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Iron is hard to smelt. Not until about 2500 BC. Did man find methods to reach iron's melting point, some 500 degrees higher than copper. Again we find nature cripples pure materials with a weakness. Iron by itself is limited in its usefulness, but alloyed with less than one percent carbon, iron becomes steel.

Steel first appeared in India about 1000 BC. Yet it remained a comparatively rare material in our civilization until about 200 years ago. A number of communities developed as cutlery-making centers, most notably Sheffield, England, and Solingen, Germany. In the time since steel's origin, we learned about annealing and tempering, and that different rates of cooling heated metal produced different crystal structures, which in turn results in different properties of flexibility and hardness. We learned how to forge weld steel through repeated heating and hammering for form layers. We learned to improve the purity of our materials through better furnaces. And we learned to utilize new alloys, creating more sophisticated, specialized steels.

Most people believe there are only two types of steel: carbon steel and stainless steel. This over-simplification leads to many misunderstandings.

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