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The Processes of Iron and Steel Making

The Processes of Iron and Steel Making

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Published by Nur Farzana

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Published by: Nur Farzana on Jun 19, 2010
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The Processes of Iron and Steel Making
This page has been constructed to give the reader a more in-depth insight into the processescarried out at the Wortley Forges, associated and similar works. You will find some descriptionsare duplicated on other pages in this site.Iron MiningThe Bloomery Iron Making ProcessThe Finery & Chafery Iron Making ProcessIron Making by Blast FurnaceThe Puddling ProcessMaking Cementation SteelMaking Crucible SteelMaking Bessemer SteelMaking Steel by the Siemens ProcessMagazine Article explaining iron making
Iron Mining
The availability of Iron Ore was the key to the early iron industry. Even today (and moreconspicuously up to the 1970s) a number of steelworks sites were directly a results of a furnaceand later a works built were iron ore was available, although some sites are a result of water  power, transport, fuel and other economic pressures.Iron is very common on the planet earth and the British Isles are no exception, however onlywhere the iron content of the ore is quite high is the ore worth exploiting. This is one reason whyalmost all iron ore is now imported into the U.K. from the likes of Africa and Australia.It seems that iron ore was mined in many areas across the country, but these area progressivelyreduced as the demand increase and larger scale operations became more common. Theimportant iron mining areas were to the south of Cumbria (near Barrow in Furnace), SouthTeeside, North Lincolnshire and a band across the midlands from Lincolnshire to Oxfordshire.Iron Ore, be worth working, must be high in Iron & Oxygen, but will also include such unwantedimpurities as Phosphorus.Return toTop of Page
The Bloomery Iron Making Process
This is the process that started the Iron Age. It seems most likely that a lump of Iron Ore in a particularly hot fire lead to a strange material left in the embers of the fire. From this, theBloomery Furnace developed, in this a mixture of Iron Ore and Charcoal was burnt with the helpof a blast of air from hand worked bellows.The Output was typically a small lump of  Wrought Iron of poor quality, but even this was enough to make an impact on history.
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The Finery & Chafery Iron Making Process
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Iron Making by Blast Furnace
How the tower of the first Blast Furnace was developed may never be known but the associated process of iron making increase the volume of iron that could be smelted while also reducing the price. The first record of a Blast Furnace in the U.K. is in 1496.Early furnaces were best located on sloping ground, close to a reliable stream. Water was used todrive the early bellow to create the drought, while the slope helped to provide a near levelroadway onto the top of the furnace.The key to the process is the removal of the oxygen from the iron ore at the same time asseparating as many of the other impurities as possible.A blast furnace works on a continuous process lasting weeks, months, or in modern times, yearsand it will be assumed that the furnace is in the middle of a campaign and so the lighting thefurnace (blowing in) can be ignored.Clean carbon (Charcoal or later Coke), Iron Ore and Limestone are added to the top of thefurnace. Little and often is best as it has the least affect on the burning of the furnace. Alsoimportant is that the charge material is alternated (e.g.. Iron Ore, then Coke, then Limestone, andthen more Iron Ore).At the top of the furnace the charge is heated and dried by the hot gases being blown through thefurnace. Lower down, the iron ore melts as the carbon starts to burn and from just below themiddle of the furnace, molten iron drips down through the remaining carbon fuel onto the hearthat the very bottom of the furnace.As there is insufficient oxygen in the air blast to properly burn the carbon fuel oxygen iscaptured from the iron ore, however, in spite of this, the majority of the gas produced is stillCarbon Monoxide.
In the lower part of the furnace, the limestone acts as a flux and draws together many impuritiestogether into a layer of slag that floated onto of the molten iron.The molten iron and slag is drawn off periodically.The air blast is introduced a little way above the hearth and must be strong enough to stop the burning contents of the furnace stack dropping into the hearth, but must also not be so strong asto blow the contents out of the top.Until the introduction of the Blast Furnace cast iron had not existed and iron had never been seenas a liquid in any great volume.Since the start of the 18th Century the Blast Furnace has developed in a number of ways. FirstlyCoke was introduced as a fuel in place of charcoal, allowing the size of furnace to be increase(charcoal would collapse under the extra weight from a large furnace). This was famously pioneered by Abraham Darby at Coalbrookdale in 1709 and was almost universal within 100years, however a few charcoal furnace carried on until as late as 1921! Secondly the blast air washeated using heat recovered from the exhaust gases (energy conservation is not that new). Lastly,the Coke and Iron Ore are now mixed and heated, producing sinter, before they are charged intothe furnace. Interestingly, you can tell from the texture and colour of the slag whether or not afurnace has had a hot or cold blast.Modern Blast Furnaces can be 35m (120ft) high, 14m (45ft) diameter and can produce 10,000tons per day.The Iron produced by a Blast Furnace is always call 'Pig Iron'. The title of 'Cast Iron' is onlygenerally used after the iron has been cast into a finished product.Early furnaces producing small quantities of iron could be used to cast products directly andsome furnaces, such as Rockley Furnace, had casting pits for large items such as Cannon. Withlarger furnaces, all iron was cast into pigsand was remelted but from the 1850s molten iron wascharged into other types of furnace, mixer or converter. Little if any iron is now cast into pigs inthe U.K., as steel making plants are incorporated into the same works as the Blast Furnaces.Return toTop of Page
The Puddling Process
In 1784 Henry Cort devised a method of producingWrought IronfromCast Iron using a Coal firedReverberatory Furnace. Solid Cast Iron was heated within an enclosed furnace.A Reverberatory Furnace is a long low structure built out of fire bricks. The coal fire was at oneend with the hearth between the fire and thechimney. The hearth was slightly dished with aroof that directed the smoke and flame from thefire well above the iron. By keeping the smokeand flame above the iron, no carbon from the firecame in contact with the iron.Solid Pig (Cast) Iron was heated vigorously in thehearth until it was all molten. The fire was thendamped down and the iron stirred so as to bring asmuch as possible in contact with the air. Aswrought Iron has a higher melting point than Cast Iron, if the temperature in the furnace wascorrect the iron began to solidify as the carbon was removed. Eventually the Wrought Iron could

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