The Roots of Progress

What is smelting?

Did you just spell “melting” wrong, with an extra letter? No, smelting is the process of extracting a metal from its ore.

Before I started this project I had a very vague notion of what ancient smelting was like. I pictured it something like this: “ore” is like a rock with some little bits of metal mixed in. You make a bonfire and you hold the rock over the fire with, like, tongs or something. The rock heats up and the metal in it melts and drips out, leaving… a rock with holes in it, like Swiss cheese. Maybe you hold a pan under it to catch the dripping metal.

Smelting is nothing like this:

Here’s a good YouTube video showing the smelting process:

And here’s another showing smelting and then forging of the resulting bloom:

Some observations from watching this and the charcoal video:

Social media link image credit: Morgan Riley, CC BY-SA 3.0

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