So fine is that considered at Newera Ellia and the vicinity that the native blacksmiths have been accustomed from time immemorial to make periodical visits for the purpose of smelting the ore. The average specimens of this produce about eighty per cent. of pure metal, even by the coarse native process of smelting. The operations are as follows:
Having procured the desired amount of ore, it is rendered as small as possible by pounding with a hammer.
A platform is then built of clay, about six feet in length by three feet in height and width.
A small well is formed in the centre of the platform, about eighteen inches in depth and diameter, egg-shaped.
A few inches from the bottom of this well is an air-passage, connected with a pipe and bellows.
The well is then filled with alternate layers of charcoal and pulverized iron ore; the fire is lighted, and the process of smelting commences.
The bellows are formed of two inflated skins, like a double "bagpipe." Each foot of the "bellows-blower" is strapped to one skin, the pipes of the bellows being fixed in the air-hole of the blast. He then works the skins alternately by moving his feet up and down, being assisted in this treadmill kind of labor by the elasticity of two bamboos, of eight or ten feet in length, the butts of which, being firmly fixed in the ground, enable him to retain his balance by grasping one with either hand. From the yielding top of each bamboo, a string descends attached to either big toe; thus the downward pressure of each foot upon the bellows strains upon the bamboo top as a fish bears upon a fishing-rod, and the spring of the bamboo assists him in lifting up his leg. Without this assistance, it would be impossible to continue the exertion for the time required.
While the "bellows-blower" is thus getting up a blaze, another man attends upon the well, which he continues to feed alternately with fresh ore and a corresponding amount of charcoal, every now and then throwing in a handful of fine sand as a flux.