Book Review: A Study Of Open Hearth

A Study Of Open Hearth:  A Treatise On The Open Hearth Furnace And The Manufacture Of Open Hearth Steel by Harbison-Walker Refractories Company

I must admit that I have no particular idea that this is a practical book for either myself or a great many other people.  This book was published in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 1909 and relates to the open hearth process of processing steel.  It has been some time since Pittsburgh was a world leader in steel production, and there are few people who work in that field in the United States at all, and no doubt there are many differences between contemporary steel manufacture and the work discussed here.  Even so, from time to time I greatly enjoy reading about old-fashioned and even obsolete matters [1] that nonetheless give context to a world that is now gone but that once was and once was state of the art.  So it is with this book, as the author proclaims the efficacy of using open hearth techniques to handle pig iron with a certain amount of phosphorus that would be impossible to use by other processes.  One does not need the specific information to be practical to gain some use from how the author thinks and drawing appropriate parallels.

The book itself is a short one, being under 100 pages and containing six chapters.  The first chapter looks at the definition of steel–by no means as simple a matter as one might think–and the design of furnaces that are used to forge steel from pig iron.  The second chapter examines the fuels used for heating the forge, praising natural gas where it may be found and oil with some caution about the heat of the flame it produces.  The third chapter focuses on the acid open hearth process and how impurities are removed thereby.  The fourth chapter, another brief one, looks at recarburation and how to test the ores for their suitability via various methods.  The fifth chapter discusses the basic open hearth process and how impurities are removed through the addition of lime and ore.  The sixth and final chapter looks at some special processes that are more complicated but that can provide great insights on the production of steel.  It is unlikely that many people at present will be asked to make steel, much less understand the processes, but this is a short and practical book even with that proviso in mind.

So, what worth can someone in the contemporary era gain from an understanding of the variety of different processes for the production of steel.  The author notes that the development of different processes allows different types of ores to be profitably used, indicating that in industrial processes as a whole it is worthwhile to have a variety of processes in one’s intellectual toolbox, as different processes will work best with different types of materials.  The author even comments on hybrid methods that also work well in certain circumstances.  This eclectic approach, and a realization that the best solution to the complexity of the world is having a complexity of thinking and processing in mind, is useful in other areas.  All too often businesses and institutions in general operate from a one-size fits all approach, and as a result they fail to examine and act sensitively with regards to those people and those situations that are outside of the boundaries where a given process works well.  Having an understanding that there are various processes that work well in different circumstances, some of which are more expensive or time-consuming and some of which are more robust, some which work best with certain types of ores, and so on, helps us to be more sensitive to the circumstances we face in our lives when dealing not only with pig iron but also with people.

[1] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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