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Primitive Technology: Making a Forge Blower

Our man in the jungle makes a primitive though sophisticated mechanical blower for a clay forge. It is really quite ingenious. 

This project is really pretty clever. Our man from Down Under improved upon a basic idea repeatedly as he built this forge blower. He added to the project as he went along and enhanced it with greater mechanical advantages.

What he ended up with is an efficient and functional forge and a blower that significantly increases the heat from the fire.

From first simply fanning the fire with a piece of bark, he then constructed a bladed fan with two pieces of interlocking bark. Attached to a stick this fan could be turned next to the fire much like a fire stick, effectively increasing the fire’s flame.

To increase the force of the air flow and eliminate the dissipation of air from all sides, he then fashioned a fan housing from clay. When turned inside of this housing, virtually all of the wind from the fan was directed directly toward the fire.

He then made a separate clay pipe, called a tuyere, to fit over the end of the fan housing to further direct the air flow into the base of the fire.

Then, rather than constructing a wheel and belt mechanism for the blower, he simply utilized a bow drill. This is a simple and effective machine that did the job with less moving parts and a little more physical energy. It was, in my opinion, a good alternative.

Finally he constructed a larger forge of clay around the fire and added charcoal he had produced from another project. Now the fire temperature could truly rise to forging levels.

Then I collected orange iron bacteria from the creek (iron oxide), mixed it with charcoal powder (carbon to reduce oxide to metal) and wood ash (flux to lower the melting point) and formed it into a cylindrical brick. I filled the furnace with charcoal, put the ore brick in and commenced firing. The ore brick melted and produced slag with tiny, 1mm sized specs of iron through it. My intent was not so much to make iron but to show that the furnace can reach a fairly high temperature using this blower.

I love this project and am anxious to see what he does next with this forge. Perhaps he will make some primitive metal tools or weapons.

Like what you see here? You can read more great articles by David Smith at his Facebook page, Stumpjack Outdoors.

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Primitive Technology: Making a Forge Blower