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The Kid Should See This

Primitive Technology crafts an iron knife made from bacteria

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“I smelted iron from iron bacteria,” John Plant writes in the caption of this Primitive Technology video, “and then cast the iron in a mold to form a rudimentary knife, making this the first iron tool I’ve produced yet.”

“The ore was a species of bacteria that lives by oxidizing iron dissolved in ground water. It appears as an orange/yellow cloudy precipitate in creeks and ponds. It’s a very common natural occurrence and can be found on all continents. I collected the diluted ore and poured it into a large, porous ceramic pot I made. The water leaked out, leaving behind the concentrated iron bacteria “mud” like substance. I dried it out until it resembled rusty earth. It took a month to collect the ore for one 2 hour smelt, from a stretch of creek about 20 meters long.”

collecting from the river
Watch how Plant collects the ore, makes charcoal, and then forms two different small mud furnaces to work with his multi-blade forge blower. With these handmade tools, he’s able to get the fire hot enough to smelt the ore and collect the iron prills, small spherical pellets or granules of iron, from the slag chunks.

“For the sake of experiment I weighed the iron produced on modern scales= 40g iron from an estimated 1.2 kg of ore. Even though this is a low yield by modern standards it is a marked improvement over my previous smelts that produced much smaller and fewer prills over all. I did another smelt that almost exactly reproduced this result (80g of iron stored). The increase in efficiency is due to the much better blower design (8 blades vs the original 4).”

placing the prills into the furnace
A triangular clay mold is placed in the second furnace, and with charcoal, continuous forced air, and time, Plant achieves the 1,150 Β°C temperature required to melt iron.

“It took many hours of sharpening to bring the end to a point. It’s not a sharp blade it works well for drilling holes in timber (like for making fire drill sockets). This represents the first iron tool I’ve made completely from scratch in the wild.”

melting the metal into a triangle
Watch these related videos next:
β€’Β The untold history of ironworking in central and west Africa
β€’Β Traditional sword making from scratch
β€’Β Solar metal smelting: Using sunlight to melt metal
β€’Β Making a cord drill & pump drill from sticks & rocks
β€’Β Making charcoal, baskets, & stone hatchets – Primitive Technology
β€’Β Primitive Technology builds an improved multi-blade forge blower

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