I'm designing a computer game in a fantasy setting with dwarves who need to produce steel. This is a very traditional Tolkein-esque fantasy world at a relatively "middle ages" level of technology (no gunpowder for example).
Detailed production chains are a big focus so I'm trying to keep things somewhat realistic (Is "hard fantasy" a thing?) and trying to design how dwarves (masters of working with stone and metal) would produce steel in this setting.
I think it's not too far-fetched to think that Huntsman's production of crucible steel in the 18th century could have been employed in a less technologically advanced society in the real world, if the knowledge was there.
So far I have the process as something like:
- Mine iron ore from the mountain
- Possibly need to grind this down and roast it
- Produce fuel by turning coal into coke or wood into charcoal
- Produce some kind of iron - this is the part I'm unsure of
- Place the iron along with a flux in heated crucibles to produce steel
I'm not sure exactly how the iron production, the key step to a smith, should go. Is direct reduction of the iron ore into "sponge iron" acceptable for use in this scenario, or would it need to be worked into wrought iron for use in this method? I guess sponge iron/a bloom of iron would contain too many impurities to use?
Is there a better method I should be using? Some way that dwarves in this setting could avoid the labor-intensive working of iron into wrought iron? I'm aware of wootz/Damascus steel but I think it would be nice to have dwarves use the (more advanced?) crucible method to produce larger quantities than the medieval-level humans do in the same setting, is possible. Assume that the dwarves have a fairly large workforce of willing blacksmiths, as well as the ability to use waterwheels or windmills where appropriate.