The Smelter's Art

Experimental Iron Production at The Rockbridge Bloomery
Lee Sauder
Skip Williams

In January of 1998, inspired by accounts of traditional iron smelting in Africa, I decided to see if I could make some iron myself. I enlisted my curious friend Skip, and together we've built two furnaces, and sweated through many trials. Although we've almost always managed to make some iron, it wasn't until the spring of 1999 that we began to smelt wrought iron blooms of reasonable quality and size. In March and April of 1999, in three consecutive smelts, we produced dense, forgeable blooms of 40, 20 and 25 lbs. Now in 2006, we’ve smelted almost a ton of our own iron using the ancient techniques of bloomery smelting. This website is where we try to share a little bit of what we’ve learned about how and why.

As interest in bloom iron continues to grow, we find ourselves doing more classes, workshops, and demonstrations. We are also offering bloom iron for sale for the first time. You’ll find more info on all those things on Lee Sauder's Website

As always, feel free to email us with any questions, ideas, complaints, diatribes, or suggestions.

Table of Contents 

The Basics of Bloom Smelting - A general overview and some basic how-to information.
New Cheap and Easy Bloomery - Stop procrastinating and make iron today!
Coated Tyle Bloomery - the latest instructions for building and operating a tile furnace
Smithing - offline for now
Early Iron Group - A forum for iron smelters


Smelting in Eindhoven
Adventures in Experimental Smelting--Iron the Old-fashioned Way
The Little Princess Bloomery
The Cadinho Method of Minas Geraes Brazil
The Teeny-Tiny Bloomery
Easy Clean Charcoal in a Barrel
Ore Roasting
Dr. Phil's Charcoal Roaster
Photos of smelting events

Iron Links - meet our Iron Smelting Friends
Bibliography - Our favorite bedtime reading.

The Archive
The Recipe - Step-by-step instructions for making your own iron.
Furnace Plans - Diagrams of furnace construction.
Data and Results - Just the numbers. Now including complete diaries of each smelt.
Iron Links - The old list of bloomery and student research sites.

Published Articles
A Practical Treatise on the Smelting and Smithing of Bloomery Iron, Historical Metallurgy
Practical Bloomery Smelting, Proceedings of the Fall 2001 Meeting of the Materials Research Society

  Contact Us


   Thanks to:
           Virginia Military Institute for financial support; Washington and Lee University for web space; Michael McCarthy, Darrell Markewitz, and the whole Early Iron crew for company on what was once a lonely road; Hugh Blackmer for his many resources and smelting soundtracks; Bob de Maria for his camera, eyes, and fine company, John Blackburn, Martha Goodway, and Pati Wattenmaker for encouragement; D. Allen Penick, Mike Upchurch, Elizabeth Knapp, and Bob Thren for geologic consultation; David Jarrett for coaling wood; Larry and Sally Mann for many things but especially their log splitter; Pete Davis for ore scouting; Wally Yater for furnace construction ideas; Wayne Raynal for note- keeping and good company; J. Mark Jones for access to his encyclopedic knowledge and his scrap pile; Doug Harwood and Anna Fariello for getting it and telling it; Elizabeth Sauder for patience, encouragement, and an occasional bowl of beans; and Bill Sauder for the bequeathal of his curiosity and stubborness.

 Send comments and questions to

Last partially updated January, 2006.

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