Steel – Not As Modern As You Might Think

steel makingMost people think of steel as a modern invention. After all, it’s about it been used in some of the most iconic buildings and structures of recent times. However you might be surprised to find that the material isn’t as modern as you think. Because steel is a man made product it’s made from a culmination of iron and carbon and has actually been produced in some form or another for thousands of years.

The first known production of a steel-like piece was excavated from Anatolia (what is today, the Asian part of Turkey) and is believed to date back some 4,000 years. However it isn’t really true steel as we know it today as the smelting process needed to produce what we call proper steel wasn’t used at this time. Instead they were probably high-nickel artefacts pounded out from celestial products (meteorites).

When it comes to real steel production, then this is thought to have developed in India at around 500BC. Manufactured in a crude two-stage process, iron ore and a carbonaceous-like material was placed together in a crucible. This was then placed at the top of a make-shift furnace and a heat was applied to the bottom. If held at high enough temperature it would produce cast-iron buttons which formed in the crucible. In the second stage once the buttons were allowed to cool they were reheated directly in the fire. Once hot they were malleable and could be welded together by pounding them. The finished article was a material that closely resembled steel having a 1-1.6% carbon content.

Surprisingly as early as 300BC, steel was being transported to the Arab world from the Indian sub-continent and we know that in 326BC King Porus who controlled what is now modern-day Punjab presented a steel sword to Alexander The Great, King of Macedonia.

Considering the lack of technology, ancient civilisations managed to manufacture steel in relatively large amounts, but it was the Chinese who enhanced production methods for creating what we know today as Wootz steel. Also known as Damascus steel it’s recognised for it’s strength and ability to hold an edge. Needless to say Chinese steel weaponry was some of the best and most feared at this time.

Because of the time-consuming process to making steel, it could never be made in industrial quantities and remained the domain of small-scale smelters for the next 1400 years. That all changed however in 1855 when Englishman Henry Bessemer used oxidisation to extract the impurities from pig iron. This simple process drastically cut the time needed to make steel from days to hours.

Nowadays steel making is carried out using an updated version of the original Bessemer process where oxygen is blown into the heat rather than used to burn the excess carbon away. This means that impurities can be controlled and make for a better, stronger steel product.

If you’re in need of a quality steel then contact Metro Steel. We’re experts in manufacturing, fabricating, and constructing, fast turnaround steel items in stock lengths or for bespoke products to suit your needs. Why not contact us today on 07 3204 1000 and speak to us about your requirements.