Blacksmiths at Gravendal
A restored forge building at Gravendal
As ironmaking grew in importance the formerly "useless" forests where the Finns homesteaded became a crucial economic resource. Refining iron ore required lots of wood for fuel and for charcoal, which was the reducing agent used to turn the iron oxide ore into pig iron. Slash-and-burn farming was prohibited to protect the supply of wood.
Through various legal maneuvres the homesteaders were cheated out of the right to homestead on government land, and were forced to seek work in the new iron mills. An ironworks was founded ca 1720 at Gravendal, around 10 miles southeast of Säfsnäs. Here our ancestors worked in the blacksmith shop, and blacksmithing has been a family tradition for more than 200 years... Lars Elg and Lisa Gråberg lived here all their life, and their children were born in Gravendal.
A restored "labbi" (workman´s hut) at Gravendal
Being a blacksmith was extremely dirty work, and the hours were long. During the week the blacksmiths lived in small huts like this next to the shop. Only after a thorough bath on Saturday evening would they be allowed home for a brief visit. After church on Sunday morning they had to start the long walk back for another week of hard labor.
Access to forests and water falls was most important in locating mills. Water was needed to powers blast furnace blowers and hammers, but access to harvestable forest within transport range was the real limiting factor: Firewood was the only source of heat, huge amounts of charcoal was used to reduce the iron ore in the blast furnace, and heating rocks with bonfires was the only way to break up rock before gunpowder.
At the blast furnace the iron ore was roasted, crushed (by hand, with a sledgehammer) and fed into the furnace along with limestone and charcoal.
The end product was pig iron, for further processing, or sometimes cast iron products. Some of the pig iron was exported, but most was shipped to hammermills for further processing. Unlike other metals, pure iron is not very useful: Its melting point is too high, and the metal is very brittle. For this reason, most of the pure iron from the blast furnace was processed further in hammer mills.
Contents || Intro | Finnish settlers | Säfsnäs | Gravendal | Liljendal | The name Elg || Top of page
Last updated 02-10-27, 09.06