CROCK­ETT’S COUN­TRY WAYS: Mak­ing a fur­nace

Short of some­thing to do on a sunny Sun­day? Head down to the woods and get stuck into mak­ing one of these fab­u­lous fur­naces; it’s a great way to keep kids (and adults) oc­cu­pied!

Sporting Shooter - - CONTENTS -

In the last is­sue we made some char­coal. This time we’re go­ing to use the char­coal as part of a process that is thou­sands of years old. Be­fore we start pro­duc­tion of metal tools, we need to build our fur­nace.


! A rub­ble tub or bucket

! Wa­ter

! Clay

! A metal tube

! Bel­lows

! Sand

! Fire­wood

! A means of light­ing the fire

! Char­coal

! Shovel

Start by clear­ing the ground that you’ve se­lected as the site for your fur­nace, with a di­am­e­ter of three to four feet. It needs to be level, so you may need to dig the top soil over to over­come any slopes or dips. This is es­sen­tial, since when you light a fire in your fur­nace the heat will go straight up re­gard­less of how slop­ing the ground is; you need to have the heat ris­ing cen­trally through the fur­nace and not heat­ing one side more than an­other. Once your site is cleared, spread a layer of sand over it [pic 1]. This will pre­vent the ex­treme heat from burn­ing any roots be­low.

Next, it’s time to get mucky. Fill a bucket with clay (clay soil is ideal, but you may need to get it in from some­where else). Mix in some wa­ter un­til it be­comes eas­ily mal­leable and can be shaped without dif­fi­culty.

Place your metal tube on the sand. If you want, at this stage you can use mul­ti­ple tubes. The tubes al­low air flow to help fuel the fur­nace, and the more air, the bet­ter. Take a hand­ful of damp clay and make a long sausage from it. Place it at right an­gles over the metal tube. The sausage should be in a curve so that when you add an­other sausage it com­pletes a cir­cle about 12" in di­am­e­ter [pic 2].

Now make an­other sausage and place that on top of the first layer. Keep mak­ing sausages and plac­ing them in cir­cles, one on top of the other, un­til you have a struc­ture about 12-15" high. Any left over clay should be placed around the base to sup­port the out­side in a but­tress for­ma­tion. This will add to the strength of the fur­nace. By this stage it should look like a vol­cano.

Next, care­fully take out the metal tube and make sure that you can see through the hole into the heart of the fur­nace. Re­place the metal tube and light a wood fire in the bottom of your clay fur­nace [pic 3].

Grad­u­ally feed the fire with fire­wood un­til you have a de­cent fire with a bed of em­bers in the base. To speed up the process you can use the metal tube and the bel­lows to di­rect air into the base of the es­tab­lished fire. By do­ing this we are slowly dry­ing out the clay fur­nace and set­ting it hard [pic 4].

To com­plete the process we need to in­crease the heat even more. You can do this by adding char­coal. The char­coal will pro­duce a heat which is truly in­tense. Once you have a fur­nace full to the brim with burn­ing char­coal you can leave it to burn out and cool down [pics 5 & 6].

It is a good idea to keep the fur­nace out of the rain, so I use the in­verted rub­ble bucket to cover it and keep it dry. I push a stick into the hole where the metal tube goes to de­ter small crea­tures from mak­ing a house in the fur­nace [pic 7].

You now have a fur­nace that will be up to the job of mak­ing bronze or heat­ing iron to the ex­tent that it can be worked. You can even make your own bul­lets! This is a project that is a fun af­ter­noon’s work for one or more peo­ple. It’s par­tic­u­larly pop­u­lar with chil­dren (and adults who haven’t tried grow­ing up yet!).


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