The tatara (鑪) is the traditional Japanese furnace used for smelting iron and steel. The word later also came to mean the entire building housing the furnace. The traditional steel in Japan comes from ironsand processed in a special way, called tatara system.
The steel, or tamahagane (玉鋼), used to forge Japanese swords (nihontō (日本刀), commonly known as katana (刀)) by contemporary Japanese forge masters like Kihara Akira and Gassan Sadatoshi is still smelted in a tatara. One of the few remaining tatara is the Nittoho tatara in Shimane Prefecture, Japan.
It is generally agreed that the word tatara is foreign to Japan, originating in India or Central Asia. There is a possibility that the word came from a place in ancient Korea, where the two dynasties would often meet. According to the Kojiki (one of the oldest Japanese historical texts), this meeting place was called Tatara-ba (たたら場) or Tatara-tsu (たたら津), and the word was possibly imported with iron-working technology. Japanese scholar Tokutaro Yasuda suggests that the word may be from the Sanskrit word tātala, meaning "heat," noting that the Hindi word for steel is sakeraa, which is very similar to the word kera (鉧) used in Japan for the steel bloom which the tatara produces.The two Chinese characters used when the word has the original meaning are 踏鞴 and, besides as tatara, they can be also read as fumifuigo, or foot bellows.
The smelting process used differs from that of the modern mass production of steel. A clay vessel about 1.1 meters (4 feet) tall, 3 meters (12 feet) long, and 1.1 meters (4 feet) wide is constructed. This is the tatara. After the clay tub has dried, it is fired until dry. A charcoal fire is started from soft pine charcoal, then the smelter will wait for the fire to reach the correct temperature. At that point, he will direct the addition of ironsand, known as satetsu. This will be layered in with more charcoal and more ironsand over the next 72 hours. Four or five people need to constantly work on this process.
It takes about a week to build the tatara and complete the iron conversion to steel. When the process is done, the clay tub is broken and the steel bloom, known as a kera, is removed. At the end of the process, the tatara will have consumed about 10 tons of satetsu and 12 tons of charcoal, leaving about 2.5 tons of tamahagane .
In 1977, the Japanese Society for Preservation of Japanese Art Swords (Nittoho), together with the Japanese government's Agency for Cultural Affairs and Hitachi Works, built in Shimane Prefecture the so-called Nittoho Tatara to provide the steel necessary for the production of Japanese swords. The Nittoho Tatara is managed jointly with Yasugi Works, a subsidiary company of Hitachi Metals, and is operational only during the winter.
Smelting is a process of applying heat to ore in order to extract a base metal. It is a form of extractive metallurgy. It is used to extract many metals from their ores, including silver, iron, copper, and other base metals. Smelting uses heat and a chemical reducing agent to decompose the ore, driving off other elements as gases or slag and leaving the metal base behind. The reducing agent is commonly a source of carbon, such as coke—or, in earlier times, charcoal.
Wrought iron is an iron alloy with a very low carbon content in contrast to cast iron. It is a semi-fused mass of iron with fibrous slag inclusions, which gives it a "grain" resembling wood that is visible when it is etched or bent to the point of failure. Wrought iron is tough, malleable, ductile, corrosion-resistant and easily welded.
A crucible is a ceramic or metal container in which metals or other substances may be melted or subjected to very high temperatures. While crucibles historically were usually made from clay, they can be made from any material that withstands temperatures high enough to melt or otherwise alter its contents.
Yasugi is a city located in Shimane Prefecture, Japan.
New Zealand Steel Limited is the owner of the Glenbrook Steel Mill, the steel mill located 40 kilometres south of Auckland, in Glenbrook, New Zealand. The mill was constructed in 1968 and began producing steel products in 1969. Currently, the mill produces 650 000 tonnes of steel a year which is either domesticity used or exported. Over 90% of New Zealand's steel requirements are produced at Glenbrook while the remaining volume is produced by Pacific Steel, a steel recycling facility in Otahuhu, Auckland. The mill is served by the Mission Bush Branch railway line, which was formerly a branch line to Waiuku. Coal and lime trains arrive daily. Steel products are also transported daily. The mill employs 1,150 full-time staff and 200 semi-permanent contractors.
A bloomery is a type of furnace once used widely for smelting iron from its oxides. The bloomery was the earliest form of smelter capable of smelting iron. Bloomeries produce a porous mass of iron and slag called a bloom. The mix of slag and iron in the bloom, termed sponge iron, is usually consolidated and further forged into wrought iron. Blast furnaces, which produce pig iron, have largely superseded bloomeries.
Tamahagane (玉鋼) is a type of steel made in the Japanese tradition. The word tama means "round and precious", like a gem. The word hagane means "steel". Tamahagane is used to make Japanese swords, knives, and other kinds of tools.
Sword making, historically, has been the work of specialized smiths or metalworkers called bladesmiths or swordsmiths. Swords have been made of different materials over the centuries, with a variety of tools and techniques. While there are many criteria for evaluating a sword, generally the four key criteria are hardness, strength, flexibility and balance. Early swords were made of copper, which bends easily. Bronze swords were stronger; by varying the amount of tin in the alloy, a smith could make various parts of the sword harder or tougher to suit the demands of combat service. The Roman gladius was an early example of swords forged from blooms of steel.
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Ironsand, also known as iron-sand or iron sand, is a type of sand with heavy concentrations of iron. It is typically dark grey or blackish in colour.
Japanese swordsmithing is the labour-intensive bladesmithing process developed in Japan for forging traditionally made bladed weapons (nihonto) including katana, wakizashi, tantō, yari, naginata, nagamaki, tachi, uchigatana, nodachi, ōdachi, kodachi, and ya (arrow).
Ferrous metallurgy is the metallurgy of iron and its alloys. It began far back in prehistory. The earliest surviving iron artifacts, from the 4th millennium BC in Egypt, were made from meteoritic iron-nickel. It is not known when or where the smelting of iron from ores began, but by the end of the 2nd millennium BC iron was being produced from iron ores from Sub-Saharan Africa to China. The use of wrought iron was known by the 1st millennium BC, and its spread marked the Iron Age. During the medieval period, means were found in Europe of producing wrought iron from cast iron using finery forges. For all these processes, charcoal was required as fuel.
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John Chambers was a British citizen who became a New Zealand businessman and ironsands entrepreneur.
Early Japanese iron-working techniques
Akitsugu Amata was a Japanese swordsmith.
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