Years Prior to 1800
The Beginning of Time
From the dawn of mankind, metals have fascinated man in many ways. From simple items found in the fire to advances in forming metals into trinkets, jewels, to weapons.
Three metals consistently found around sites of early man are:
- Gold (Au) - Latin - Aurum- for 'Shining Dawn'
- Copper (Cu) - Latin - Cuprum translated as 'from the island of Cyprus'.
- Silver (Ag) - Latin - Argentum meaning silver.
- Tin was discovered.
Tools, Jewelry, and Weapons
The metal is transformed into implements of civiliation from artifacts of beauty , utensils for Royalty, to weapons for a strong nation.
- The Sumerians, during the Bronze age in Ur (Iraq), made swords which were joined by hard soldering.
- A gold Goblet, found in the tomb of Queen Pu-abi, was double walled with a braze fillet around the periphery.
- Also from the tomb of Queen Pu-abi, was a gold bowl with a wire twisted handle that was brazed to the outside wall.
- The Egyptians heated iron ore in a charcoal fire to reduce it to sponge iron; the particles were then welded together by hammering. This "pressure" welding or "solid-phase" welding was the first recorded.
- Cobalt has been in use since at least 2250 B.C., when Persians used it to color glass.
Physical Metallurgy Expands With Fire
The ancients began investigating using controlled flames and fires to fabricate and joining of intricate and complex items.
- Mercury was discovered.
- Iron is smelted but not common until 1200 BC.
- At the tomb of Vizier Rekh-mi-re at Thebes, a wall painting depicts a brazing operation.
- Iron and bronze items found in the excavations near the pyramids in Egypt were found to be forge welded.
- Lead was discovered.
- Four gold sheetmetal boxes were found in County Roscommon, Ireland and were assembled by pressure welding (hammering) lapped joints.
Documenting the Processes and Building Larger Items
Advances in construction with intricate details about how to join metals.
- Pliny writes about Gold Brazing and the salts that were concocted for the flux. Descriptions are given describing the color (oxides) of the metal and whether it would braze easy or with difficulty.
310 - 400 AD
- Iron Pillar of Delhi, India was made of iron billets forge welded by blacksmiths. The pillar measured 23-25 feet high, 12 inches at the top and 16 inches at base and weighed 6 tons. Similar items found in Rome, Scandinavia and England. Iron was first only available in small amounts from meteors. Native iron is distinguished from meteor iron by having 6-8 percent nickel in its composition. Iron is rarely found in its native state.
- Natural gas was piped from springs and transported to the sea through bamboo poles for use in evaporating seawater in China.
- A German Monk, Theophilus, also describes in his manuscript, "De Diversis Artibus", a method for mixing together a flux for brazing silver using Potassium Tarpate and Sodium Chloride and flowing an alloy of approximately 66 percent Silver-Copper.
- Zinc was discovered.
- Vannoccio Biringuccio publishes "The Pirotechnia" in Venice, Italy describing bells placed in a forge or furnace prior to mechanical working. He is quoted in his book "This seems to me an ingenious thing, little used, but of great usefulness".
- Also in "The Pirotechnica", he writes of other descriptions of the art of welding.
For instance at page 137r of his [original] text he writes:
- e secreto el saldare vna rottura d'una sega, d'una falce, o d'una spada, pigliando vn pocho d'argento basso, borrace, o vetro pesto, el luocho della rottura abbracciando con vn paro di tanaglie bollenti tenendola tanto stretta che la saldatura scorga, & cosi anchora si fredi.
- Translated: "the secret of welding the fracture of a saw, of a sickle, or of a sword, taking some low silver, borax or crushed glass and embracing the fracture with a pair of hot tongs and closing so tight till the weld leans out and so cools" [Graciously provided by Mauro Cavallini of Italy]
- The great Italian goldsmith, Benventuto Cellini, understood the concept of brazing, writing "you must introduce a fresh alloy of silver and copper so as to prevent the solder form of the time before from running".
- WELD, v, 1599 Alteration of the well2 - to Boil, Rise influenced by welled; past participle. n, 1831 from the verb. (More etymology of the word can be found here...).
- Platinum was first used by the pre-Columbian Indians of Ecuador, who made articles from the pure metal as well as from a crude platinum-gold alloy.
Age of Discovery as More Metals are Identified
Characterization of metals and applications were understood as the drive to produce hotter flames for transforming metals.
- The first relatively pure sample of nickel was produced by Swedish chemist Baron Axel F. Cronstedt from an ore German miners called Kupfernickel ("Old Nick's copper").
- Although it was known to the alchemists of the Middle Ages, English physicist and chemist Henry Cavendish describes the physical and chemical properties of hydrogen gas.
- The element Oxygen (O) was discovered.
- Frenchman Lavoisier established the basic principle of oxygen cutting by burning an iron spiral in a flask filled with oxygen. The resulting oxide produced melted easier than the metal and that it became detached from the metal.
- Molybdenum metal was separated out in 1782 by P.J. Hjelm after groundwork was laid by the Swedish chemist Karl Scheele.
- Tungsten was discovered. The word tungsten is rooted in the Norse word "thungr-steinn," which means heavy stone.
- Zirconium was discovered.
- Titanium was discovered.