Hunt for Raw Materials
Mr. Upínka and his team have prepared a year-round series on the history of welding. In the first part, we will look at how mankind actually came up with the metal raw material and what the first attempts at welding metals looked like. The technological progress of mankind is also closely related to the development of metallurgy and metal fabrication. Blacksmithing can also be considered one of the earliest occupations.
The history of the processing of this raw material dates back to centuries BC. We can only speculate how people first discovered that some stones change shape when struck and can be machined by beating. The first popular metal was copper. Due to its softness, it worked well by hammering. Archaeological finds from Egypt reveal copper weapons and other tools from about 4,000 BC.
The first time when there was more massive processing of metal ores and the metal used even gave the period a name is, of course, the Bronze Age. Bronze alloy is the result of experimenting with copper about two millennia before Christ. Copper was soft enough and therefore comfortable to process; however, in case of weapons it was needed to find a way to increase the durability of this metal. Therefore, other metals were mixed with copper for the first time, such as tin, which makes the resulting raw material – bronze harder and more durable. At this time of experimentation, we also find the first attempts to join metals. Proof of this are the archaeological finds of small round boxes, on which the joints are made by so-called lap joints, or rivets are also visible on the products.
Iron comes into play relatively late, about 1,000 years before Christ. At first, the metal was also processed by knocking and its use did not develop at a dizzying pace – after all, copper and bronze served very well and working with them was comfortable. Iron was conquered by the Egyptians. Very famous are also Japanese blacksmiths. In Japan metalworking, especially for sword blades, reached its highest level of craftsmanship. The Egyptians called iron “metal from heaven”, which is remarkable because they probably processed iron ore from meteorites. However, over time, iron not only enjoyed a utility function but was also a symbol of protection against evil powers and spirits. Proof of this is, e. g. the horseshoe. We see this as a lucky charm. This importance gained precisely at this time, when iron was considered a relatively expensive metal with magical power, and the shape of the horseshoe was a “compact package” for good luck.
Although the period of 3,000 BC may seem too distant, the importance of metals is more than obvious. The proof is that both copper and iron are part of our everyday lives and working with them is constantly improving and evolving.
In the next part, we will delve a little into chemistry – the development of gases that have enabled welding at high temperatures.