Chapter 12 Firing
Roland stood by the kiln in the backyard, waiting for the first batch of cement to be released.
The brick house that he had designed for the cement production was fifteen meters long and four meters wide. The front and back each had a door, the front door was as spacious as possible, it was so that people could easily transport materials into the house. Instead the back door was only one person wide, the only use was to let Anna secretly into the firing room.
Therefore, he also built a wall which was halfway around the house, the import and export arrangements were guarded by knights — they were Carter’s men, their loyalty was beyond doubt.
The cement production process was very simple. First the limestone would be grinded into powder, afterwards it was mixed with clay, iron powder, and then it would be calcined with either a dry or wet method. It could then be used after the final grinding together with the plaster. The raw materials were very common, only the iron could be difficult to obtain and hold in a large number, the critical fact lied in the process of reaching the right calcine temperature.
Roland did not remember the specific temperature needed to produce cement, even if he did remember it, he did not have the possibility of measuring and controlling the temperature – whether it was with an infrared thermometer or a thermocouple temperature-measurement gun both tools were unavailable, this made the production of the cement countless times more complex. He only knew that the temperature was almost similar to the melting point of iron, and that the calcination process was also a difficulty in the production of cement.
In the era of less advanced smelting technology, maintaining the temperature of the furnace has been a problem for all people. The heat loss of an ordinary open furnace was too great; it was difficult to maintain a temperature at 1200 degrees. But then he would also require a high temperature resistance furnace, he would also have to figure out how to make firebrick. The traditional iron making blast furnace would be heated up to the point of melting, the temperature may be up to the standard, but the narrow chamber was too small for cement calcination to take place, Roland was afraid that the time before the Months of Demons was not long enough for him to prepare all of this.
Therefore, Roland’s design for the kiln did not have any heating measures, he relied purely on Anna’s capabilities.
The broken-down particles of limestone and clay were all mixed together with water into a slurry, this was then evenly spread within the kiln. The knights then locked the door and walked away. Afterwards Anna would enter from the back door, use her fire to bake the earthen slurry until it melted into the iron powder.
Roland was somewhat restless; this was his first step towards upgrading Border Town. If he couldn’t produce cement, building a wall in three months would be just empty talk. Without the wall, there would be no people who would be willing to stay in this place. Whether it was in real life or within fictional literature, if you wanted to progress, a stable base was always essential.
“Your Highness, can this kind of product really hold the stones together?” Carter, standing at the side of the fourth prince asked. Although the prince had told him that this was the latest results from the research of the alchemists of Graycastle, he was still skeptical. After all, those people really haven’t made any useful products so far.
“Who knows? Anyway, that’s what they said it would,” Roland spread out his hands in resignation.
The world of alchemy and astrology were known as the sage arts. In the mainland, these professions were all very popular. In general, the royal family would develop their own alchemist and astrologers, meant for refining and predicting fate. For ordinary people, these studies were too classy. In light of this, Roland would naturally make the source of cement formulas out to be from the alchemists in the capital. As for whether the chief knight believed him or not, it didn’t matter.
Through the window they could see the flame gradually stop burning, it seemed that the calcination was complete.
When Roland stood up and went to take a look, Carter had been driven away from the gardens, so he was waiting alone by the front of the backdoor for the brick.
The gates creaked open and Anna walked out. The First thing Roland did was to drape a robe over her body, then brought a cup of water for her, “How are you?”
The face of the witch was full of dust, due the wet processing system and the amount of dust was also low, but the hot air needed for the calcination still produced quite some dust. She was not wearing a mask, staying inside for more than 10 minutes was obviously not too comfortable. She coughed and nodded, “The slurry has already changed into powder.”
Roland waited until the temperature in the kiln cooled down enough, although he needed to wrap a wet towel around his head, he still grabbed the shovel and stepped into the back door.
He was instantly surrounded by the hot air, for some time he felt that it was difficult to breath, the skin on his hands was roasted immediately. Fortunately, taking a shovel of powder did not take too much time, otherwise if he stayed for a few minutes longer in that environment he would fall into shock from the high temperature.
“Is this what you wanted?” asked Anna, who was now wearing her witch outfit.
“It looks very much like it,” Roland spread out the fine powder flat on the ground, using his finger to sense the temperature, “to know if it is definite we will need to test it first.”
“What’s the use of it?”
“It is for building houses, or repairing bridges and the roads, it can be used in many other places too. If it is successful, afterwards the people will be unafraid of the wind, or that their homes could be destroyed, by the cold, rain or snow.” With his other hand, he patted the girl’s head, “This was only possible thanks to your ability.”
Anna lowered her head, Roland did not know if it was or wasn’t an illusion, but he felt that the girl’s breathing became faster after he patted her.
According to the theory, it was important to fire the grinded materials together with the gypsum, with this it would be possible to adjust the hardening time. But now it would be needless to think about it too much, after a short break Roland took the shovel again and grabbed some more cement. He then called Carter who was standing outside the courtyard over, letting him prepare three different mixtures of the powder with the sand to compound cement mortar.
The chief knight completely didn’t mind this manual work, to him, doing this kind of work was many times better than the substitute fights he had for his Highness, every time he got into a brawl with the other young lords while he was on an outing with young ladies (prostitutes) in Graycastle.
Because it was already inside, iron powder was not added to the raw material, the color and luster that came out of it was lighter than normal, appearing to be an ashen gray. Roland spread the grout over a brick, and he then put down another brick on top of it. The cement solidification process would take around four hours, but taking into account the instability caused by the production of the cement, he intended to simply wait until tomorrow before seeing the results.
The second day early in the morning, Roland, Carter and Anna all hurriedly rushed to the firing place in the backyard. When he opened the door, he saw that the cement had the appearance of solidification condition, the two pieces of brick were tightly bound together. The consolidation appeared to be uneven, and on some places, it appeared frosted over.
Roland crouched down, scraping off the aroused frost, and trying to press his finger into the hardened cement, the touch made his heart feel pleased, the cement surface was solid, completely different from the touch of rammed earth, namely, using his nail to scrape against it didn’t leave any traces.
Carter repeated the action of the fourth prince, attempting to move the rock, but he also did not succeed. He even resolutely kicked against the side of it with his foot, until the connection between the cement and earth broke, but the two pieces of bricks were still firmly bonded together. At last, he swung the hilt of his sword against the brick, but only a small piece at a corner broke away.
“This is the effect of ‘cement’,” Carter immediately realized its purpose, “This is incredible. Yesterday it could flow like a melted candle, just one night later, it’s like a rock. With this kind of material, building the city wall will go much faster. As long as we have enough stone, we could even build a wall around the border within five years!”
“What’s the use of that?” Roland did not accept the suggestion, “A tall wall would be unable to stop any enemy coming at us from the inside. I would rather turn the old wooden homes of Border Town into solid concrete rooms, so that my people no longer need to worry about a natural disaster turning them homeless.
“……” the Chief Knight was speechless; he really did not expect the fourth prince with all his kinds of bad habits to say this.
“In the future, you will see,” Roland reaffirmed himself one more time about the importance of the road he would walk on – with regard to the numerous battles he had to fight in the future, science and technology were his best allies. And knowing this, the help of the witches was the first step on the path he had to walk.
TN: This image would shorten the chapter a lot xD