When were steel castings first viable? - Page 2
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  1. #21
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    The operating rod is a long thinwall tube ,containing a long spring,(about 20"long), a dogleg at the open end with a housing containing the operating cam for the bolt......impossible to cast even today...............Incidentally ,Alfred Krupp is claimed to have bankrupted the family business by producing a 25 ton piece of steel in 1824,and exhibited a 50 ton block of steel at the 1851 Crystal Palace exhibition......The value to gunmakers was immediately apparent,and legend has it that no Krupp steel gun has ever burst.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Orbital77 View Post
    I heard of Krupp making some large steel casting for an exhibition - I think it was a couple of tons and around 1850.
    I have a non-technical book about Krupp which says the firm sent a 4,300lb cast steel ingot (cast in one piece) to the 1851 Great Exhibition in London. The author reckons 98 crucibles of steel were poured simultaneously. I believe the steel casting was also forged, the result being a gold medal-winning entry.

    I don't think Alfred Krupp was doing anything novel (except perhaps size and quality), he was using the already old system of producing crucible steel. Later Krupp was an early adopter of the Bessemer converter (troublesome, the resulting product caused Krupp guns to explode and his famous forged steel railway tires to be rejected) then success with the Siemens open-hearth furnace process.

    BTW, later exhibition's displayed progressively larger steel castings, for example apparently a 100,000lb steel casting fell through the wooden floor and crashed into the basement below at the 1855 Paris World Exhibition. Everyone (except Alfred Krupp who suffered a nervous break-down) was very impressed!

    FWIW, here is a snippet (1967) claiming an early use (1862) of the Siemens process for steel casting in Britain. When Joe mentioned a "viable" process, I was thinking along these lines....economically viable that is.

    I have a poor knowledge of this subject, so consider it all a few random comments, possibly wrong.

    british-iron-steel-industry-w.-k.-v.-gale-1967-pg-113-edit.jpg

    A 105,000lb steel ingot on the Krupp display, Vienna 1873. It's a bit hard to see, on the left. This would have been shortly after the Franco-Prussian war, Krupp triumphant!

    krupp-display-world-trade-fair-vienna-1873-ingot-weighed-105-000-lbs.jpg

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  4. #23
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    Joe’s original question, of when were steel castings first viable, an interesting one.

    I believe that the original question was directed at the production of steel castings, to be finished by machining or hand work, as distinct from the casting of ingots which would be used to make forged, rolled and drawn products.

    The key word is ‘viable’. It was certainly viable for high-value items in the 1850s, but the expense of steel (prior to the satisfactory development of the Bessemer and other processes) and the considerable difficulties in making successful castings proved a barrier for many decades.

    I’m not clear whether Krupp exhibited actual cast steel items at the 1851 Great Exhibition, or just ingots and products forged from cast steel ingots.

    After a bit of searching, the earliest UK examples I found of products produced as steel castings were in the later 1850s. Admittedly it’s a waste of time using ‘cast steel’ as a search term. One example was a 2-ton cylinder for a hydraulic press, cast by Shortridge, Howell and Jessop of Sheffield.

    The aforementioned book Sheffield Steel by K C Barraclough has an illustration of a 5-ton bell cast in 1860 by Naylor, Vickers & Co of Sheffield for a San Francisco fire station. (Peter S's post identifies Naylor, Vickers as the first UK maker of steeel castings)

    The book also includes information about the high quality Swedish bar iron imported by Sheffield steelmakers. In 1869 the price could be up to £34/ton, compared with the best English wrought iron bar at £18/ton. There are c.1900 photos of the Swedish iron stocks at Firth & Sons and Jessop’s. The best stuff was stored indoors in very neat stacks, all the pieces having been cut to exact legth, corresponding to the standard crucible size. Crucible production is also covered. In 1900 William Jessop & Co were producing 3500 tons of crucibles a year. The clay was mixed and kneaded by men using their bare feet, so as to detect the presence of any sharp bits of foreign material.

    In post #3 rrrgcy mentioned the introduction of centrifugal casting in England in 1809. Shortly after reading that I happened to visit a secondhand bookshop, and the ‘technical’ section contained just one engineering book, an American book on the history of foundrywork. I didn’t buy it, as it looked too broad and shallow, but I looked up centrifugal casting and it confirmed that it was invented in England, by Anthony George Eckhardt, and stated that a US firm was centrifugally casting steel railway wheels c.1900. It gave the actual date and the name of the foundry, but I can’t remember them, or the title of the book. I think the firm was in Cleveland.

    Railway work probably gave a big impetus to steel foundry development. Later, development would be spurred on by the demand for big steel castings for turbines and for generator armatures.

    Steel foundrywork has always been fraught with difficulties not met in iron foundries. Digger Doug has mentioned some of the problems in post #20. I’m looking at a 1930s photo of a thin-walled pump casing, as removed from the mould, and there’s probably as much metal in the various runners and risers as in the casing itself.
    Last edited by Asquith; 05-08-2021 at 10:16 AM.

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    The article posted by Peter S refers to the Stanners Closes Steel Co introducing a furnace (open hearth) in 1862 specifically for producing steel for castings. Grace’s Guide tells us that the leading light there was Charles Attwood, and that in 1858–1862 he experimented with the production of steel by melting together cast iron and refined bar iron; this work led to a patent in 1862. This reminded me of something I came across fairly recently, ‘toughened cast iron’, developed by J. D. M. Stirling in the 1840s. A portion of wrought iron was melted with cast iron, and the result was a marked increase in strength and toughness. A large cast iron railway bridge in Manchester was built in 1850 using Stirling’s recipe. The arches were demolished in the 1860s when the layout was altered. I wonder if the contractor was surprised by the wrecking ball bouncing off it?

    Something called ‘semi-steel’ appeared later. Similar stuff?

    John Davie Morris Stirling - Graces Guide

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    Something called ‘semi-steel’ appeared later. Similar stuff?
    Here is my old transcription of what was written about "semi steel" in a book published in 1917. I'd apologize for the language but its his, not mine

    Book is Principles of Iron Founding and what I transcribed is by its author Richard Moldenke

    Semi Steel - a view from 88 years ago

    have fun

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    The photo of the Krupp ingot reminded me of a story I read about one of the exhibitions. Apparently Krupp was challenged to show that the ingot was actually cast steel and not just a large cast iron casting. He got a hammer and chisel and cut a good sized chip from the ingot in one piece showing that it was what it was supposed to be - ductile steel.

    I think I might have read this story in "The Arms of Krupp" a massive tome by William Manchester that describes the rise and rise of the Krupp family business. This is well worth reading, not as a technical history of steel making but as an epic that mirrors the rise of Germany as a military power alongside families such as the Krupps. Parts of it are shocking as you would expect, and some critics didn't like it, but I found it interesting and a compelling read.

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    I agree with Billmac in that the "Arms of Krupp"is a good read, even in my case, re-reading it. I remember one occasion that Herr Krupp (Alfred, I think) crawled into one of his steel castings and had an cannon fired at it to prove his trust in his steel. The shock stunned and nearly deafened him.
    Quite a history of the Krupp family (400 years). William Manchester was in the middle of it when Jackie Kennedy asked him to write his best selling account "Death of a president".

    JH

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    I have a copy around here somewhere...I think I read it when I was in High school. I dredged up my memory of the cast steel railroad wheels from Manchester's book though I must have read it 50 years ago...It's hard to believe that's the case!


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