Part of the conference (https://storify.com/artefactual_KW/experimental-archaeology-conference-9) which I attended last week was a couple of hours at the UCD experimental archaeology site, which is a small grassed area beside the campus. Whilst there we watched some bronze casting done using bronze age methods, carried out by Umha Aois: (https://www.facebook.com/umha.aois).
That meant they used bag bellows like this:
And old fashioned crucibles like this, which are handled by means of a wood stick stuck into the handy socket at the back:
which is being used in a furnace in which the air came in from the top through a right angled tuyere.
Sinking the fireplace into the ground has some advantages, such as fairly good insulation and it can be made and prepared quite quickly. On the other hand I do wonder about the limits of the size of melt that can be made, since the crucibles had to be small enough to be easily handled by sticks.
Anyway, here’s the two videos:
It was a nice little axe that they made. The man who broke it out the mould was much more gentle than I would be, I prefer to smash the mould material off it in a couple of goes, rather than gently break it by tapping. Note too that the tongs used don’t quite fit the crucible, which can cause some difficulty in working, but they managed well enough.
Observe too the colours of the charcoal before they remove the crucible from the fire, and the colour of the liquid metal. They had no thermometers, only their eyes and skin, and so experience tells you when the melt is ready.
So, a nice part of an interesting couple of days. I reccomend the conference to anyone, it should be on again next year, although I think the location is still to be decided. Meanwhile I am jealous of UCD for having their own area for experimental archaeology.