any ideas?

$\endgroup$
16
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Brief mention of semantics - technically, as soon as you are able to make iron, you are now in the iron age. That aside, everything from How To Make Everything is really good, they go through the whole process: youtube.com/watch?v=AUn6LzakHsM There are additional videos in this series that go over specifics with using the iron to make useful tools. $\endgroup$ Nov 3 '21 at 20:48
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ The question cannot be answered unless you edit it to explain what is the intended meaning of the phrases "most effective approach", "highest quality result" and "large scale". You must clearly state whether this is intended to be an economically self-sustainable activity, or if the Pharaoh will dedicate all his riches to the purpose. You must describe the general setup of the society where this is to take place -- population, climate, fertility of the soil, availability of water and wood and coal and iron, size of the territory... (E.g., with all modern knowledge Egypt doesn't make any iron.) $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Nov 3 '21 at 22:08
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ For example why all those items are important: Yes, a knowledgeable time traveller backed by a very rich sponsor could produce a certain amount of ordinary steel in 15th century BCE Asia Minor, let's say in Nesha (formerly known as Kanesh, later known as Caesarea and now called Kayseri). But then what? Does he intend to become a famous producer of splendid swords, or does he give up steel and just mass produce plain iron nails? Does he open a metallurgy school? Does the Hittite king have a fetish for tonnes of steel per capita? $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Nov 3 '21 at 22:18
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Re: "why some of these comments are being made", the comments any question gets just depend on who happens to be paying attention to the question queue that day. I wouldn't read too much into it. $\endgroup$ Nov 4 '21 at 0:07
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @RedwolfPrograms Getting the question right here it seems is more important that the actual answer to the question. Which if you think about it does make sense. I had to sit back and cool off a minute before realizing the task here is to answer questions in a n order environment. And most importantly not have the system fall apart over time in a tangled mess of a thousand answers for unasked questions and 10 thousand questions for 1 answer. Baffled why no one suggested starting your question on the meta though. worldbuilding.meta.stackexchange.com $\endgroup$
    – Gillgamesh
    Nov 12 '21 at 20:07
2
$\begingroup$

IIRC China went to blast furnaces with waterwheels and windmills to power bellows very, very early. I don't know much about metallurgy but I do know ceramics, and their high-T furnaces were hollowed out earth mounds or hillsides that generated really powerful draughts as well as having excellent efficiency and top temperatures. They were able to produce tens of thousands of items at a time in medieval times, something only matched by the Europeans in the late 19th century.

The Europeans basically only reinvented porcelain with solar furnaces using big lenses, and then had to figure out how to make furnaces for actual production. I expect the layout and scaling-up of your steelmaking facility will be important and I'd look to China for how you'd do it with premodern technology.

If a very limited amount of steel is all you need, e.g. for demonstration purposes, there's also the possibility of asking the locals about if they know of any places with crashed meteorites....

$\endgroup$

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .