The Clyde Alloy Steel Company was a subsidiary set up by metallurgists Andrew McCance and Thomas Service on behalf of the expanding Motherwell-based steel giant Colville’s in 1919 to meet demand for specialist alloy steels. McCance became Managing Director. For many years the firm was well-known for producing stainless steel cutlery at their Craigneuk Steel Works.
The steel was made in an electric arc furnace, which worked by introducing electrodes into scrap steel and passing a very powerful current between them to generate heat. When the steel was molten other metals could be added to it to create various alloys.
What is Stainless Steel?
The magic ingredient in stainless steel is chromium, which makes up between 12% and 20% of the alloy and prevents it from rusting. Other ingredients iron are austenite (iron with a high carbon content), nickel, silicon, carbon, nitrogen and manganese. The proportions vary according to the properties that the finished alloy needs to have.
The ingredients are heated in an electric arc furnace for up to 12 hours before being cast and then hot-rolled in a rolling mill to create the final shape, which might be bars, angles or wire, for example. The next step is heat treatment, involving heating and cooling the steel under controlled conditions to change its properties, for example to harden or soften it.
The heat-treated metal is de-scaled, trimmed and then finished (which might involve grinding, brushing or pickling) before being sent to the customer.
As part of a nationwide plan to reduce capacity in the steel industry, the Clyde Alloy Light Foundry at Craigneuk was closed in 1983. A new firm, Clyde Shaw kept the rest of the works going for a short time.
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Did you know?
Until recently chromium steel was believed to have been invented in Western Europe during the Industrial Revolution. However, in 2020 a UCL research paper revealed that chromium steel was being made in Persia (modern-day Iran) before 1,100AD, almost 1,000 years earlier!