By Charles Singer et al (eds)
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Extra info for A History of Technology
T h e furnace was like a baker’s oven with a fire-box 2 ft wide, heating coffers that contained over half a ton o f iron in bars up to 5 ft long. Cementation was done with charcoal without admixture, and was continued for between three and seven days and nights. Though crucible-cast steel did not become important in Europe until Hunts man developed it commercially in 1740, it had been produced in India under the name o f wootz,^ and was known to at least two seventeenth-century English writers.
You quench them at the proper stage o f these colours as you wish them more or less hard in temper’ . Mathurin Jousse describes (1627) the sequence o f colours on tempering both in the production o f decorative finishes and for softening: ‘First it will become the colour o f gold, then a blood colour, violet, blue and lasdy the coloiu* o f water. When it has become the colour you wish, you remove it prompdy with litde tongs’ . He is the first writer clearly to prefer quenching, cleaning, and tempering to the ancient process o f direct hardening.
During the M iddle Ages the price o f iron had been fairly stable, though wages and the price o f raw materials rose steadily; but with the general rise in prices during the sixteenth century iron rapidly became much dearer. Even with larger blast-furnaces, and with better machines for producing blast-air by means o f water-power (fi-ontispiece; plate 3), the effects o f the increased cost o f labour and fuel could not be wholly overcome. T h e merit o f the blast-furnace was that its iron could be cast, while the wrought iron obtained by working the pigs in ’ These two words are cognate but o f unknown origin.