When were steel castings first viable?
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    Default When were steel castings first viable?

    In the 19th century we commonly see items marked "cast steel" but that was a reference to the method of producing the metal, not to the idea of pouring molten steel into a mould - like cast iron. I've been under the impression that casting steel was a relatively modern development, I think begun by Alfred Krupp making cast steel railroad wheels in the 1850's but I'm not certain and I'm guessing someone here knows more about this than I do.

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    I was working on a 1912 IHC 20 hp type d tractor it had a cast steel side gear on the differential.
    They started making tractors in circa 1906 but i don't know if the earlier ones had any cast steel components....i suspect they did but cannot confirm.

    So all i have is 1912 haven't worked on anything earlier than that.

    The 1912 tractor has dates of 1908 on the original drawings so they must have proved it circa 1908 and began producing them in 1912. The design was done some time in advance of a actual tractor.

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    Cast iron earlier of course, but I’ve read 500AD India, many websites on metal casting history show 1750 w practical and fully molten production in England via cast crucible process. Maybe this is for regular production of tonnages of steel and not “parts.” 1809 for centrifugal casting of steel (England again) and by 1818 casting steel was happening in the US at Mount Joy Forge/Valley Forge. By 1837 widely available commercial molding machines and by 1850 die casting machine patents lodged. Maybe mid-1800’s? I’d presume once steel/alloys were reasonably and predictably created the fabrication of cast steel parts via sand and mold process was used, so probably earlier than mid-1800’s?

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    I have a reference book that shows the crane company making cast steel fittings available as the steam pressures (and superheat) increased.
    so, that might be a data point for you.

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    Joe - you need to invest in the pair of books by K.C. Barraclough Steel Making Before Bessemer

    I can loan you my pair of first editions if you don't like Amazon's seven hundred buck tab

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    Quote Originally Posted by johnoder View Post
    Joe - you need to invest in the pair of books by K.C. Barraclough Steel Making Before Bessemer

    I can loan you my pair of first editions if you don't like Amazon's seven hundred buck tab
    Thanks John...let me see if I can find a set. I've a lot of experience with finding obscure books and hardly ever use Amazon but that sounds like what I need.

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    Quote Originally Posted by 99Panhard View Post
    Thanks John...let me see if I can find a set. I've a lot of experience with finding obscure books and hardly ever use Amazon but that sounds like what I need.

    A different sort of book - with numerous photos and illustrations - is American Iron 1607 - 1900 by Robert B. Gordon. Goes into Blister and Crucible steel making

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    I thought I'd look for the books mentioned by John on Archive.org and Hathi Trust sites .
    So far no luck but I did find this link from 1888

    Scientific American Volume 59 Number 26 (December 1888) : Free Download, Borrow, and Streaming : Internet Archive
    Download, Borrow, and Streaming : Internet Archive[/url]
    Search Link
    Internet Archive Search: Steel Casting
    Jim

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    By way of explanation I'll say why I asked...

    As many of you know, I'm the technical editor of Man at Arms for the Gun & Sword Collector Magazine. This often entails keeping authors from making technical errors, something that is very common when they know quite a lot about the artifacts and almost nothing about how they were made...hence my interest in 18th and 19th century technology. An author recently submitted an article suggesting that the French blade manufactory at Klingenthal was making "cast steel" blades c1816-1820. I don't doubt they were making steel blades, I've owned some and they were very good but I am certain they weren't casting them. He also told us that a friend has seen photos of the "molds" used. I don't doubt photos exist but I very much doubt they were anything that molten steel would be poured into. I suspect the molds are something else... These are all creditable authors who usually know their subjects intimately but this rarely includes the study of period manufacturing technology. In fact, I've only met one author who was seriously interested that aspect. A few years ago I found myself in a three-way conversation with him and the curator of the Springfield Armory. We joked about how it was a meeting of the only three people in the country that were interested.

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    Unfortunately I do not have a copy of Steel Making Before Bessemer, but i do have K C Barraclough's other book, Sheffield Steel, if you want to borrow it, Joe. It's mostly pictographical but it follows shefield steel from it's early days up through bessmer process

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    Sure...you know where to find me!

    (Justin lives just around the corner from my shop.)

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    Joe,

    You are right to be sceptical.

    When I see the words ‘cast steel’ or ‘warranted cast steel’ on older edge tools, I take it to indicate that the item was forged from crucible steel.

    I would assume that the same applied to Klingenthal blades. I shouldn’t assume that, but it seems so improbable that they would cast blades as blades, and so important a revelation if it was true, that the author should provide supporting evidence.

    Apart from anything else, why on earth would anyone cast a fine blade? It would need a lot of finishing, and in any case would likely contain porosity, inclusions and other defects.

    As for photographs of molds, under what circumstances would a mold have survived? A pattern, yes, but a mold, I hardly think so!

    I did a quick search on Klingenthal and acier, and found an 1832 source concerning the manufacture of blades at Klingenthal in acier fondu (molten steel, i.e. cast steel), but it discusses forging temperatures.

    Interestingly, in addition to acier fondu, and acier cementation, the source refers to something called acier naturel. It seems that this was made from ores found in certain parts of France, Austria and Sweden.

    Source: 'Encyclopédie méthodique: Supplément au dictionnaire de l'artillerie' by Gaspard Herman Cotty:-

    Encyclopedie methodique: Supplement au dictionnaire de l'artillerie - Gaspard Herman Cotty - Google Books

    Joe’s original question, of when were steel castings first viable, is an interesting one, which I might come back to.

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    The question is of two parts....massive castings ,and small castings....it appears small steel castings with any degree of detail were very difficult to make until the development of steel investment casting technology in the late 1950s.

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    These are great answers guys...

    There is another aspect to this as well. Klingenthal was THE French blade making center from at least the 17th century until the mid-19th century when production when production was moved away from the Prussian border. Since it was in Alsace, it was taken by the Germans in the Franco-Prussian War and was not returned to France until after WWI. If such a radical advance in technology had been made there you would expect it to have widespread ramifications. Also, it is easy for modern scholars to overlook the fact that it wasn't a "factory" in any sense we'd recognize. It was town where practically everyone was involved in blade making but the work was done in small shops that accepted portions of government or private orders. Final inspection was done by government representatives but to produce the quantities they did there must have been a high degree of specialization. None of this suggests a major change in technology.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Asquith View Post

    Interestingly, in addition to acier fondu, and acier cementation, the source refers to something called acier naturel. It seems that this was made from ores found in certain parts of France, Austria and Sweden.

    I didn't realize this had a name - even a French name. The reason Augsburg was such a major armor-making center - perhaps from Roman times - was that the iron that was mined there contained elements that, in effect, made it a mild steel. As such, it was in high demand. Swedish iron from some mines was the same. The German blade making center, Solingen, used mostly Swedish iron. When the 30 Years War interrupted the supply, some of the Solingen blade makers emigrated to the low countries and to England where they established the first English blade mills.

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    I can read most things in French and My browser offers an English Translation for this search but doesn't seem to work inside the books.
    I searched for Acier Naturel.
    Full-text Search Results | HathiTrust Digital Library
    Perhaps if these books are available through Google Books maybe Google translate may work for them.
    Maybe someone will find something useful in some of them .
    A couple examples

    L'art de convertir le fer de fonte ou le fer cru, en acier, joint ... - Full View | HathiTrust Digital Library | HathiTrust Digital Library

    L'art de convertir le fer forge en acier, et l'art d'adoucir ... - Full View | HathiTrust Digital Library | HathiTrust Digital Library
    I'll take another look again later.
    Jim

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    Quote Originally Posted by john.k View Post
    The question is of two parts....massive castings ,and small castings....it appears small steel castings with any degree of detail were very difficult to make until the development of steel investment casting technology in the late 1950s.
    This got me thinking...
    One of the most difficult parts to machine on the M1 Garand was the actuating rod. Given the fact that millions were made during WWII, you'd think that if they could have been cast, they would have been.

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    Quote Originally Posted by 99Panhard View Post
    In the 19th century we commonly see items marked "cast steel" but that was a reference to the method of producing the metal, not to the idea of pouring molten steel into a mould - like cast iron. I've been under the impression that casting steel was a relatively modern development, I think begun by Alfred Krupp making cast steel railroad wheels in the 1850's but I'm not certain and I'm guessing someone here knows more about this than I do.
    I heard of Krupp making some large steel casting for an exhibition - I think it was a couple of tons and around 1850. Casting steel though must be ( for small quantities ) MUCH, MUCH ! erlier. I have seen the remnants of a small wood lathe from the mid 1600 and it appeared to have been cast. ( Not to me - to somebody who actually knew what he was talking about )

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    If memory serves, "Swedish" iron ore was very low in phosphorus, so iron/steel made from it was noticeably more ductile than iron made from most other sources.

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    Quote Originally Posted by 99Panhard View Post
    This got me thinking...
    One of the most difficult parts to machine on the M1 Garand was the actuating rod. Given the fact that millions were made during WWII, you'd think that if they could have been cast, they would have been.
    Having not seen that part, I will suggest looking at it based on the fact that molten steel is much less fluid, and more "Pasty", you'll see larger sprues as well.

    If it is long, thin and "rod like" it might have been not castable.


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