Group B Lab Data: Week 7 (Blacksmithing)

In the Week 7 lab, we learned basic blacksmithing techniques and used them to create iron nails. While this was, in many ways, more of an experiential rather than an experimental lab, I was still able to gather a limited amount of both quantitative and qualitative data.

There were two fuel variables in the lab; two groups used charcoal to fuel the fire we used to heat the iron, while three used coal. Group B (my group) was a charcoal utilizing group. In sum, we used an entire 30 pound bag of charcoal to produce 5 nails.

Nail, split, next to ruler.
An example of a nail. This nail (which I was forging) broke in half during heating.

While I was unable to get weights for every nail we produced, I found a stand-in weight estimate. Using the length of the pictured nail and the 5/16″ required diameter of each nail, I determined an estimated nail volume and, using an average .25 pounds per cubic inch weight of iron, I estimated that we worked 1.2 pounds of iron between the five nails. This is likely an overestimate, because the pictured nail was the largest of our group; however, even with this overestimate, it took 25x more charcoal to heat the iron than the actual iron we forged by weight. I have visualized this below:

In addition, I collected a few interesting temperature readings during the lab that show both iron temperatures and the temperature of the blacksmith’s working environment:

Temperature (Celsius) of Cool, Unworked IronTemperature (Celsius) of Glowing, Workable IronTemperature (Celsius) of Glenn’s Shirt while Feeding Air to Fire
Various temperature readings from blacksmithing lab.

Finally, in class on Friday, Professor Sarah Kennedy joined us with the Archaeology Department’s pXRF scanner, which she used to determine the elemental composition of a few objects that we worked with in a few labs. The elemental composition charts she created are below:

Elemental composition of iron nail forged in lab by Martin.
Composition of Martin’s Iron Nail.
Composition of knife.
Composition of metal knife forged in last year’s smelting demonstration.
Composition chart of copper broach.
Composition of copper broach used in cremation lab.

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