When the subject of metal heat treating in Gastonia, NC comes up, people often picture a burly looking blacksmith dipping a glowing hot piece of metal into water, causing it to sizzle and cool rapidly, then banging on it with a hammer. While this, in essence, is a form of heat treating, it’s hardly representative of what we know the process of metallurgy to be today. But where does heat treating get its roots from and how has it evolved from burly blacksmiths to laboratories? Take a look at the history of metal heat treatments:
The beginning: Fascination with metal has always been present in human history, all the way back to the early Egyptians who used it for jewelry, tools and trade. Some of the oldest known relics in the world today that have been exposed to heat treatments come from this era, including gold jewelry that has been tempered and shaped. But, gold wasn’t the only material that was quick to be shaped and molded by heat treatments: copper was soon to follow.
The Copper Age: Copper is one of the earliest metals to be exposed to heat treatments and proved to be a very successful foray into metal heat treatments because of its malleable properties. Copper was used to make tools, weapons and more, and was quickly discovered to be manipulated with the help of heat. Early civilizations would have used open fires to heat copper to high temperatures, then cool them in streams and rivers to achieve exceptional ductility and superior hardness. Copper quickly became the number one commodity in the metals market and stayed that way for bout 3,000 years, until the discovery of mined minerals, such as iron.
The Bronze Age: When copper and tin are mined together, the resulting ore is one that can be treated with heat in a variety of different ways to produce exceptional results. Early miners in 2800 B.C. discovered this when they heated bronze ore in much the same way as copper, producing superior metal products. However, bronze was scarce, which ushered in the next age of metallurgy…
The Iron Age: Iron was much more plentiful over bronze and even copper once miners knew where to find and extract it from the earth, which made the Iron Age a booming point in history for metallurgy and industry. Iron could easily replace copper and bronze creations and had properties that made it alluring for use in almost any metalworking application. Not coincidently, the Iron Age also marked an age of technological innovation, leading to basic inventions and early machinery.
The discovery of steel: Where there was iron, steel was quickly to follow! One of the turning points in the history of metallurgy was the heating of iron in furnaces lined with charcoal, which served to strengthen the alloy into steel. Steel was then fashioned into a number of superior uses and paved the way for even more innovation in the industrially growing world. And, with the properties of steel being discovered by early metalworkers, the prospects of metallurgy also began to grow, as new ferrous and non-ferrous materials were soon to be experimented with regarding different heating and cooling rates and mediums.
Since these early days, metal heat treatments in Gastonia, NC have become tremendously refined and understood, to the point where now, metallurgy is a science rather than a trade, as it once might have been. Heat treatments today are done precisely in labs with various high quality instruments and techniques, as opposed to over an open flame! But, one thing remains true: today, we are still learning how to manipulate the metals around us for even more refined metal heat treatments in Gastonia, NC.