The fuel, wood or charcoal, which served both to heat and to deoxidize the ore, has so strong a carburizing action that it would turn some of the resultant metal into " natural steel," which differs from wrought iron only in containing so much carbon that it is relatively hard and brittle in its natural state, and that it becomes intensely hard when quenched from a red heat in water.
Moreover, this same carburizing action of the fuel would at times go so far as to turn part of the metal into a true cast iron, so brittle that it could not be worked at all.
With the second period began, in the 14th century, the gradual displacement of the direct extraction of wrought iron from the ore by the intentional and regular use of this indirect method of first carburizing the metal and thus turning it into cast iron, and then converting it into wrought iron by remelting it in the forge.
14 below), in which the iron lies in a chamber apart from the fire-place, and is thus protected from the carburizing action of the fuel, though heated by the flame which that fuel gives out.
This carburizing is an indispensable part of the process, because through it alone can the iron be made fusible enough to melt at the temperature which can be generated in the furnace, and only when liquid can it be separated readily and completely from the slag.