In the meantime... on a smaller scale, a study into the making of steel from wrought iron. Old blades, filings and other materials can be used to make new, wrought steel... with perhaps an additional mystery to be resolved.
This small smelter is inspired by accounts from Aristotle, who mentions in passing that steel can be made from iron by such a process. Skip and Lee from Rockbridge Bloomery may be credited with working out the details. I suspect it may suit my purposes just fine... there are experiments and metallurgical testing which need to be done on a small scale with the wrought iron I will be producing.
A refinement on the smelter below is running much better, and I have averaged about 4 runs on the two previous Aristotle smelters. I have found that adding sand and charcoal filings to the clay adds significant reduction in cracking and longevity. We shall see how long.