latest news from pulmans

Catch up on the latest new from Pulman Steel and the steel industry

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Using the latest computer controlled saws, all of our steel stock can be cut to length whether batch quantities are required or just one off's.

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Comprehensive Stock Range

Comprehensive Stock Range

Our steel stockholding is comprehensive to enable fast turnaround on deliveries when required.

Profiling

Profiling

High quality steel blanks, rings and almost any steel shapes can be plasma cut up to 40mm thick and oxy-propane cut up to 180mm thick.

Sawing

Sawing

Using the latest computer controlled saws, all of our steel stock can be cut to length whether batch quantities are required or just one off's.

Machining

Machining

Using a vertical machining centre, we have the capability to offer a range of expert machining services including drilling, notching, tapping, counter sinking and more.

Delivery

Delivery

Our dedicated transport fleet ensures flexibility to deliver general steels, engineering steels, bright steels, plate, sheet, sectional steel, RHS, CHS and ERW tube when you need it.

latest news from pulmans

1st May 2017

Origins of the steelpan

Steelpan

As steel charged into the 20th century with a flood of new uses due to more efficient production methods, a rather unexpected invention emerged as a result – the steelpan.

The steelpan is the correct term for what is often called the steel drum, a musical instrument originating from Trinidad and Tobago. The sound the steelpan produces is so iconic that it is rare to find someone who can’t identify the percussive melodies whenever they ring out. Despite this, how many people actually know the origins of the steelpan?

Believed to originate in the poor suburbs surrounding the Port of Spain in Trinidad, the steelpan was an instrument born of a people’s need for music.

Slaves that had been brought to Trinidad by the French in the late 1700s adapted the French carnivals into their own festivals, fuelled heavily by drums. Following the emancipation of slavery in 1834, these festivals grew into much louder and more colourful affairs, but following some disturbances, the British government in Trinidad decided to outlaw drums in an effort to control the celebrations.

However, the spirit of the music was not broken, and the residents began using simple bamboo sticks to make their music and form what is now known as tamboo bamboo.

When tamboo bamboo was also banned in 1937, the Trinidadians then set their musical sights on scrap metal, and thus the steelpan began to thrive, beginning its journey to becoming the instrument we know today.

The steelpan’s uniqueness is perhaps born from the fact that it is an instrument developed not only from defiance and love for music, but also from what was essentially industrial waste. Much removed from the purpose-built shiny creations you might find today, the original steelpans were made out of things like oil drums, dustbins, coffee tins, car parts and (funnily enough) steel pans! There was no order to the steelpan, and only one rule – if it sounds good, play it!

It’s hard to imagine an instrument with a more organic development than with the steelpan. As the popularity of the sound grew (especially with the help of the US Navy during World War II), people began to experiment with hammering and shaping their scrap-made instruments, forming a range of surface sections to produce different notes – honing and refining the sound produced.

Despite the advancements in design and sound over recent years, the steelpan still remains to be a very simple instrument. Simple in design as it may be, there can be no doubt that hearing the intoxicating beat of a steel band can make even the shyest among us want to hit the dance floor.

So next time you hear the festive, tropical sounds of the steel drum, take a moment to appreciate the unwavering devotion music of the men and women that birthed the sound of the steelpan.

13th January 2017

The History of Steel

Steel history

Steel has become the go-to material for countless applications in the modern world, making it hard to imagine what life would be without it. Let’s take a look at how we got from using stone, timber and raw metals to producing over 1.3 billion tonnes of steel each year. To do that, we need to start from the beginning.

It is not known who first discovered how to make iron out of steel, but the earliest evidence of steel was found in Turkey, and is estimated to be around 4000 years old.

Since then, the use of steel can be seen throughout history in a multitude of different cultures, primarily for military use. In some cases, these ancient cultures were able to produce exceptionally high quality steels, although we’re not entirely sure how they did it! One example is Wootz Steel, which was considered to have near-legendary properties of strength, hardness and flexibility, but to this day attempts to reproduce it have been unsuccessful.

Despite its very early beginnings, steel remained in the shadow of iron due to inefficient and costly production methods. The use of steel popped up around the world in a variety of different cultures, but wide spread production and use didn’t occur until the mid 19th century.

Heavy demands from the growing rail industry to produce a strong metal without the brittleness of iron inspired Henry Bessemer to find a more efficient method for producing steel. Thus, the aptly named Bessemer Process was created in 1856, sparking a tidal wave of steel production that has yet to cease.

From that point on, steel has continued to grow as new grades, uses and production methods were developed. The rapid success of industry titans such as Andrew Carnegie (and Pulman Steel of course), and the construction of unprecedentedly tall buildings such as the Empire State Building are a testament to the impact of mass steel production.

Fast forward to today, and steel can be seen everywhere you look. We now have over 3500 different grades of steel available, which are used for practically everything you can think of. As the backbone of our modern world, steel is certainly one of the biggest catalysts of human advancement that the world has ever seen.

So next time you receive a delivery from Pulman Steel, try to imagine what this world would be like without our magnificent metal friend!

8th January 2016

Interesting start to the year

It has been an interesting first week back at Pulman Steel.

The beginning of the week was dedicated to contacting customers to explain the situation and discuss both existing and future orders.The response we received was amazing, messages of goodwill and an assurance that as soon as we can deliver, our customers will be placing orders.

To brighten our spirits we received a great gift in the post from one of our customers… an all new Health and Safety Policy. Huge thanks to them as each and every one of the Pulmans’ team has had a chuckle as they walked past.

The rest of the week was dedicated to finding staff somewhere to work, which was not an easy task considering we needed to fit 17 people into a space that used to be home to 3! In addition we only had 3 computers online.

The team in the works spent the week assessing the flood damage to our stock and deciding what is suitable to discount and sell on, at a clearance sale we are planning. In addition the works requires a lot more cleaning ready for our new machinery to be delivered.

Tea and biscuits have been consumed in large quantities and we have realised that the age-old adage that a cup of tea solves everything is true. We have ended the week feeling positive and raring to start next week.

31st October 2013

A dip into American steel history

At the turn of the Century one Andrew Carnegie sold his Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Steel Company, for a staggering $480 million, approximately $13.5 billion at 2012 prices. He had started with the Pennsylvania Railroad Company in 1853 having emigrated from Dunfermline in 1848 with his family, with no prospects and no money. He was employed as a secretary/telegraph operator at a salary of $4.00 per week. By the time he was 18, this hard working boy began a rapid rise through the company, to become the superintendent of the Pittsburgh Division. He learnt from his boss much about management at this time, proving vital in the years to come. By now the Pennsylvania Railroad Company was one of the largest railroad companies in the US. In the following years, Carnegie started to amass capital with the help from the managers at the PRC.

 

During the America Civil War, 1860 -1865, he really put his entrepreneurial flair to work, arranging a merger between and Pullman and TT Woodruff, a company he had had investments in previously. He helped open railway lines to Washington DC that had been destroyed in the fighting, and he together with others proved how vital the railroad was for supplies and troops in this bitter war. Under his organisation, the telegraph service became a vital and efficient service to the Union cause and significantly assisted in its eventual victory. Carnegie then turned his sole attention to his iron works, and with others, a steel rolling mill, and his steel empire was born.

Carnegie made his fortune in the steel industry, controlling the most extensive integrated iron and steel operations ever owned by an individual in the United States. One of his two great innovations was in the cheap and efficient mass production of steel by adopting and adapting the Bessemer process for steel making. For the next few years he became the enormously generous benefactor still known today, and, not forgetting his humble beginnings, he built swimming baths and a public library in Dunfermline.  So this is a very real story of how steel made one man very rich, and benefitted people throughout America and UK.

26th September 2013

Carl Wilhelm Siemen's Regenerative Furnace

By 1860 40 iron works round the world were using the Bessemer process. But during the 1950s Sir Carl Wilhelm Siemens had developed the Siemens regenerative furnace. It was then only a small step to building the first 2-ton hearth furnace combined with Siemens air regenerators which was made in France. By 1857 this was claimed to be recovering enough heat to save 70–80% of fuel. This furnace operates at a high temperature by using regenerative preheating of fuel and air for combustion.

 

In regenerative preheating, the exhaust gases from the furnace are pumped into a chamber containing bricks, where heat is transferred from the gases to the bricks. The flow of the furnace is then reversed so that fuel and air pass through the chamber and are heated by the bricks. Through this method, an open-hearth furnace can reach temperatures high enough to melt steel.  Then in 1865 along came the French engineer Pierre-Émile Martin who took out a license from Siemens and first applied his regenerative furnace for making steel. The most appealing characteristic of the Siemens regenerative furnace is the rapid production of large quantities of basic steel, used, for example, to construct high-rise buildings. The usual size of furnaces is 50 to 100 tons, but for some special processes they may have a capacity of 250 or even 500 tons.

Thus the Siemens-Martin process complemented rather than replaced the Bessemer process. It is slower and thus easier to control. It also permits the melting and refining of large amounts of scrap steel, further lowering steel production costs and recycling an otherwise troublesome waste material. Its worst drawback is the fact that melting and refining a charge takes several hours. This was an advantage in the early 20th century, as it gave plant chemists time to analyse the steel and decide how much longer to refine it.

3rd September 2013

The Bessemer Process, and its adaptations.

The brilliant British inventor, Sir Henry Bessemer (1813-1898), was the dynamo behind the introduction of mass production steel.  Reasoning that carbon in molten pig iron unites readily with oxygen, a strong blast of air through molten pig iron should convert it to steel by reducing its carbon content.  In 1856 Bessemer designed his converter, which he filled with molten pig iron and blew compressed air through it.  He found that the pig iron lost its carbon and silicon quickly and instead of freezing up from the blast of cold air, the metal became even hotter and so remained molten.  However this process could not remove the phosphorous, so initially Sir Henry could only obtain steel using phosphorous -free ores which were expensive and in short supply.

 

Another British inventor, Robert Mushet, around the same time, showed that the air blast actually removed too much carbon and left too much oxygen behind in the molten metal.  This made necessary the addition of a compound of iron, carbon, and manganese called spiegeleisen (or spiegel for short):  the manganese removed the oxygen in the form of manganese oxide, which passed into the slag, and the carbon remained behind, converting the molten iron into steel. (Ferromanganese serves a similar purpose.) The blast of air through the molten pig iron, followed by the addition of a small quantity of molten spiegel, thus converts the whole large mass of molten pig iron into steel in just minutes, without the need for any additional fuel (as contrasted with the days, and tons of extra fuel and labour, required for puddling and cementation).

In 1876, the Welshman Sidney Gilchrist Thomas discovered that adding a chemically basic material such as limestone to the converter drew the phosphorus from the pig iron into the slag, which floats to the top of the converter where it can be skimmed off, resulting in phosphorus-free steel.(This is called the basic Bessemer process, or the Thomas basic process.) This crucial discovery meant that vast stores of iron ore from many regions of the world could be used to make pig iron for Bessemer converters, which in turn led to skyrocketing production of cheap steel in Europe and the U.S.  In the U.S., for example, in 1867, 460,000 tons of wrought iron rails were made and sold for $83 per ton; only 2550 tons of Bessemer steel rails were made, fetching a price of up to $170 per ton. By 1884, in contrast, iron rails had virtually ceased to be made at all; steel rails had replaced them at an annual production of 1,500,000 tons selling at a price of $32 per ton. Andrew Carnegie’s genius for lowering production costs would drive prices as low as $14 per ton before the end on the century.  (This drop in cost was accompanied by an equally dramatic increase in quality as steel replaced iron rails: from 1865 to 1905, the average life of a rail increased from two years to ten and the car weight a rail could bear increased from eight tons to seventy.)

The Bessemer process did not have the field to itself for long as over 100 inventors sought ways around the patents held by Henry Bessemer.  In the 1860s, a rival appeared on the scene: the open-hearth process, developed primarily by the German engineer Karl Wilhelm Siemens.

But this will form the next chapter in the series!

This extract is based on information provided by Professor Joseph S. Spoer, Saint Anselm College

2nd August 2013

Interesting Facts about Steel

The production of iron began sometime after 2000 BC in south-west or south-central Asia, perhaps in the Caucasus region.  This was the beginning of the Iron Age, when iron replaced bronze for implements and weapons. Iron, when alloyed with carbon, is harder, more durable, and holds a sharper edge than bronze.  Iron formed the material basis of human civilization in Europe, Asia, and Africa for over three thousand years, until replaced by steel after 1870.

Do you have any interesting facts about steel – or that you would like to know about? Just tell the Sales team!

Steel, with .2 to 1.5 % carbon, makes it harder than wrought iron, yet malleable and flexible, unlike cast iron.  Wrought iron has a little carbon,.02 to .08 %, just enough to make it hard without losing its malleability.  Cast iron, in contrast, has a lot of carbon, 3 to 4.5%, which makes it hard but brittle and non-malleable.  Steel proves more useful than either wrought or cast iron, yet prior to 1856, there was no easy way to control the carbon level in iron.  Manufacturing steel cheaply and efficiently was not possible.  Yet the growth of railways in the 1800s created a huge market for steel.  The first ran on wrought iron rails which were too soft to be durable.  On some busy stretches, and on the outer edges of curves, the wrought iron rails had to be replaced every six to eight weeks.  Steel rails would have been far more durable, yet the labour and the energy-intensive process made steel prohibitively expensive for such large-scale uses.

In our next news item we will go into the Bessamer process that made mass production of steel possible.

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