The art and technique of bloomery smelting, man's original method for winning metalliciron from its ore, has been largely lost in recent centuries. Many reconstructions of this technique have been attempted by archaeologists in the last 30 years. These experimental smelts have tended to be rather disappointing in terms of the production of usable iron; nonetheless, many conclusions have been drawn from this work.
The main goal of our work with bloomery smelting is the production of iron for the creation of forged sculpture. Our focus on producing a usable product has led us to a somewhat different view of the technology from what has been published in the archaeological literature.
In this paper, we will briefly summarize our work through the spring of 2000, which has been published elsewhere. We'll then report our recent findings from the 2000-2001 smelting season, describing a typical smelt of the most efficient smelting regimen we have yet discovered. We will pay particular attention to methods that differ from those of other experimenters, especially in regards to blowing rate, slag management, and the recycling of furnace products. Finally, we'll point toward areas of upcoming research.