Almost everything you question ends up with 'So I want to (fill in the blank)'. I have seen so many academics and professionals turn their noses up at practical evidencial theories in lieu of Sherlockian deduction, which would likely work if it was not applied through the filter of such narrow focus and skewed to the predetermined desired results. Yours is a journey of discovery, and as I am on a similar journey I so appreciate you advancing questions that are more in-depth than most would ask, and doing so in the middle of the public forum. It is inspirational and at times motivational.
Both academic and practical studies have their strong points and weaknesses. I do have a few stories that I've collected over the years of SCA folks changing academics' minds about what can be done, If anyone is interested, I'll dig out the story in the Florilegium of Alexandre (Honour) showing her history professor, that the picture of the knight shimmying out of his mail shirt by himself was not allegory, but could actually happen.
On the other hand, the SCA has gotten a bad name, which it is taking years to overcome, because of SCA folks trying to say they knew everything about medieval armor or weapons.
I can't help, even in my low level of Kingdom participation, reward that kind of ambition. And that ambition has, in at least one case (period fletching attachment using pitch and rosin before tying - you started it with that little brazier we sat around and fiddled with for hours, I have advanced the science a bit using verdigris to keep the bugs out and figuring how to strip feathers to keep the pith off and only the skin of the quill on for better adhesion) directly affected me and a thing I very much enjoy. So I will try to help you in this.
Have you ever written this up in an article or as A&S documentation? I would love to have such a thing to add to the ARCHERY section in the Florilegium. My standard policy is that the copyright remains with the author and I accept updates as you learn more or wish to change things.
I have family visiting back around my ancestral home in Pennsylvania, some of the richest iron ore deposits this country has are there. I will try to see if they can bring back some useful amount, or arrange to get it from some of the family friends who are still involved in the local mines (slow as they now are, they are NOT completely shut down).
I know that there have been various iron smelters run at Pennsic over the years. I watched the start up of one. I'm not sure where those folks got their iron ore, but it apparently can be had.
THLord Stefan li Rous Barony of Bryn Gwlad Kingdom of Ansteorra