Rediscovering the Bloomery Process

In 1986-87 Dave Harvey, a blacksmith working at the James Anderson Shop, conducted a series of experiments directed toward learning as much as possible about the ancient method of producing iron from ore in a bloomery. The science of rediscovering technology and other processes by research combined with trial and error experiments is known as "experimental archaeology." 

Dave's research and the results of his experiments were published in volume one of Colonial Williamsburg's Historic Trades Annual, published in 1988 by the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation [ISSN 0897-7216].

After 20 years the staff at the Anderson Shop is again researching and experimenting with iron making in a bloomery. The photos below are simple snapshots on one such experiment.

Iron ore in our area is called "bog ore" and is red/brown in color and can be hard or soft.
The grey mass in the foreground is part of an earlier bloom.

Steve is extracting the bloom from the bottom of the bloomery with large tongs.

Two pair of tongs stabilize the bloom while two sledges and a hot cutter divide it into workable chunks.

Each of these masses of iron will be forged out into a bar then folded back on itself, welded, drawn out again, etc. until the impurities are squeezed or burned out. The silica that remains will be in thin elongated thread like inclusions that give wrought iron its "grain."