The development of early steelmaking processes : an essay in the history of technology
The history of steelmaking, prior to the work of Bessemer and Siemens, is not well documented. This study attempts to bring together the evidence for the development of the cementation and crucible processes, including information on the other means of producing steel which were of some importance in their time but were eventually rendered obsolete by the more well-known and successful methods. In addition to the historical background, a relatively simple treatment of the technology involved is used, as necessary, to underline the reasons for the various sequences of operations which were developed. The evolution of the cementation process for the production of blister steel was largely a British matter, although its origins were Continental. Based essentially on imported high grade Swedish iron as its raw material, it held an important place in metallurgy throughout the eighteenth century and for most of the nineteenth, first as the only worth while source of British steel and, later, as the source of raw material for the crucible process. The crucible process itself, growing from its development by Huntsman, around 1740, into the major steelmaking method in Britain, was recognised universally as the source of quality steel. It passed through various modifications until, eventually, with the bulk steelmaking processes of Bessemer and Siemens providing a basis for the rapid expansion of the industry, the crucible process took on a new role as the source of special steels, thereby ensuring the reputation of Sheffield as a centre for these materials. The essay includes as much of the history of this technology as has been elucidated by a research which has extended over a quarter of a century. It closes with a survey of the use of the cementation and crucible processes in Europe and America.