Metallurgy for the Non Metallurgist

Lesson 1 A History of Metals October 02, 2008

Richard Boswell, P.E. Mechanical Engineer Blacksmith


A History of Metals
Upon completion of the lesson, we will be able to:
– Summarize the history of metallurgy from ancient to modern times. – Define metal, ore, alloy, refining and smelting. – Outline the relative availability of specific metals.


Our Reference Document for this class ASM Course 0135 Lesson 1


Metal – a mineral or compound naturally occurring near the Earth surface and is sometimes described as a lattice of positive ions surrounded by a cloud of delocalized electrons. An element that readily loses electrons to form positive ions (cations) and forms metallic bonds between other metal atoms Ore – a volume of rock containing components or minerals that have economic value Alloy – combination of metals by melting (naturally or intended) Refining – selective removal of metal from ore Smelting – extracting metal from ore by heating

History of Metals
What is a metal?
– Opaque, lustrous element that is a good conductor of electricity and heat and a good reflector of light when polished. – Crystalline in the solid state – Solid at ambient temperatures

Except for Mercury


Polished low alloy steel showing light reflection

History of Metals
Ancient Metals
– Most metals naturally occur as minerals or compounds – Ancient man used Gold, Silver or Copper because they naturally existed in the form of metals – Copper ore reduction from copper sulfides (covellite and malachite) began between 4000 and 3000 B.C. – Two important ancient discoveries…..
o o

Metal could be obtained from ores by heating Strength could be increased by hammering


History of Metals
Bronze Age
– Addition of tin to copper to form bronze

~ 88% Cu -12% Sn

– By 3000 B. C. ancient metallurgists had learned to intentionally mix ores of copper and tin to produce bronze, similar to today’s composition.


Metals of Antiquity
The metals upon which civilization was based. These seven metals were: (1) Gold – 6000 BC (2) Copper – 4200 BC (3) Silver – 4000 BC (4) Lead – 3500 BC (5) Tin -1750 BC (6) Iron, smelted -1500 BC (7) Mercury – 750 BC These metals were known to the Mesopotamians, Egyptians, Greeks and the Romans. Of the seven metals, five can be found in their native states, e.g., gold, silver, copper, iron (from meteors) and mercury.




Time-Life Books Emergence of Man The Metalsmiths 1974
Fifth Century B.C. Smiths forging sickle at La Tene in Lower Austria

Smiths forge at La Tene in Lower Austria was used 2500 years ago


Celtic tools from La Tene were used 2500 years ago


Technology Distribution Part 1

Celtic Iron Age technology is commonly considered to begin around 1000 B.C. and lasting through 100 A.D. in Celtic Britain and ended with the arrival of Roman influence.


The Advent of Iron in Celtic Briton
The use of iron had amazing repercussions. First, it changed trade and fostered local independence. Trade was essential during the Bronze Age, for not every area was naturally endowed with the necessary ores to make bronze. Iron, on the other hand, was relatively cheap and available almost everywhere.


And then…..more technology distribution ….and removal
Roman influence shaped the world until the “Barbarian” invasions changed it again, and again…
– – – – – – Goths Huns Vandals Viking (Crusades) Mongols

In England the Viking Age began dramatically on January 6, 793 when Norsemen destroyed the abbey on Lindisfarne, a center of learning famous across the continent. The Vikings who invaded western and eastern Europe were chiefly from Denmark, Norway and Sweden. They also settled the Faroe Islands, Iceland, Greenland and (briefly) North America.


Old World Metal Centers date to 9500 B.C. and were either sources or manufacturing sites.


King Tut funeral mask of beaten gold. 1343 B.C.


Gold, Silver, and Electrum (natural alloy of gold and silver)


Multicolored Copper Components of Bronze (Copper and Tin)


Iron, a metal for the Masses is second most common metal. Early sources were meteoric forms before smelting mastered in 1200 B.C.

Smelting is Extraction of Metal from Ore
Smelting is Extraction of Metal from Ore
– – – – Gold – already pure in nature and not extracted Silver and Lead – 4000 B.C. Tin – 3000 B.C. Iron – 2700 B.C.

Requires a very hot fire
– Technology borrowed from Ceramic/Pottery Crafts? – Charcoal for fuel – Air is blown into the fire

Common Issues
These seven metals: gold, silver, copper, lead, tin, mercury and iron, and the alloys bronze and electrum were the starting point of metallurgy and even in this simple, historic account we find some of the basic problems of process metallurgy. The problems are: The ores must be found, separated and sized before use. The ores must be reacted under a controlled temperature and gas atmosphere. The liquid metal must be collected and cast into a desired shape. The metal must be worked to achieve desired final properties and shape.

History of Discovery
Before 1700 there were 12 metals in common use: Gold Silver Copper Lead Mercury Iron Tin Platinum Antimony Bismuth Zinc Arsenic 12 Metals Discovered in 18th Century: 1735 Cobalt 1751 Nickel 1774 Manganese 1781 Molybdenum 1782 Tellurium 1783 Tungsten 1789 Uranium 1789 Zirconium 1791 Titanium 1794 Yttrium 1797 Berylium 1797 Chromium

Before 1805 all metals were reduced by either carbon or hydrogen

1801 Niobium 1802 Tantalum 1803 Iridium, Palladium, Rhodium 1807 Potassium, Sodium 1808 Boron, Barium, Calcium, Magnesium, Strontium 1814 Cerium 1817 Lithium, Cadmium, Selenium 1823 Silicon 1827 Aluminum 1828 Thorium 1830 Vanadium 1839 Lanthanum 1843 Erbium, Terbium 1844 Ruthenium 1860 Cesium, Rubidium 1861 Thallium 1863 Indium 1875 Gallium 1878-1885 Holmium, Thulium, Scandium, Samarium, Gadalinium,Praseodynium, Neodynium, Dysprosium 1886 Germanium 1898 Polonium, Radium 1899 Actinium


1901 Europium 1907 Lutetium 1917 Protactinium 1923 Hafnium 1924 Rhenium 1937 Technetium 1939 Francium 1945 Promethium 1940-61Transuranium elements Neptunium Plutonium Curium Americum Berkelium Californium Einsteinium Fermium Mendelevium Nobelium Lawrencium


Civilizations and Eras defined by their Material Technology
Stone Age Copper Age Bronze Age Iron Age Dark Ages Medieval Ages Modern Metal Age consists of many overlapping Technical Ages after 1300

Age of Steel Petroleum Age Industrial Age Age of Flight Space Age -Sputnik Nuclear Age Computer Age Composite Material Age Nano Tech Age 27 Green Age ?

Design Technology Change form Compression to Tension
With the Industrial Revolution in the 19th century, truss systems of wrought iron were developed for larger bridges, but iron did not have the tensile strength to support large loads. With the advent of steel, which has a high tensile strength, much larger bridges were built, many using the ideas of Gustave Eiffel. The Eiffel Tower was built for the International Exhibition of Paris of 1889 Riveted lattice wind resistant design The Forth Bridge is a cantilever railway bridge over the Firth of Forth in the east of Scotland opened in 1890

Technologies Fade Away
– Essential skills for 12,000 years – Industrial Age made the skill ‘obsolete’ around 1930 – Smiths migrated into towns and were absorbed by other industries such as large industrial forge shops and auto repair garages

Metallurgy and Materials
– Essential skills for 500 years – Tomorrow? Will Green Age and composite materials render metallurgy obsolete?

Will natural and/or man-made disaster erase today’s centers of learning and manufacture?

Georgius Agricola (1494-1555)
Georg Bauer, better known by the Latin version of his name Georgius Agricola, is considered the founder of geology as a discipline. He died in 1555, one year before the posthumous publication of De Re Metallica, his greatest work. De Re Metallica (Latin for On the Nature of Metals (Minerals)) is a book cataloging the state of the art of mining, refining, and smelting metals, published in 1556. The publication was delayed until the completion of the extensive and detailed woodcuts. He describes the method of breaking hard rocks using fire-setting, which involved making a fire against a rock-face, and then quenching the rock with water to induce cracking by thermal shock. In 1912, the first English translation of De Re Metallica was privately published in London by subscription. The translators were Herbert Hoover, a mining engineer (and later President of the United States), and his wife, Lou Henry Hoover, a geologist and Latinist.

Bronze Age Weapons


Romans exported coin technology to Celtic Britton. Currency evolved from two basic innovations: the use of counters to assure that shipments arrived with the same goods that were shipped, and later with the use of silver ingots to represent stored value in the form of grain. Both of these developments had occurred by 2000 BC. Originally money was a form of receipting grain stored in temple granaries in ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia.

A Roman denarius, a standardized silver coin.

KINGS of Lydia Electrum coin. Early 6th century BC.

Gold 20-stater of Eucratides I ( reigned 171–145 BC), the largest gold coin ever minted in Antiquity 32

Celtic Metal Art
La Tène culture developed and flourished during the late Iron Age (from 450 BCE to the Roman conquest in the 1st century BCE) in eastern France, Switzerland, Austria, southwest Germany, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary. Celtic art in the Middle Ages was practiced by the Celtic speaking people of Ireland and Britain in the 800 year period from the Roman withdrawal from Britain in the 5th century, to the establishment of Romanesque art in the 12th century


Bronze nails, found in Egypt, have been dated 3400 BC. In 1959 during excavation of the legionary fortress at Inchtuthil near Dunkeld, archaeologists uncovered a singularly remarkable haul of a single kind of Roman artifact from around 83 - 87 AD.


Roman nail

Located in a twelve foot deep pit below the beaten earth floor of the workshop - the Fabrica- was a remarkable hoard of nails, over eight hundred thousand in number, many in a remarkable state of preservation. Pig iron was commonly imported into Roman Britain from iron producing areas of the empire- notably lower Germany- in small man hand-able billets.

found in Wales
19th Century "Square" Nails

An original 7" (180mm) long Roman nail found in Scotland

Replica of the hand made nails found on board the 'Mary Rose‘ Tudor flag ship of Henry VIII built in 1509


Viking Swords and Utensils
Viking Age is the term denoting the years from about 700 to 1066 in European history. Viking society was based on agriculture and trade with other peoples. They ‘acquired’ technology from around the world. Metal crafts in Scandinavia were of a very high standard as regards the execution and craft skills.

History of Metals
Iron Smelting
– Iron production began in Anatolia in 2000 B.C. – Iron production well established by 1000 B.C. – Widely available sources of charcoal (from wood) and iron ore caused iron production to spread widely (in China) by 500 B.C. – Intentional reduction of iron oxide ore using charcoal (from wood) was widespread in Egypt by 1500 B. C. – Egyptians were tempering iron by 900 B.C.


History of Metals
Iron Smelting
– Requires higher temperatures than for lead. – Involves oxide reduction using carbon in the form of charcoal or coke to reduce iron oxide to iron, forming carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide.


Carbon serves two purposes • Reduction agent • Fuel Early furnaces used either natural draft air or forced air.


History of Metals
Iron smelting (hearth processes)
– Early iron process were variations of “closed-pit” or “hearth” furnaces: – Used charcoal embedded in iron ore to reduce ore to iron. – Incorporated various air blowing techniques to make a “hot” fire.

Natural draft and forced draft.


Revolutionary Furnace -1200 B.C. for Egyptian copper smelting in Timna in the Negev Desert


Making Charcoal – recent technology method

Air flow in and out of the mud encased pile was controlled and limited for a slow oxygen starved burn to refine the wood into high carbon charcoal.


History of Metals
Iron Smelting (hearth processes)
– Early product of smelting was “wrought” iron.

Soft, spongy, ductile, low carbon, malleable.

– If carbon absorbed, the iron was somewhat harder than low carbon wrought iron. – Quenching to form a hard iron discovered early.


History of Metals
Iron smelting (hearth processes)
– In all furnaces iron oxide was reduced to iron. – Carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide formed. – Product was “sponge” iron.

High in carbon, silicon, phosphorous, manganese.

– If sponge iron kept in contact with the charcoal, it would absorb carbon

Good or bad?


History of Metals
Iron Smelting
– Modern basic reduced iron is termed “pig” iron.

Contains significant quantities of carbon, sulfur and phosphorus. • Carbon = 3.5% - 4.25% • Silicon = 1.25% - 1.25% • Manganese = 0.90% - 2.50% • Sulfur = 0.04% - 0.04% • Iron = Balance


History of Metals
Pig iron vs. wrought iron
– Wrought iron is ductile – Pig iron is brittle

What element causes the difference?


Laminating Iron without melting it – 1000 B.C.


Laminating Iron without melting it – 1000 B.C.


Afgan Silversmith using historic technology today


Iranian Coppersmith using historic technology today


Afgan Iron Making using historic technology today for plowshares


Goldworking in ancient America 2000 years before Columbus


Peru was a center of metal working for Copper and Gold using hammered sheets before the Aztecs


Medieval Smithing in Europe


German Smithing shown in 1500 A.D. woodcuts from "De Re Metallicus" by Agricola


Smithing in 1500's, from a Flemish woodcut


From "the Boy's Book of Trades", 1888


Colonial Firearms and Artillery


Colonial Kitchen Tools and all Hardware for the Home, Barn, and Equipment


Colonial Smithing at Sturbridge Village


Colonial Smithing at Williamsburg


Colonial Smelting Furnace West Virginia
Small, workable iron veins were discovered in many areas of West Virginia, and small furnaces were set up at these spots for smelting the ore and manufacturing bar iron for the pioneer blacksmiths. Start of Operation: 1836 Blowout: 1847 Daily Tonnage: 4 tons Built By: Leonard Lamb for Tassey & Bissel Stack: ? Blast: Cold Type: Charcoal Located in Cooper's Rock State Forest just east of Morgantown, West Virginia


Blast Furnace Operation
From 1760 to the 1880s, charcoal fires heated to temperatures of up to 3,000 degrees with the aid of water- or steam-powered fans converted locally mined ore into iron in at least 25 locations. Most of the state's iron furnaces were found in the northeastern counties, where veins containing iron nodules are relatively common. West Virginia's handful of furnace operators decided the effort of building furnaces and producing the charcoal and ore needed to make iron was a better bargain than paying the high cost of freighting bar iron or pig iron from existing furnaces east of the Blue Ridge.

West Virginia iron was used to make everything from stoves to nails and any number of tools, cooking utensils and household items that could be produced by pioneer blacksmiths. West Virginia furnaces were also credited with producing the cannonballs used by Commodore Oliver H. Perry to defeat a squadron of six British vessels in the Battle of Lake Erie during the War of 1812.


Tannehill Ironworks near Birmingham before Civil War
Trees on the hillsides were felled to be made into charcoal that fed the huge blast furnaces. Roupes Creek and a mighty steam engine powered the blowing machines to heat the fires that melted ore to be formed into "pigs" of iron which, in turn, formed the tools of war for the Confederacy. At the height of production Tannehill could turn out 22 tons of iron a day. The iron was cast into ordnance, skillets, pots and ovens for the Southern army. On March 31, 1865, it all ended in fire and destruction. Three companies of the Eighth Iowa Cavalry swept through the area as a part of Union General James H. Wilson's raid on Alabama war industry sites. Smoke rose from the charred remains of the ironworks and cabins that housed 500 workers. At day's end the furnaces were no longer operational, and the foundry, tannery, gristmill, and tax-in-kind warehouse were in ruins. 62

Tannehill Museum


Steel Making begins in Birmingham 1897


Sloss Furnaces fueled by Coal in Birmingham, Alabama


Sloss Furnaces once fueled by Coal are silent today


Vulcan on Red Mountain in Birmingham


Blacksmithing Survives and Thrives


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