Benjamin Huntsman Clock
The first object to contain Crucible Cast Steel, this longcase clock was made in the 1740s by Benjamin Huntsman, the inventor of crucible steel. Inside the clock's case is a large, rectangular slab of steel, its description on the original plaque accompanying the clock is: -
"This clock by Benjamin Huntsman contains the first successful results of his invention of crucible cast steel 1740."
Huntsman was born in Lincolnshire in 1704. As a boy, he quickly showed skills in mechanical work and became apprentice to a clockmaker when he was 14 years old. By the time he was 21, he had set up his own clockmaking business in Doncaster.
Huntsman's experiments in crucible steelmaking began in 1740 and over the next two years he developed the simple method of purifying Blister steel by letting it in clay crucible pots. Blister steel had many imperfections and Huntsman wanted to create a better quality steel for his clock parts.
In 1742, Huntsman moved to Handsworth, a village near Sheffield. Despite his important breakthrough, it took a while for Huntsman’s new steelmaking method to take off in Sheffield. At first crucible steel was made for smaller items but gradually its use became more widespread in larger companies and became the foundation of Sheffield’s steel industry. Huntsman continued as a clockmaker until 1751 when he began producing steel full-time at his new works in Attercliffe.