How to Build a Wood-Fired Smelter

Smelting refers both to the science of refining metal out of ore and to the art of casting metal into different shapes. In the first case the ore is melted and the metal separated out from the nonmetal elements. In the second case the metal is melted and poured into molds. Although modern smelting furnaces are often large and complex pieces of machinery, primitive smelting furnaces were very simple designs fueled by wood.

Step 1

Dig a pit in the ground.  Make the pit approximately 40cm deep and 30cm wide at the top. Give the pit a cone shape so it comes almost to a point at the bottom. 

Step 2

Dig a trench starting 67cm away from the pit on any side.  Finish the trench in the side of the pit, 27cm below the surface. Use the trowel to dig this trench. 

Step 3

Lay the iron or steel pipe in the trench.  Cover it up with the dirt that you dug out of the trench. This pipe is called the tuyere.  It delivers air to the base of the fire to increase its heat.

Step 4

Lay the kindling in the pit.  Lay the pine firewood on top of it. Set the bellows at the end of the tuyere where it comes out of the ground. 

Things You Will Need

  • Shovel
  • Measuring tape
  • Trowel
  • Iron or steel or ceramic pipe, 72cm long and 2.5cm in diameter
  • Pine firewood
  • Small kindling wood
  • Bellows


  • Dig the pit in bare soil with no organic material near it.
  • To use the smelter, light the fire in the pit and pump the bellows to keep it well-supplied with air. Place the metal or ore that is to be smelted in the fire. If you are melting metal for casting, you will also need a crucible to hold it in and tongs to pick it up out of the fire.

About the Author

Jason Thompson has been self-employed as a freelance writer since 2007. He has written advertisements, book and video game reviews, technical articles and thesis papers. He started working with Mechanical Turk and then started contracting with individuals and companies directly via the Web.