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Author Topic: Steampunk Primitive Engineering  (Read 1006 times)
Kleven
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« on: October 08, 2018, 01:42:12 pm »

I don't know if this has been covered before, but let's say I'm a post-apocalyptic caveman and I come up from some hole in the ground and I want to make a steel locomotive.

Do I make a fire and start throwing rocks in the middle of it?

How do I actually go about the process of having nothing into getting steel. Yes, I'm aware it comes from hematite and whatnot, but how would a caveman go about doing this?

Let's say we're out in the woods and we want a sheet of 36" x 36" 24 gauge steel. What do I do?
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« Reply #1 on: October 08, 2018, 06:40:53 pm »

Steel?, why bother in a postapocalypic world, steels loco's will be there for the taking, its knowing how to operate the damm thing, as you yourself said you were a caveman are you sure you'd even know what "A steel" is anyway?
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« Reply #2 on: October 08, 2018, 07:12:38 pm »

I don't know if this has been covered before, but let's say I'm a post-apocalyptic caveman and I come up from some hole in the ground and I want to make a steel locomotive.

Do I make a fire and start throwing rocks in the middle of it?

How do I actually go about the process of having nothing into getting steel. Yes, I'm aware it comes from hematite and whatnot, but how would a caveman go about doing this?

Let's say we're out in the woods and we want a sheet of 36" x 36" 24 gauge steel. What do I do?


Well that's the problem, isn't it? It's not the easiest metal to handle. Which explains why the first metals to be discovered were copper, gold and bronze in that order. To begin with steel does not naturally come in any single mineral, because steel is iron plus carbon. Hematite is Iron (III) Oxide Fe2O3. Somehow, the iron needs to come into contact with carbon while very hot in order for the carbon atoms to migrate into the iron crystaline lattice. I suspect the first steel was made by accident, and over time blacksmiths realised that the carbon was responsible for giving steel greater strength and hardness**

You need to take a look at Bronze Era people, who had mastered copper, and derivatives thereof. Very far back in the past in Eurasia, but the more recent examples of Bronze Era people would include Mesoamerican cultures, such as Maya/Aztec/Inca who mastered gold smelting and the like. The Equivalent in Asia/Africa would be Mesopotamia and Egypt.

Having said that, production of steel could be very old, as far back as 4000 yrs. old in Eurasia (Anatolia), but steel was not understood to be different fundamentally to iron by those who made it, and believed that any additional hardness was purely a byproduct of the iron smelting process.  Steel *intentionally made* knowing that carbon had fundamentally altered the alloy, would be very recent, actually, as in 500 A.D. in South India, made by the Tamil people and was known as "Seric Iron."

**Strength/toughness = ability to absorb energy and resist damage or permanent deformation. Hardness = ability to resist penetration with a sharp object. Complimentary to each other but seldom seen together. Usually mother nature's materials give you hardness or toughness but not both at the same time - a diamond is very hard, yet very easily broken with a small hammer, a rubber ball is very tough to tear apart, yet it's easily sliced with a knife. Metals are unusual in that for the first time they gifted humankind with a strong, yet hard material.



Making cast iron (cast iron has a high concentration of carbon, making the metal very brittle)
The terminology shows how steel is a natural byproduct of smelting iron. The trick is controling the carbon content
The earliest cast iron artifcts we know of date back to 5 BC in China
« Last Edit: October 08, 2018, 07:44:52 pm by J. Wilhelm » Logged

Kensington Locke
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« Reply #3 on: October 08, 2018, 09:57:12 pm »

Taking what Wilhelm said about the process, imagine you're him and you know that.  You just came out of your cave in the middle of nowhere.

How are you going to get started?  Where does Iron come from?  What does it look like?  How are you going to mine it?


Wormster's point is really a shortcut.  You just came out of your cave, and found the ruins of a city.  Start finding scrap metal and melting it down (not easy).  Heat up pieces to pound them into new shapes?  Easier.

Or, the hardest, you just came out of your cave and know as much as a caveman.  You don't know what iron is.  Let along copper.  You have no idea these can be melted.  You will have to stumble on copper, realize it is malleable, make the conclusion it can be melted, and so on.  It's gonna take awhile for the right conditions of that idea and materials to align, and the materials probably have to be encountered first for somebody to get the inspiration for what to do with them.

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Kleven
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« Reply #4 on: October 11, 2018, 05:06:28 pm »

Cool. Thank you guys. This is exactly what I was looking for.

I'm off to the woods now!
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« Reply #5 on: October 11, 2018, 11:54:29 pm »

There are basically 4 routes to go from iron ore to steel:

- Smelt iron in a small furnace, which produces a bloom of iron mixed with slag.  This bloom is broken up, reheated, and hammered to produce wrought iron.  Iron rods or sheets are them packed with carbonaceous material in a sealed box and heated, allowing the carbon to infuse into the solid iron to produce steel on the surface.

- Smelt iron in a mid size furnace, which directly produces an irregular grade of steel mixed with slag.  Process as wrought iron.  This is the process behind traditional Japanese sword making.

- Produce iron, place with carbonaceous material in a sealed crucible, heat sufficiently to melt the iron, producing a puck of crucible steel.  This material may, if you do everything right, approach modern steel in quality, without the slag inclusions of the above processes.  Get lucky with trace elements in the original ore and you can get a very good steel.

- Smelt in a large furnace which gets hot enough to melt the iron.  The melted iron dissolves a great deal of carbon to produce pig iron, which separates nicely from the slag.  With a bit of refining you can get brittle cast iron.  Burn off the excess carbon in a Bessemer converter or a modern refinement of the process and get a basic modern steel.  Add or burn off selected alloying elements from the melt to get the variety of modern steel.
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« Reply #6 on: October 12, 2018, 08:39:28 pm »


Or, the hardest, you just came out of your cave and know as much as a caveman.  You don't know what iron is.  Let along copper.  You have no idea these can be melted.  You will have to stumble on copper, realize it is malleable, make the conclusion it can be melted, and so on.  It's gonna take awhile for the right conditions of that idea and materials to align, and the materials probably have to be encountered first for somebody to get the inspiration for what to do with them.



and this, to me... is one of the most amazing things about humans that I have often ruminated upon. How in the hell did anyone get the idea to add carbon to iron to make steel? How did they even think of it? Don't even get me started on modern tech. It just blows my mind that people actually figured out how to do these things.
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« Reply #7 on: October 13, 2018, 12:17:46 am »


Or, the hardest, you just came out of your cave and know as much as a caveman.  You don't know what iron is.  Let along copper.  You have no idea these can be melted.  You will have to stumble on copper, realize it is malleable, make the conclusion it can be melted, and so on.  It's gonna take awhile for the right conditions of that idea and materials to align, and the materials probably have to be encountered first for somebody to get the inspiration for what to do with them.



and this, to me... is one of the most amazing things about humans that I have often ruminated upon. How in the hell did anyone get the idea to add carbon to iron to make steel? How did they even think of it? Don't even get me started on modern tech. It just blows my mind that people actually figured out how to do these things.

well, much like today the "aha  moments" were gradual and iterative, ( we actually call it "the iterative improvement engineering process") .

inspiration came in fits and spurts with way more "accidents" than most people want to hear about. 

Like Pennicillin - the serendipidopus result of piss-poor lab protocols:
Fleming noticed a Petri dish containing Staphylococci that had been mistakenly left open was contaminated by blue-green mould from an open window,
which formed a visible growth. There was a halo of inhibited bacterial growth around the mould.


If you ever want a real mind-trip, watch the old TV series "Connections with James Burke". Burke follows a specific connection from hundreds of years ago,
following the trail of invention and discovery , to where it leads to modern marvels. Such as synthetic drugs coming out of the geman dye industry.
https://archive.org/details/james-burke-connections_s01e01

-----
back to the OP ..  Kleven is really asking a very open-ended question, with few parameters!

as Wilheml and Wormster and Locke point out, unless one is many hundreds of years "post now"  unused, dead, or preserved metals and hardware would be lying around for the taking. 

And , of course, what one takes and does with it depends upon the circumstances and the needs.

Need Weapons? 
go find leaf spring, fire, a hammer ( a hammer, a chunk of metal, or a rock will do) and an anvil (again, an anvil a big chunk of metal or a big rock)
perfect stuff  to forge into knives, swords, spear heads, naginatas, arrow heads, crossbow limbs, etc etc

Want an engine, steam or otherwise?

see if you can find a gasoline engine that is not froize up and run it on "wood smoke" - it was done during WWI and WWII and all over India Africa and Asia
during petrol shortages.

see if you can find a diesel engine. run it on veggy oil.
or find an old Lister Diesel - again run it on veggy oil .

or  Modify a Lister- type to run on steam - the diesel is already a 2 -stroke!

then things canget more primitive as needed, going backwards.

If all you want is a source of stationary power, build a water wheel. The industrial revolution was startyed on water power, then migrated toing wood, then coal.

Need Transport? Need guards and stuff?
get a cooperative animal. cooble up a saddle and a cart. Now you have a friend and partner that you do not need to create fuel for!

One can befriend dogs, horses, mules, donkeys. The best sheep/llama guard I ever saw was a mule with the herd. A cougar got in thinking
it could get an easy meal (domestic horses are typically afraid of cougars). The Mule chased down the cougar, bit it , stomped it and there was nothing left but
a bloody carcase.

 if no domestic dogs around, domesticate some feral dogs. if no feral dogs, catch and domesticate wolves or coyotes.
especailly as pups. they are remarkabley easy to "partner" with if you understand them, and treat them as a partner that you feed and a member of
"your pack" as opposed to "breaking them" . wild horses are the same -  don;t try to "break them" - make friends, feed them, build a herd.

have fun
be safe
don't die

yhs
prf mvl
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« Reply #8 on: October 13, 2018, 01:21:25 am »

  How did they have "light bulb moments" before light bulbs were invented?   Tallow wick moments? Full moon moments?
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