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Barry C. Hutchins

Joined: 07 Jul 2009

Posts: 32

PostPosted: Sat 12 Sep, 2009 7:04 am    Post subject: link - History of Cast Iron in China and Europe         Reply with quote

From the archaeo-metallurgy side.. this link was recently posted on the Arch-Metals Group ListServe

"It tells a bit about the history of cast iron in China and Europe, mostly in pictures, with some text.

Sometimes the server gives the response, "No suitable nodes are available to serve your request." That just means that there are too many users at the moment - try again later."

By Donald B. Wagner

Some references to weapons and implements and interesting information on annealing processes lasting for days.


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Jared Smith

Location: Tennessee
Joined: 10 Feb 2005
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PostPosted: Sat 12 Sep, 2009 6:24 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I do appreciate these types of articles. This one's strength seems to be in discussing properties of different types of cast iron and variations in types of objects created. I would say it understates the scale (only shows some of the smaller known forms of production, not the major known ones) of pre-industrial revolution production of iron and mild carbon steel. The 15th century stain glass window gives the impression that everything in Europe was small cupola batch scale until late industrial revolution. Not much is said of the impressive forms of production of B.C. era China either. Production in archeometallurgical papers is generally presented in terms of 100's or 1000's of tons per year depending upon specific sites discussed.

Chinese archeologists claim that they had large natural fast draft type (some sketches seem to show bellows as well) furnaces created by building their smelters against mountain sides in B.C. era. Some researches believe that they had coal and/or charcoal in that era as well. Some recreated sketches show animal powered or water powered mechanisms for forging refinement. Similarly, German medieval sources had fairly large scale tool steel grade "cake" production sometime around 11th to 12th century such that it was a major export trade. Catalan forges with water powered forging refinement spread throughout major portions of Europe very close behind or at the same time. For the most part, these basic approaches were still being used in America during the American Civil War with little advancement in consistency of results until chemistry was significantly later (most would say after the industrial revolution) applied. There are abandoned sites of two Civil War era production centers not far from me here in Tennessee, one being a furnace - cake type production center, the other the more classic forging-refinement type. Sometimes they got "gun steel" (capable of being hardened and tempered, "steel" as a common word being more modern) grade material out, others they judged the product to be simple iron suitable for iron cladding or structural use.

Absence of evidence is not necessarily evidence of absence!
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