Bessemer steel gunsBessemer Steel at Woolwich
Rejection of delivery
Bessemer Iron and Steel
Paper at the Institute of Civil Engineers
Steel-making at Shefield
Gun-making at Sheffield
Paper read before the Institution of Mechanical Engineers at Sheffield
The Exhibition of 1862
Cost of Bessemer Steel
The sale of part of the Bessemer Patents
Government compensation to the Elswick Ordnance Factory
Bessemer Steel for Guns
The course of events now brings me to an incident connected with Woolwich Arsenal, which I would fain pass over in silence, but, if history is to be written at all, the historian must speak the truth. In 1859 the firm of Henry Bessemer and Company, of Sheffield, had qualified themselves to receive proposals to tender to Woolwich Arsenal, for the supply of steel for cutting tools, and on June 3rd of that year, we tendered unsuccessfully, under a form of contract sent by the War Office, at the same price as we were obtaining from several first-class engineers -- namely , £42 per ton, the ordinary trade price in Sheffield for such tool steel varying from £50 to £60 per ton. We tendered again for another lot of tool steel on July 8th, at £40 to £42 per ton; again our offer was not accepted. We tendered also on September 5th, at prices still lower, viz., from £32 to £40 per ton; and again, on September 7th, for some bars at £40, and for some (the greater part) at £32 per ton. But this low tender also failed to secure us the order, and, as we could make the highest quality of tool steel by my process from Swedish pig-iron at an extremely low cost, we were determined on the next occasion to get the order, or know the reason why. On December 7th, 1859, forms of tender were sent us for two different sizes of steel bars, and we quoted as low as £20 per ton for each of them; our tender was then accepted for the first time, and we commenced at once to make the steel. Bars of each quality were carefully tested by us in our own works, so as to prevent the possibility of a single bar being sent out of any but the very highest quality, my managing partner personally taking charge of these special tests. This rigid inspection at our works was considered by our firm to be absolutely necessary in this case, because we felt assured that our former tender of £32 to £42 was far below that of any Sheffield house, although it was not accepted; hence our belief that the steel about to be sent would undergo the most severe and rigid tests.
In due course the steel was delivered to the carriage department at Woolwich Arsenal, as directed, but, after several days, we were informed that it was useless, and that we must take it back. Now, the conditions of the tender were such that the Government officials were the sole judges of the fitness of the material, and had absolute power of rejection if not satisfied with it. In case of the steel not proving satisfactory, the Government had also power to purchase a like quantity of any other manufacturer, and charge the difference in price to the person whose steel was rejected. Thus the Government could send back to us all the steel which had been tendered for at £20 per ton, and purchase a like quantity at £50 or £60, making our firm pay the difference of £30 or £40 a ton. Under these circumstances I was determined to investigate this matter for myself. I accordingly went clown to the Arsenal, and was shown into the office of the head of the carriage department. I asked him in what way the steel was defective. Before replying, he got up from his chair, opened a drawer, and took out ten or dozen "chipping chisels," which were made, as usual, out of an octagon bar of steel known in the trade as 7/8 in. "octagon chisel steel." All but two of the chisels were broken; they were very slender and delicate, and had been a good deal punished by the prover's hammer. Notwithstanding this, I was much astonished at such a result, and on attentively examining the fractured parts I became convinced that they were not made of the quality known as "chisel steel," which is invariably used for this purpose. I then looked over the written contract that had been sent to us, and found that among the specified shapes and sizes of steel bars therein described, there was not one single bar of octagon steel. I handed the list to the gentleman who received me, and asked him to point out octagon steel, which, of course, he could not do. In order that there should be no possible mistake on this point, I have had the entry made by my clerk at the time, in his rough order book at Sheffield, photographed, as shown in Fig.64, thus furnishing unquestionable evidence of the absence of any octagon bars in the contract.
On my pointing out the absence of octagon steel in the contract, the gentleman touched the bell, and told the messenger to send the storekeeper to him. On the arrival of this person, his chief said: "I told you to make a dozen octagon chipping chisels, in order to test the Bessemer steel, and now I find that we had not ordered any; what did you do?" "Oh," said the man, "I gave out one of the larger bars, and had it drawn down to octagon, and brought you the chisels." Now, the nearest bar in size in the whole
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