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The History of Steel

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!

Posted by Craig Silvain
13th January 2017

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