Block of the Week: Blast Furnace
Having a blast!
Those of you who, like me, have been playing Minecraft for the best part of a decade might not know about some of the more interesting additions to the game in recent patches. The campfire, for example, is a great way of cooking food in the early game, and it’s also a great signalling tool. And scaffolding can make construction in Survival worlds a breeze.
Today, though, we’re talking about the Blast Furnace, which is a mid-game upgrade to the furnace that smelts harder and faster. You won’t use it for everything, but it’s perfect for when you arrive back home after a long, hard day in the mines, with stacks of iron ore ready to cook up.
Blast furnaces were added in the Village & Pillage update in early 2019. They smelt ore blocks, tools and armour, just like regular furnaces. But they work twice as fast as regular furnaces do! They’ll chew through a pile of iron or gold ore like there’s no tomorrow, yielding a shiny stack of ingots.
Fuel is also used twice as fast, meaning that the amount of fuel per item smelted is the same, and you can still use hoppers to transfer items in and out, just like a regular furnace. The only real downside is that it yields less experience than a normal furnace – about half as much.
Want one? You’ve got two options. The first is to seek out an armourer house in a village, where there’s a chance that a blast furnace will generate. Hit it with a pickaxe when the armourer isn’t looking, take it home, and it’s yours. Finders keepers.
If you’re not a fan of thieving from poor helpless villagers, then you can make your own instead. Three smooth stone blocks beneath a regular furnace in a crafting grid, surrounded by five iron ingots, should do the trick. You’ll be blasting in no time.
In the real world, blast furnaces are a thing too. The name comes from the way these furnaces “blast” air into the furnace at speed, increasing the temperature substantially – a bit like blowing on a barbecue. They’re mostly associated with the industrial revolution, but blast furnaces have been dug up in China that date back to the 1st century AD – powered by horses, humans, and waterwheels.
In the West, blast furnaces came into more common use in the Middle Ages - particularly once cast-iron cannons became a part of warfare. The invention of the steam engine allowed Britain to produce vast quantities of iron from its blast furnaces in the 18th century, which in turn allowed railways to spread across the British empire – many of which are still in use today.
Blast furnaces are still an important part of iron-making in the modern era, and they’re highly efficient. The largest in the world is located in South Korea – it’s 6,000 cubic meters in size, and can produce more than 5,000,000 tonnes of iron per year.
Minecraft’s blast furnaces don’t go that big. They’re just a block. But you probably don’t need 5,000,000 tonnes of iron per year, do you? Oh, you do? Guess we’ll have to start work on another furnace upgrade...