Copper through the ages

Copper

Copper through the ages

It’s no secret that one of our specialities is the precision cold forming and machining of copper.  We’ve been developing unique ways of handling this versatile material since the company began back in the early forties.  But how did copper come to be used in manufacturing? To find that out, we have to delve into the history books.

Copper itself is thought to be the oldest metal known to man, with its first use dated from around 10,000 years ago when it was used as a substitute for stone by Neolithic man.  4,000 years later, the process of metallurgy was created when the heating and mould-casting of copper began in Ancient Egypt.  The Egyptians shaped the metal to create all kinds of everyday items, including hand mirrors, chisels and even razors, alongside agricultural equipment such as copper hoes for harvesting.  By the 6th century BC Italy was using copper for currency and, in more recent times, famous sculptors have manipulated the metal to make beautiful pieces of art.

The use of copper rocketed during the Industrial Revolution.  Its excellent combination of mechanical and chemical properties made it ideal for use in a wide range of products and processes, raging from cooking utensils and candlesticks, to ship sheathing. Copper sheathing was a prevention solution against rot caused by marine organisms; first tested by the Admiralty in 1761 it was so successful that soon the majority of ships were equipped with copper bottoms.

Perhaps the making of copper as one of our most versatile materials came during the nineteenth century, with developments in electrical engineering.  In 1866 Michael Faraday created the first electric generator by attaching two wires to a copper disc, using a magnet to rotate that disc to produce an electric current.  Commercial application followed fast, with copper being used for essential components in power generation, switchgear, cables for telegraphy and, more recently, the telephone.

The cold forming of copper was a relatively new concept in the 1940s when Dawson Shanahan was established.  However, our successful manipulation of copper was one of the skills that established the reputation for innovation that Dawson Shanahan still has today.

For more information on the history of copper click here, and for more on Dawson Shanahan’s history why not have a look at our interactive timeline?