The Not-So-Simple Story of Making Steel

Steel has a long history of about 2,500 years, but it was every expensive to produce and was only used by the very rich for weapons of war or identifying jewelry. It wasn’t until around 1850 that large amounts could be produced cheaply enough to become beneficial to the common man. Since steel is a mixture of metals, it must have an extreme and constant heat source.


Removing iron from the coal was important because steel can only have between 0.02 percent and 1.6 percent rate of carbon in weight within the mixture, and steel with higher rates of iron than that are listed as cast iron. To make sure as much iron as possible was removed from the coal used in steel production, huge coke ovens were manufactured. The purified coal was known as coke, thus the coke ovens. Specialized coke oven doors also had to be built to withstand the heat and protect the workers.

Not-So-Simple Story of Making Steel


To make the steel, heated liquid iron is poured into an oven bowl that has plugged holes on the sides. Scraps of metal are added to the liquid ‘pig iron’ to make the heat more uniform. Once everything is hot, oxygen is pumped into the oven and used to burn all the extra impurities and carbon off the iron. Believe it or not, carbon is then added back into the contents, but at a known percentage to make sure the mixture is where it is wanted. The mixture is then called steel.


The top plug in the side of the oven is opened and used to pour off the unwanted impurities as they float on top of the heated iron mixture. The bottom plug allows the operator to pour out the steel when it is the proper mixture.

Steel has a long history of creation, but how it is made is constantly being changed. Who knows how it will be created in 100 years.