The Topic:
Iron & Steel

Easier - Iron is a chemical element. It is a strong, hard, heavy gray metal. It is found in meteorites. Iron is also found combined in many mineral compounds in the earth's crust. Iron rusts easily and can be magnetized and is strongly attracted to magnets. It is used to make many things such as gates and railings. Iron is also used to make steel, an even harder and tougher metal compound. Steel is formed by treating molten (melted) iron with intense heat and mixing it (alloying) with carbon. Steel is used to make machines, cars, tools, knives, and many other things.
Harder - The exact date at which people first discovered how to smelt iron ore and produce usable metal is not known. Archaeologists have found early iron tools that were used in Egypt from about 3000 bc. Iron objects of ornamentation were used even earlier. By about 1000 BC, the ancient Greeks are known to have used heat treatment techniques to harden their iron weaponry. These historical iron alloys, all iron alloys produced until about the fourteenth century ad, were forms of wrought iron.
Wrought iron was made by first heating a mass of iron ore and charcoal in a forge or furnace using a forced draft of air. This generated enough heat to reduce the iron ore to a hot, glowing, spongy mass of metallic iron filled with slag materials. The slag contained metallic impurities and charcoal ash. This iron sponge was then removed from the furnace and while still glowing hot, it was pounded with heavy sledges to separate the slag impurities and to weld and form the purer mass of iron. The iron produced in this way almost always contained slag particles and other impurities, but occasionally this technique of small batch iron making yielded a true steel product rather than wrought iron. These early iron makers also learned to make steel by reheating wrought iron and charcoal in clay boxes for several days, until the iron absorbed enough carbon to become a true hardened steel.
By the end of the fourteenth century, iron furnaces used in smelting were becoming larger with increased draft from large bellows being used to force air through the “charge” (mixture of raw materials). These larger furnaces first freed the molten iron in its upper levels. This metallic iron then combined with higher amounts of carbon because of the heated combustion blast produced by the air forced up through the furnace. The product of these furnaces was pig iron, an alloy that melts at a lower temperature than steel or even wrought iron. Pig iron was then further processed to make steel.
Today, giant steel mills are essential for producing steel from iron ore. Steel making still uses blast furnaces that are merely refinements of the furnaces used by the old ironworkers. Improvements in the refinement of molten iron with blasts of air was accomplished by the 1855 Bessemer converter. Since the 1960s, electric arc furnaces have also been producing steel from scrap metal.
How Iron & Steel Work (Part 1 of 6) by M. Brain from Howstuffworks
Have you ever wondered how people refine iron and steel? You probably have heard of iron ore, but how is it that you extract a metal from a rock? Here you can learn all about iron and steel.
Related Websites from Howstuffworks:
2) How does Rust Work? by M. Brain
3) What does Case Hardened Mean When It's Stamped on a Piece of Metal?
4) Why do Tools have Drop Forged Stamped on Them? What is Drop Forging?
Iron And Steel Making Industry from Science, Technology and Engineering
The 18th century use of coke instead of wood as the fuel marked the beginning of the iron and steel making industry that became so important over the next two centuries.
Related Sections at Science, Technology and Engineering:
2) Casting Metal
3) From Ore To Metal - Part 1
4) From Ore To Metal - Part 2
5) From Ore To Metal - Part 3
6) Machining Metals
7) Metal
Medieval Iron and Steel -- Simplified by B. Hall from ORB (Online Reference Book for Medieval Studies)
Iron is one of the most useful metals ever discovered, but it is also one of the more difficult metals to understand in history, especially in medieval history. Iron comes in several forms, and the complications involved in producing each of them fosters further confusion. Here you find a layman's guide to medieval iron.
Related Websites:
2) Ferrous Metals and their Properties from UK Technology Education Centre
3) Iron
4) Iron Downunder
5) Iron and Steel
6) Iron Working from Anglo-Saxon and Viking Crafts
7) Irons and Steels by H. Jack
8) Steel - 2000 Million Years in the Making
Virtual Steel Works by G.D. Yaros
Steel has been part of some of the greatest achievements in history; it was the "iron horse" and steel rails that helped carve a nation out of the frontier. Steel is the backbone of bridges, the skeleton of skyscrapers, the framework for automobiles. And at the dawn of the 21st century, it's still revolutionizing the way we live. Here you can find detailed information on how steel is made.
Related Websites:
2) All About Steel
3) Chemistry of Steelmaking from Corus
4) History of Steel from Sun Belt Steel
5) How Steel is Made from UK Steel
6) Iron and Steel: A Trip Inside a Steel Mill
7) Iron and Steel Production to 1945
8) Making of Steel
9) Making Steel from Muggah4Kids
10) Making of Steel: Production of Molten Steel
11) Physics of Steelmaking from Corus
12) Processes of Iron and Steel Making
13) Retrospective of Twentieth-Century Steel from New Steel
14) Steel Learning Center from American Iron and Steel Institute
15) Steel Learning Centre from Steel Authority of India
16) Steel Making from SteeleMart
17) Steel Making Industry . . .
18) Steel Manufacturing from Ball State University
19) Steel Matter
20) Types of Steel
After visiting several of the websites and learning about iron and steel, complete one or more of the following activities . . .
Complete An Iron & Steel WebQuest. Adapt or follow the directions found at the following webQuest site:
Wanna Write a Recipe for Steel? by W. Macala
Was There A Iron Furnace In Your Region? Many small iron furnaces were operated in early America. Some remains of those operations can be found in many different locations. Find out if there were ever an iron furnace operating nearby. Research and learn as much as possible about its use. See if you can locate any records and photographs related to the operation. Share all your findings.
Identify Iron And Steel Products. How many types of iron and steel products can you identify? Can arrange or group them into categories? Use a software graphic tool (Inspiration, MS Excell) to organize and display your items. Include illustrations.
Construct A Iron & Steel Timeline. Build a timeline that includes the important developments with iron and steel throughout history. Display and share your finished project.
Compare And Contrast Steel With Another Material. Pick one - - choose another material that is used to manufacture or construct things: stone, plastic, wood, another metal (lots to choose from), a composite, a fiber, whatever. Then compare and contrast the charateristics and properties of the two, steel and the other material.
Write A Story About Life Without Iron Or Steel. Imagine what life would be without iron or steel metals. What would happen if you woke up one day and found that iron and steel no longer existed? Write a science fiction story that embraces that concept. Share your story.
Log Your Use Of Iron And Steel. In your journal, keep a log of each use of an iron or steel product. Be sure to include an account of all items that you discard or dispose of during the time period as well as those new items that are acquired. See if you can maintain the record for at least one week. At the end of the period, summarize your findings and reflect on what you learn.
Websites By Kids For Kids
Sir Henry Bessemer: Bessemer Steel Project by L.B. Khan & A.S. Khan and Inventions/Henry Bessember.rev/He . .
Sir Henry Bessemer, a British inventor, developed the Bessemer steel process along with his American counterpart, William Kelly. It was a very refined and cost effective innovation for the production of steel.
More Websites for Iron and Steel
American Iron and Steel Institute (AISI)
This organization's mission is to promote steel as the material of choice and to enhance the competitiveness of the North American steel industry and its member companies.
Related Organizations:
2) American Iron Ore Association (AIOA)
3) AISE (Association of Iron and Steel Engineers)
4) International Iron and Steel Institute
5) Iron and Steel Society (ISS)
6) Minnesota Iron Mining
7) Steel Recycling Institute
8) UK Steel Association
Other Organizations:
9) American Foundry Society
10) American Welding Society
Bessemer Process from Wikipedia
The Bessemer process was the first industrial process for inexpensively producing steel from molten pig iron.
Related Websites:
2) Basic Oxygen Steel (BOS) Making Process
3) Bessemer Steel Process by J. Walton
4) History of the Bessemer Process
5) Kelly's Converter by J.H. Lienhard
Blast Furnace from BBC History
Up to 1709, furnaces could only use charcoal to produce iron. However wood was becoming expensive as the forests were being cleared for farmland and timber. This site houses an animation of the blast furnace process that utilized coke as a fuel.
Related Website:
2) How a Blast Furnace Works from American Iron and Steel Institute
3) How It Works: The Blast Furnace by J.A. Ricketts
4) Introduction to Blast Furnace Technology from ATSI Engineering Services
Dictionary of Metal Terminology from Metalmart, Inc.
Here is an extensive dictionary that covers every term you can think of . . .
Electric Arc Furnace Steelmaking by J.A.T. Jones from American Iron and Steel Institute
The electric arc furnace operates as a batch melting process producing batches of molten steel known "heats".
Related Websites:
2) Electric Arc Furnace
3) Electric Arc Furnace
4) Electric Arc Furnace from Steel Authority of India (Sail)
5) Electric Arc Furnace: Process Description . . .
6) Steel Making with Electric Arc Furnace
7) Video: Electric Arc Furnace (EAF)
History of Thermal Joining by M.E. Sapp
This site contains two related sections: (1) history of welding and (2) history of brazing.
Related Websites:
2) Brazing Book
3) Trends in the Welding Industry
4) Welding and Joining Technologies (Links-site) from Vocational Information Center
Manufacturing Engineering and Technology Homepage
This website covers metal casting, forming and shaping, material removal, joining, surface treatment, and advanced manufacturing techniques for metal.
Other Websites on Steel Fabrication:
2) Machining Resources (Links-site) from Vocational Information Center
3) Making Tracks from Corus Steel
4) Making of Wire by D. Trew
Minnesota Iron Mining
Minnesota’s six iron mining and processing operations produce two-thirds of the iron ore used to make steel in the United States.
Related Website:
2) Iron Mining
3) Iron Mining from Mining in Michigan
4) Iron mining 2002 by B. Kelleher from Minnesota Public Radio
5) Mining from Iron Range Resources & Rehabilitation Agency
6) Mining Tour from National Steel Pellet Company
7) Taconite from Minnesota Department of Natural Resources
Tar ponds and coke ovens are part of the Muggah Creek watershed. This area surrounds the steel plant in Sydney, Nova Scotia, Canada. For 100 years, waste from the steel plant and the community was dumped there. Learn how local people and government are working together to clean up the area.
Profile of the Iron and Steel Industry (1995) from U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Notebook Series
This profile report includes industrial process information, pollution prevention techniques, pollutant release data, regulatory requirements, compliance/enforcement data, history government and industry partnerships, innovative programs, contact names, bibliographic references, and a description of the research methodology.
Related Reports from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Notebook Series:
2) Profile of the Metal Castings Industry (1997)
3) Profile of the Metal Fabrication Industry (1995)
4) Profile of the Metal Mining Industry (1995)
Steel Manufacturing from U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics
This site provides a summary of the nature of the industry, its working conditions, employment and occupations in the industry, and more.
This searchable database connects to more than 7,500 links for steelmaking and steel-related technologies.
Related Links-site:
2) Steel Resources on the Internet
Steel News
This is the source for daily news in the flat rolled steel market.
Related Websites:
2) Key to Steel Articles from Key to Metals Task Force & INI International
3) New Steel
More on the History of Iron and Steel
Age of Iron by R. Cowen
This site outlines the possible discovery and production of iron by early world civilizations.
Related Sites:
2) Ancient African Iron Production by P.R. Schmidt and S.T. Childs from American Scientist
3) Furnace with Drip-Pit Exposed in Gully near Sokoto (Nigeria)
4) In Praise of Smiths by R. Cowen
5) Iron and Steel -- Or Magic?
6) Iron-working in Roman Britain
Iron and Steel from Appalachian Blacksmiths Association
This site provides a view of historic methods for producing and working iron and steel.
Related Websites:
2) About Joanna Furnace from Hay Creek Valley History Association (PA)
3) Blacksmith from Colonial Williamsburg Teacher Resource
4) Catoctin Iron Furnace from National Park Service
5) Experiments in Historic Iron Making by D.J. Berry
Andrew Carnegie: The Richest Man in the World from PBS's American Experience
Andrew Carnegie's life embodied the American dream: the immigrant who went from rags to riches, the self-made man who became a captain of industry, the king of steel.
Related Websites:
2) Andrew Carnegie
3) Andrew Carnegie
4) Andrew Carnegie
5) Andrew Carnegie: American Hero of Social Responsibility by L.D. Ledger
6) Andrew Carnegie: A Tribute from the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh
7) Life of Industrialist and Philanthropist: Andrew Carnegie (1835 - 1919)
8) Meet Andrew Carnegie from Carnegie Corporation's Carnegie for Kids
Henry Bessemer, Man of Steel from Science and Technology
Most people, if they remember him at all, remember Henry Bessemer as a British steel man, the man who invented the Bessemer Converter, which could make 30 tons of high-grade steel in half an hour. But Henry was a far more ingenious man than is generally realized...
Related Websites:
2) Henry Bessemer - The Steel Man
3) Man of Steel: Henry Bessemer and the Converter
4) Sir Henry Bessemer, F.R.S: An Autobiography
Homestead and its Perilous Trades- Impressions of a Visit by H. Garland from McClure's Magazine
This 1894 article provides the author's impression of a visit to a steel town.
Related Articles:
2) Making Steel and Killing Men (1907) by W. Hard from Everybody's Magazine
3) Steel Workers (1909) by J.A. Fitch, 1909 from The Pittsburgh Survey
4) Wage-Earning Pittsburgh (1909) from The Pittsburgh Survey
5) Homestead: The Households of a Mill Town (1909) by M. Byington from The Pittsburgh
“I Witnessed the Steel Strike”: Joe Rudiak Remembers the 1919 Strike by J. Rudiak & P. Gotlieb from History Matters
Though the Great Steel Strike of 1919 failed in its immediate aims, it left a legacy in the steel regions of the United States that lasted for decades. In 1974 when historian Peter Gotlieb asked former steelworker Joe Rudiak, the son of Polish immigrants, about his participation in unionization struggles in the 1930s, he started by recalling his memories of the 1919 steel strike as a young boy. Here, Rudiak told how his father was blacklisted for acknowledging his support of the union. From such experiences, he explained, unionism got “embedded in you.” The site links to several related articles.
Related Websites:
2) Chapter XXIV: The Steel Strike of 1919 from the Autobiography of Mother Jones
3) Fitzpatrick and Foster: Behind America's Steelworkers from Illinois Periodicals Online
4) Senate Hearings into 1919 Strike
5) Society: Steel from Birmingham Pittsburgh Traveler
Nation of Steel by T.J. Misa (1995) Johns Hopkins University Press
This published book links the industrial age steel making developments with the expansion of railroads. This site contains the first five chapters of the text.
Saga of New Zealand Steel
New Zealand is well endowed with deposits of iron sands along the western beaches of both main islands, but many attempts to establish an iron and steel industry foundered on the high titanium content of the ore.
U.S. Steel Gary Works Photograph Collection, 1906-1971 from the Indiana University Digital Library Program (DLP)
This collection contains over 2,200 photographs of the Gary Works steel mill and the corporate town of Gary, Indiana. In images of compelling diversity, historians and the general public can view all aspects of this planned industrial community: the steel mill, the city, and the citizens who lived and worked there.
Websites For Teachers
Changing Role of the Iron Range (Grades 4-5) by S.M. Loerts from AskERIC . .
This lesson teaches students about mining, natural resources, and economies. The iron range is used as a case study with learners tracking ore mining to taconite to tourism. Children examine the changing economic function of the iron range.
Hopewell Furnace: A Pennsylvania Iron-making Plantation by R.G. Koman
Using the Hopewell Furnace as its focus, this lesson has students describe how natural resources influenced the location and development of the early American iron-making industry and identify the steps in making iron and iron products.
Taconite Rocks! (Grade 6) from Minnesota Iron Mining
This comprehensive curriculum was developed by educators on Minnesota's Iron Range. It offers a number of modules combining science, language arts, mathematics, and social studies that can be used in a variety of classroom settings.
Steel in Pittsburgh from Houghton Mifflin
Student's examine why Pittsburgh was an ideal location for steel production.
Teacher's Guide (Grades 4-12) U.S. Steel Gary Works Photograph Collection, 1906-1971 from Indiana University Digital Library Program (DLP)
Site houses a collection of lesson plans, learning objectives, and online activities for use in the classroom.
blast furnace
steel drum
electric arc furnace
mild steel
steel drum
Iron Age
"iron road"
labor movement
Bessemer converter
cast iron
"iron age"
pig iron
tool steel
iron oxide
wrought iron
industrial revolution
Brinell hardness test
industrial archaeology
meteoritic iron
metallic structure
heat treat
iron ore
molten steel
Created by Annette Lamb and Larry Johnson, 3/03.