Metals have gone a long way since our ancestors started using them to fashion crude tools, but we can’t say that we’ve already exhausted the limits of what our metals can do. We can’t even say that we’ve managed to fully master our use of metal, which is where metallurgy comes in.
Long before metal was workable enough to fit a Baileigh pipe bender for sale, metallurgy was one of the most important sciences of any civilization. Before metal, only wood and stone were viable materials to be worked with. While we have good examples of work crafted from this material, it wasn’t cheap, and it wasn’t fast. That all changed when we discovered metal.
So how exactly did we get our start with metal?
The first recorded instance of people working with metal is gold, which makes sense because it can be found in its native form in the wild. Highly resistant to corrosion, malleable in its pure form, able to be detailed, flattened, and cut as desired, gold was considered a near-mythical metal, which only made it more prized among the people that found it.
It was also quite abundant in places where the majority of civilization grew around, such as rivers and streams that would carry down gold nuggets from a vein farther up in the mountains. Even until today, natural gold is mined from mountains, and more or less still carries the exact same value and charm it did long ago.
On the more practical side of things…
The more common metals that we started working with were tin and copper, which needed to be smelted from the other material that they were found with. Lead was also a very popular metal to work with, though studies about its harmful effects on humans are present.
However, it was the fusion of the two common metals of tin and copper that started the inevitable arms race when it came to metallurgy. Early metalworkers noticed that the alloy created by the combination of these two metals was stronger and more durable, kicking off a technological advancement that what we now know as the Bronze Age. Iron, another important technological advancement, followed shortly after we developed more complex processes to refine ore.
Experimentation and developments in metal made the modern age possible
It was the discovery of alloys in particular that led to the development of all the other metals that we know and work with today such as iron, steel, aluminum, and titanium. As our technology developed, the techniques that we used to work on metal became more refined, allowing us to achieve even newer types of metal that were not possible for our ancestors.
While mostly trial and error, metallurgy as a field has made a discernible impact on our lives. From our utensils to our modes of transport, the people and their work on metal have always been at the forefront of advancing what our lifestyles can be. We can only expect further improvements in our modern metalworking techniques.