Smelting and metallurgy are valuable advancements in human history. We utilize smelting techniques in modern construction, manufacturing, and more. If you’re not familiar with how today’s blacksmithing processes came to be, keep reading to learn more about the history of smelting and metallurgy.
Where and When Did Smelting Start?
There are several theories about the origins of smelting and metallurgy. Traditionally, historians believed that smelting began with the Hittites of Anatolia during the late Bronze Age. Another theory involves trade routes popularizing the use and distribution of iron and copper products. Whether it was the Hittites or other peoples beyond Anatolia who developed it, smelting was likely developed during this period due to the number of smelted objects historians have recovered.
Critical Discoveries in Metallurgy
With the Bronze age came the discovery of combining copper and tin to form bronze. This material was superior in strength to tin or copper alone, which made it valuable for forming tools and weapons. The next critical discovery in metallurgy ushered in the Iron Age—the discovery of smelting iron. Wrought iron was stronger than many other types of metals. In fact, many modern blacksmiths still use wrought iron in their works today. Developing iron smelting techniques eventually turned into techniques to produce steel, which would eventually displace wrought iron. Steel is now the most produced metal in modern smelting applications.
Fuels and Smelting
Some of the earliest blacksmiths used coal and charcoal to fuel their forging fires. Another major development in smithing and smelting history was the discovery of coke as a fuel source. Coke was made from coal and wood to smelt iron more efficiently. It wouldn’t be until after the Industrial Revolution that propane and gas furnaces increased in popularity. Nowadays, propane smelting furnaces are some of the most popular blacksmithing tools for their ease of use and adjustment.
Effects of Smelting and Metallurgy
Metallurgy has consistently evolved, significantly impacting the Medieval Era, Industrial Revolution, and more. However, smelting has just as much of an impact on today’s industries as well. Smelting and mining are huge modern industries. Steel production is crucial to transportation parts, building and construction, appliances, and more. Without the foundation of smelting and metallurgy, our modern jobs and amenities wouldn’t exist as we know them.
Smelting and metallurgy have come a long way since their meager beginnings in the Copper Age. We hope this brief history of smelting and metallurgy has helped you gain a new perspective on today’s blacksmithing and smelting technology. If you’re interested in starting your own blacksmithing projects, you can browse our selection of furnaces and other equipment here at Cast Master Elite.