Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 38.djvu/159

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147
AMERICAN INDUSTRIES SINCE COLUMBUS.

result, and, as fuel and ore were abundant, it is not likely that economy would be much studied in their use.

The simplest process known for obtaining iron from its ore can be carried out in an ordinary blacksmith's fire by throwing crushed ore upon the ignited fuel, covering it with coal, and, after urging the fire with bellows for a considerable time, there will be found in the bottom of the fire an irregular mass of forgeable metal. Some form of this process is still employed by many savage and semi-civilized people; and this was doubtless the method used by the "mineral man" in testing the ores of iron discovered by the Roanoke colonists in 1585.

In Fig. 1 is shown a modification of this process, practiced by the iron-workers of Persia and adjacent countries, who have

PSM V38 D159 Persian method of smelting iron.jpg

Fig. 1. — Persian Method of Smelting Iron.

manufactured both iron and steel by this simple and inexpensive method (as measured by their standards of the value of time, labor, and material), from the days of Tubal-Cain to the present time, and have fabricated therefrom cutting tools and weapons of unsurpassed excellence. The keenness of edge, wonderful temper, and marvelous elasticity of the swords of Damascus have had a world-wide fame for thousands of years. George Thompson, the distinguished English orator and philanthropist, stated that when in Calcutta, he saw a man throw in the air a handful of floss silk, which a Hindoo cut in pieces with his saber. Many of the swords and daggers made in central and western Asia two thousand years ago were as remarkable for their elaborate finish and exquisite ornamentation as for their more practical qualities.

The process, illustrated by Fig. 1, was substantially as follows: A basin-shaped hole, six to twelve inches in depth and twelve to twenty-four inches in diameter, was first made in the earth; this cavity was then lined with moistened charcoal dust, which was well rammed to make it as dense as possible; the hearth thus formed was then filled with charcoal, on which was placed a layer of crushed ore, and over this alternate layers of fuel and ore until