We live in a world full of contradictions. For every idea and invention that seems standard, there are always new ones that are ready to take their place. Everything, absolutely everything, from pipe weld purging systems to non magnetic tools to plane engines is subject to the forces of change. It can seem exciting or scary to think about these types of fundamental changes but they aren’t so frightening as they seem. In all actuality, they’ve been around for as long as any civilization has existed. Let’s take the concept of metalwork, for example. We might take all of our metals for granted, now, but it hasn’t always been this way. For a lot of history, the very concept of metalwork was problematic, difficult, even slightly mystical. What follows is a brief history of the importance of metalwork, where it started and where it might be going.
- At the beginning
Far back in prehistory, even before the invention of writing, there’s evidence that early peoples tried experimenting with fire. The first experiments were actually on food and early tools which allowed for these early peoples to expand their population pool and longevity over the course of millions of years. True, they didn’t yet have such advanced tools as purge equipment or the aforementioned pipe weld purging systems but they were advancing in small ways all the time, from learning new hunting techniques to inventing new systems of governing and early religion. These might not seem related to the concept of metalwork but this isn’t exactly true. It was these first early forays into organization and invention that prompted these early peoples to have the need for stronger tools and stronger materials. Eventually, wood and stone just wouldn’t suffice long enough for the jobs that they needed done. Finally, somewhere within the early bronze age, it happened. As the name might suggest, tribes of early peoples started experimenting with fire on various minerals they found, often in simple forges they constructed with stone. This was the beginning of the modern age.
Types of metal usage
Over the next few thousand years, people began to invent all sorts of metal tools, implements and inventions that wore out over various lengths of time. Bronze was a good start but it didn’t hold up for very long and more metals soon followed. Iron and aluminum began to be used as well for a wide variety of different tasks. Building, of course, was the most popular with metal being incorporated as decoration into a lot of early building. It wasn’t exactly building MRI tools or, again, pipe weld purging systems but it was the first example of metal being incorporated into mass structures. This isn’t to say a lot of early peoples used metals as the main component in their buildings. This practice wouldn’t come until much later and for good reason. For most of these early centuries, metalworking was hard and difficult work. While the rich could afford to build chairs or furniture out of metal most people could not. It wasn’t until the premodern era that this began to change.
On a historical timescale this was a short period but it mattered. Even as early as the 1700’s, people were experimenting with metal for more intricate machines. These simple engines, printing presses, weld on hinges, doorknobs and yes, even the eventual eponymous pipe weld purging systems were the grassroots from which the modern, digital world has sprung. This time period included all of the industrial revolution and, to some, is indistinguishable from the modern era. That point, however, remains a spot of contention among historians.
So what’s next for metalworking? This is an exciting question and one that’s just starting to be answered now. Some inventors envision carbon nano tube structures. Otherwise want to build space elevators and space stations out of extremely light, durable materials. These new, molecular controlled metals would be like nothing that the world has ever seen before. They would be stronger than steel and more flexible than any other metal. With these, the world could really change and grow at an unprecedented rate.