The History of Stainless steel

1913 - 1919

Cutlery

Did you know?

The material, which was originally known as ‘rustless steel’, was not an instant success and Brearley was branded the inventor of the ‘knife that would not cut’.

Cutlery is often branded with numbers such as 18/8 or 18/10 which relates to the percentage of chrome and nickel within the steel.

cutlery

© Gonzalo Viera Azpiroz

Cutlery wall art

© Gareth Simpson

Scalpel

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Scalpel

© Alan Saunders

Usually made from steel, bronze, obsidian or even bamboo, scalpels were some of the first medical instruments ever to be used by civilised man. Although it is not known exactly when the first scalpel was used, they were widely available during the era of Hippocrates circa 460BC and the Ancient Egyptians are believed to have used obsidian scalpels during the embalming process over 4000 years ago.


Exhaust Valves for Aircraft Engine

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Sopwith Camel

© TMWolf

During the First World War stainless steel was used in the engines of BE2’s, RE8’s. DH2’s, Sopwith Triplanes, Sopwith Camels and SE5a’s.

 

 

1920 - 1929

Car Bumpers, Radiators and Trim

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Dr W H Hatfield of Sheffield was the first person to use stainless steel on a car, applying the metal as a radiator and trim on his bullnose Morris Cowley.

 
Stainless Steel Car Badge and Radiator Trim

© Russell Trow

Swiss Army Knife

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The first official supplier of the Swiss Army Knife was the company ‘Victorinox’. In 1909 company founder, Karl Elsener, renamed the company ‘Victoria’ to honour the passing of his mother and in 1921 added ‘inox’ (the international symbol for stainless steel) when the company began using the material in production.

Swiss Army Knife

© Shawn Allen

pile of Swiss Army knives

© Rupert Ganzer

Milk Tankers

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The nation’s 9,000 milkmen deliver to around 5 million homes daily. Interestingly, cows are accountable for 20% of human-related methane emissions. That means the 1.3 billion cows on the planet produce around 300,000 billion litres of methane annually, wow.

Chemical Tanks

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The chemical tanks were the first applications for stainless steel plate when in 1925 it was used to create a chemical tank for the storage of nitric acid.


St. Paul's Cathedral, London

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St Pauls Cathedral

© Matthew Black

The great dome of the cathedral is 110 feet wide and 368 feet high and in 1925 the iron chain which held the dome together without the need for buttresses was replaced by stainless steel reinforcement chain.

Chrysler Building, New York

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Built in 1929 the Chrysler Building’s top 88 metres are clad in stainless steel. Van Alen’s interpretation of Chrysler’s eagle bonnet ornament, logo and hubcaps in stainless steel continue to gleam brightly even though they have been cleaned only twice in their entire life.

During the time of construction there was fierce competition to build the world’s tallest skyscraper and during the final stages the Chrysler building was level with H. Craig Severance’s 40 Wall Street. Severance quickly added 2 additional floors and claimed the title of worlds tallest building. However, Van Alen, unbeknown to Severance, had already been granted the permission to erect a 125ft spire atop of the building. The spire was fitted on October 23, 1929, and made the Chrysler building the world’s largest structure and building until the Empire State Building was completed in 1931.

Chrysler Building

© Chris Brown

Chryslet Building at night

© Carl Palmer

 

 

1930 - 1939

Rolls-Royce Spirit of Ecstasy

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The Spirit of Ecstasy was designed by Charles Sykes and carries with it a story about secret passion between two people at differing ends of the social spectrum. The model for the emblem was Eleanor Velasco Thornton, the secret love of John Walter Edward Douglas-Scott-Montagu for over 10 years. Only a close group of friends knew of the love between the pair, Charles Sykes was one of them. When Montagu commissioned Sykes to sculpt an emblem for the bonnet of his Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost, Sykes would choose Eleanor Thornton as his model. Sykes originally crafted a figurine of her in fluttering robes, pressing a finger against her lips, dubbing his creation ‘The Whisper’. Following this Sykes was asked to produce an emblem which would adorn all future Rolls-Royce cars. Sykes chose to modify ‘The Whisper’ into a model more akin with what we see today; ‘The Spirit of Ecstasy’.

Royce was ill during the commission of the flying lady and did not believe the figurine embellished the cars, instead complaining that it impaired the view of the driver. Thus, it was very rare to spot Royce driving one of his companies vehicles adorned with the famous mascot.

Rolls Royce figurine

© Maurits Vermeulen

Rolls Royce figurine

© Stuart Murdoch

Pioneer Zephyr

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In 1932 the Budd Company designed a prototype stainless steel carbody for use in trains. Initially engineers at the company had problems using traditional welding techniques as they tended to weaken the stainless steel. Later that year Earl J. Ragsdale, an engineer with the company, went on to develop the shot welding technique which allowed the welding of stainless steel without weakening!

On May 26 1934 the Zephyr set a record for its ‘dusk-to-dawn’ dash from Denver, Colorado to Chicago, Illinois. The train covered the 1015 mile distance in 13 hours and 5 minutes and became the main inspiration behind the 1934 film ‘The Silver Streak’.

The ZephyrThe Zephyr

Rolls-Royce Aero Engines

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The Merlin was the last aero engine designed by Henry Royce before his death in 1933, but wasn’t built until 2 years after he died. The Merlin went on to be used in the iconic British fighter plane, the Supermarine Spitfire.

Spitfire Propellor

© Stuart Seeger

Rolls Royce aero engine

© Rhys400D

Coinage

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2 stainless steel coins were produced in the year 1941; an Italian coin to the value of 1 lira, and an Albanian 1 Lek coin. Both the coins bore inscriptions King Vittorio Emanuele III who abdicated his power in 1946 after 46 years on the Italian throne. The reason Vittorio appeared on the Lek was because at the time of commission Albania was under the control of Italy after a World War II attack in 1939.

Coins

RMS Queen Mary

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The Queen Mary made her maiden voyage across the Atlantic in 1936 and the ship made extensive use of stainless in its kitchens, swimming pools, interior décor and turbines.

In 1936 she won the ‘Blue Riband’ award for the fastest crossing of the Atlantic Ocean.

The Queen Mary retired in 1967 and now acts as a hotel and museum in Long Beach, California.

The Queen Mary

© Gabriel Herrera

The Queen Mary

© Paul Haeder

Savoy Hotel, London

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The Savoy Hotel forecourt is the only street in Britain where vehicles must drive on the right hand side.

Savoy Hotel

© Toby Forage

 

 

1940 - 1949

Progreso Pier, Yucatán

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The Pier stretches a massive 2100 metres and contains 220 tonnes of stainless steel reinforcement bar! The pier is one of the longest in the world, but not quite as long as the Southend-on-Sea pier which runs for a colossal 2158 metres!


1950 -1959

Combustion Engines

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Stainless steel was used primarily in the gas turbines of the combustion engine, but later appeared in many other components. The combustion engines themselves have been used in a wide range of vehicles, primarily used in jets but also found in varieties of locomotive, helicopters, automobiles and even tanks. Although it differs greatly from the modern equivalents, the first ever turbine engine, dubbed the Aeolipile, was designed in 150BC by the Egyptian scientist Hero.

gas turbine

© Les Chatfield

Aeolipile

Breathing Apparatus

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Everest

© Guy Taylor 2007

Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay became the first people to conquer the 8,848 metre high Mount Everest in 1953 and the pair were helped by containers of oxygen which were crafted in stainless steel. On the 26th of May 1953 Tom Bourdillon and Charles Evens came within just 300 feet of the summit, but were forced to turn back due to exhaustion. 3 days later on May 29th New Zealander Hillary and Sherpa Norgay successfully completed the climb during the 9th expedition to the great mountain.

Nuclear Power

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Calder Hall in Cumberland became the first nuclear power station in the UK, and relied heavily on stainless steel for its high temperature resistance and safety factor.

Bristol Type 188

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The Bristol was nicknamed the 'flaming pencil' and was Britain’s first all steel supersonic research aircraft, and in order to withstand temperatures in excess of 250 degrees centigrade 90% was made using stainless steel. The Bristol was a duel engine aircraft which weighed around 40 000lbs and was designed to be the first aircraft to break the Mach 2 barrier in order to undertake research on kinetics and the heating effects on airframes. Major delays were caused due to unsatisfactory puddle welding and eventually the project was cancelled in 1957 with only 3 188’s ever produced.

Bristol Type 188Bristol Type 188

 

1960-1969

Beer Kegs

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Initially breweries employed coopers to hand-make wooden barrels for the storage of alcohol. The coopers would often construct the barrels without the use of measuring equipment, instead relying on their own sight and judgement. Similar to the vocation of Smithing leading to the English name Smith, Cooperage lead to the name Cooper.

Beer kegs

© BSSA

Beer kegs

© Vance Shtraikh

Blue Streak Missile

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The Blue Streak was made entirely out of stainless steel and powered by a Rolls-Royce RZ2 engine. Initially the cost of the missile was estimated at £50 million in 1955 but dramatically increased to £300 million by 1959. The British government was reluctant to cancel the project considering the huge financial resources which had been invested. However, problems with the speed of deployment were raised, and although the 20 tonnes of kerosene could be left within the missile, the 60 tonnes of liquid oxygen used as the propellant had to be done immediately prior to launch in order to avoid icing. The loading of the liquid oxygen took around 15 minutes, making the Blue Streak useless as a rapid response missile. Subsequently, in 1972, the Blue Streak project was finally cancelled at a huge cost to the British and Australian governments.

The Blue Streak

© Alan Saunders

The Blue Streak

Saturn V

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Between 1967 and 1973 NASA launched 13 Saturn V’s in all, one of which was used during the Apollo 11 moon landing! The Saturn V weighs 6 million lbs, stands at a height of 364 feet (one foot shorter than St Pauls Cathedral) and has a diameter of 33 feet.

Saturn VSaturn V

Gateway to the West, St Louis

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Erected in St. Louis, Missouri, USA, this is the world’s tallest monument. The structure, which was completed on October 28, 1965, cost $29 million and is a huge 630ft high and 630ft wide. It was built to celebrate the westward expansion of the United States after the Louisiana Purchase of 1803. The inside of the monument is hollow, allowing a specially designed tram to ferry passengers to the observation deck at the peak.

Gateway to the West

Gateway to the West

© Jim Cchou

York Minster, York

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The gothic cathedral is the largest in Northern Europe, and the famous 76 foot high Great East Window is the largest area of medieval stained glass in the world. It is estimated that around 2 million individual pieces of glass make up the windows of the cathedral. Much restoration work has been carried out on the cathedral, which required 32mm diameter stainless rods to be used in the foundations in order to stop it from collapsing!

York Minster

© D. Kwonsh

York Minster

© D. Kwonsh

Concorde

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The Concorde used stainless steel in its rudders, elevons and engine nacelles during its maiden flight. Only 20 Concorde were ever in operation, and the plane made its final landing on the 26th of November 2003.

Concorde

Concorde nose

© Howard Brier

Razor Blades

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Razor

© Scott Feldstein

American Elwood Haynes claimed to have invented stainless steel in 1911 after becoming disillusioned with his rusty razor blade.

 

1970-1979

North Sea Oil Rigs

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oil rig

© Calum Davidson

The first North Sea oil well was opened in 1971, and by 1975 the oil was being piped directly to the UK mainland. However, oil from the North Sea will not last forever and reserves have steadily declined since peak production in 1999.


1980 - 1989

DeLorean DMC-12

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DeLorean DMC-12

© Manuel Bartual

The DeLorean became a cult icon of the 1980’s after appearing in the popular Back to the Future trilogy, however, the iconic car didn’t come with a Flux Capacitor as standard.

Thames Flood Barrier, London

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The barrier is the second largest movable flood barrier in the world stretching 523 metres across the river Thames. Each of the four main gates spans 61 metres wide, 20 metres high and weigh around 3,700 tonnes.

Thames Flood Barrier, London

© Judith Duddle

Thames Flood Barrier, London

© Russell Chant

Lloyds building, London

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The Lloyds building is unique and extremely innovative within the architectural world. The architects designed the building with all pipe work for pluming and heating on the outside of the building.

Lloyds building

© Toby Forage

Lloyds building

© Stephen Goynang

Pyramide Du Louvre, Paris

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The Pyramide is surrounded by myth, heightened by Dan Browns popular novel ‘The Da Vinci code’. The original specification states that the Pyramide contains 666 glass panels, although the final figure is thought to be closer to 673.

Pyramide Du Louvre, Paris

© Kazunori Matsuo

Pyramide Du Louvre, Paris

© Anti-ZIM

Telephone Boxes

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red telephone box

© Rob Brewer

The first ever phone box, the K1, was built entirely from concrete and first came into existence in 1920. The classic red phone boxes known as the K6 models were designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott in 1935 to coincide with the silver jubilee of King George V. As of 2007 around 14,000 K6 boxes remain on British streets, of which 2,500 are grade II listed!

 

1990 - 1999

Petronas Twin Towers, Kuala Lumpur

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Completed in 1998 the Petronas Towers are the tallest twin towers in the world and remained the tallest building until the Taipai 101 was completed in 2004.

The location of the building site meant that the foundations had to be 120 feet deep, the deepest foundations in the world.

The two towers were built by differing construction companies which were encouraged to compete against each other to complete their prospective tower first.

Petronas Twin Towers, Kuala Lumpur

© Modery

Petronas Twin Towers, Kuala Lumpur

& copy; Steve Cornish

European Court of Human Rights, Strasbourg

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The Court cost an estimated FRF 455 million to build and was completed in 1995. The two cylindrical chambers house the European Court iteself and the European Commission, each of which is clad in stainless steel.

European Court of Human Rights, Strasbourg

© BSSA

European Court of Human Rights, Strasbourg

© BSSA

Jubilee Line Extension, London

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The Jubilee Line Extension consisted of 11 new stations costing a cumulative total of £3.2 billion. The stations were spread over 16km of new track, each station having its own dedicated team of architects. Stainless steel was used extensively for seating, ballustrading, escalators, signage, cladding, roofing, lighting and ticket dispensors.

Jubilee Line Extension, London

© Pedro Varela

Jubilee Line Extension, London

© Ran Hartstein

 

2000 - Present

Scottish Parliament Building, Edinburgh

Did you know?

The building was officially opened by HM Queen on 9th October 2004, 3 years behind schedule, and cost an estimated £414 million, more than 10 times the initial estimate. In October 2005 the building won the Stirling Prize and the Andrew Doolan Award for Architecture.

Scottish Parliament Building, Edinburgh

© Laurel Fan

Scottish Parliament Building, Edinburgh

© Gary Denham

The Lowry art gallery, Manchester

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The gallery, which is situated in Salford Quays, was opened on the 28th April 2000. The project cost an estimated £106 million, £21 million of which was covered by a National Lottery grant.

The Lowry art gallery, Manchester

© Dave Fitch

The Lowry art gallery, Manchester

© Gothman

ITER fusion reactor

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ITER fusion reactor

In order for nuclear fusion to work the fuel in the reactor must be heated to 100 million Celsius, which is hotter than the centre of the sun! The ITER project will use about 18000 tonnes of stainless steel, the majority of which will be a special form of 316LN material.

Monument of Light, Dublin

Did you know?

The spire is 393 ft high, 10 ft in diameter at the base, 6 inches in diameter at the peak and is constructed of 8 stainless steel hollow tubes. The spire is the tallest sculpture in the world and, much to the bemusement of many Dubliners, cost €4 million to construct.

Monument of Light, Dublin

© Peter Guthrie

Monument of Light, Dublin

© Tony Hisgett

Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff

Did you know?

There are two inscriptions on the face of the stainless steel cladding. The one written in Welsh reads ‘Creu Gwir fel gwydr o ffwrnais awen’ which translates to ‘Creating truth like glass from the furnace of inspiration’ and one enscribed in English; ‘In these stones, horizons sing’.

Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff

© BSSA

Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff

© artq55

York Millennium Bridge, York

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The Millenium Bridge, which spans the width of the river ouse, was opened to the public on April 10th 2001 and cost £4.2 million to construct. The bridge is approximately 150 metres long and the deck of the bridge is suspended by 19mm diameter stainless steel cables to an arch inclined at 50 degrees.

York Millennium Bridge

© BSSA

York Millennium Bridge

© Michael Wilson

Murinsel, Graz

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Murinsel roughly translates to ‘Island in The Mur’. The island was originally designed as a temporary feature to celebrate Graz claiming the 2003 European Capital of Culture award, but has become so popular that locals wished for it to stay in the Mur for many years to come. The glass nodes of the Murinsel are covered by a fine stainless steel mesh, and stainless has also been used for the the ballustrades which line the walkways to the river banks.

Mur Island by Night

© Laurent

© Anconi