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History of Stainless Steel Alloys

The discovery of Stainless steel is shrouded in doubt. It is common knowledge to many that Harry Brearley who discovered it in 1913 in Sheffield England when working on a project to prevent rifle barrels from corroding during use.

Through his analysis of his results he noticed that steel which had a high chromium content did not dissolve in the acid. Through Harry Brearley's experimentation he finally produced a stainless steel with 12.8% chromium. It then appears that he worked with Thos Firth & Sons in 1914 on the commercial production of stainless steel, and the use of it with cutlery.

The discovery is documented in the January 31, 1915 publication of The New York Times where the discovery of this non-rusting steel was made in Sheffield England and was immediately identified as "especially good for table cutlery". For details about the New York Times article "A Non-Rusting Steel" click here.

Additional information about the history of Stainless Steel can be found on the British Stainless Steel Association – which show series of questions about who the actual inventor of stainless steel way. To view their "Discovery of Stainless Steel" page click here.

The Sheffield Cutlery company (R P Day & Company) in Sheffield England currently makes stainless steel cutlery and provides some information about the history of stainless steel.

Regardless of the controversy, it appears that as soon as commercial production of stainless steel began, the cutlery industry immediately saw the benefits and they expected that the increased cost would not be an issue even though the cost was doubling.

With non-rusting, un stainable, and untarnishable steel there would be no need to polish, even after contact with the most acidic foods and stainless steel cutlery would only needed normal washing to keep clean and sanitary. Soon large users of cutlery, such as hotels, steamships, and restaurants would see the benefits in the decreased labor required for care. The ability to obtain and maintain sharp knives was another big plus for this invention. Knives could be sharpened on a "steel" or by using the ordinary cleaning machine or knife board.

As the NY Times article states, "The price of this steel is about 26 cents a pound for ordinary sizes, which is about double the price of the usual steel for the same purpose. It also costs more to work up, so that the initial cost of articles made from this new discovery, it is estimated, will be about double the present cost; but it is considered that the saving of labor to the customer will more than cover the total cost of the cutlery in the first twelve months." Published: January 31, 1915 Copyright © The New York Times

For additional information about the history of Stainless Steel...

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