In the early days of blacksmiths, which were the occupational precursor to metallurgists today, there was a need to make a fire even hotter to melt objects and metals and to remove the impurities from objects in order to make them finer, capable of handling more pressure, capable of being more stable and perhaps even durable.
Out of that originated what is called the bellows, which is an object designed to “shoot” out air onto a fire in order for it to grow hotter. This raises the temperature of the metal that is being melted in the blackmsmith’s oven, allowing it to melt quicker, to either remove it from impurities or to melt it into something else.
The bellows, at least the ancient one, consisted of a air bag connected on either side to two wooden handles. The handles, when pressed outward, gathered in more air. The handles, when pressed inward, shot the air out onto an object, usually in the case of warming up a fire. The modern bellows likely has roughly the same principles.
The bellows was originally used predominantly in the blacksmith arsenal. The blacksmith spent his time likely working on metals for armor and weapons, as was the case back before the invention of guns, pistols, and other firearms. The metal needed to be worked to perfection for many clients, if those clients were rich.
Some of the armor was bejeweled and required a place to put the jewels in the armor as well as a way for the armor and the jewel to be connected. The intricacies of the armor were up to the blacksmith, his or her ability to work the metal either by pounding it with a hammer or by shaping it under fire.
The blacksmith had a need for the weapons and the armor to be shaped in different ways, as well as to provide cuts or grooves for different items as it was shaped. The armor had to be heated in order for this to happen. The tongs needed to grasp the armor effectively. And the armor had to be dunked into water when the form was complete.
The bellows today differs little from the basic understanding of the ancient bellows. The bellows today is used in metallurgy to heat up fires to the point where they can melt and sear objects that are greatly beyond what they were working to melt during the ancient periods. Today there are statistics about what they might melt:
- Iron typically melts at 2,750 degrees Fahrenheit
- Steel typically melts at 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit
- Hastelloy X alloy, which is an excellent metal for high temperature applications, work extremely well in custom bellows applications up to 1,600 degrees Fahrenheit.
In 2015, researchers at Brown University discovered that a new material, which was a mixture of hafnium, nitrogen and carbon, had the highest melting point of any substance. It was at 7,460 degrees Fahrenheit. These are the types of materials associated with custom and commercial bellows in the modern age.
Today, a custom bellows design requires focus on 12 vital attributes: stress modes, flexing, pressure differential, rigid stops, spring rate, life cycles, temperature extremes, exposure, assembly method, vibration, end configuration, and geometric constraints.
There are many different ways to categorize a custom bellows in today’s age, but those 12 vital attributes are one of them. Assembly method simply means the way it is put together. The temperature extremes are the levels of temperature it can rise to or freeze to. The geometric constraints are how flexible the bellows is.
The vibration means the pitch it vibrates at. The stress modes have to do with the stress that is placed on the machine. The end configuration has to deal with the end design of the machine. And the rigid stops call to mind when the machine stops in a rigid form, devoid of all movement.
A custom bellows is likely designed by a custom bellows design company. There are exhaust bellows, standard bellows, stainless steel bellows, the multi-ply bellows, the metal bellows, and much much more. There are many options for those looks to commission a custom bellows.
Anyone looking to get a custom bellow would better look to the old bellows of the blacksmiths in the past for recognition of past achievements.