Iron and steel varieties between 1860 and 1914: survey of the Belgian nomenclature

Michael de Bouw, Ine Wouters, J. Vereecken, Leen Lauriks

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference paperResearch

1 Citation (Scopus)


Iron has been known for many centuries. Nevertheless, it has only been used as a construction material since the second half of the 18th century. In the course of the 19th century, the metal production methods evolved quickly, which resulted in many different varieties of iron and steel to be in use during the same period.

Nowadays, many of the 18th- and 19th-century metal buildings have to be renovated or restored. As a reconversion adapts old buildings to new functions and requirements in accordance with contemporary needs, it is interesting to know the original material characteristics, dimensioning parameters and aims. Unfortunately, when turning to historic literature, the nomenclature used to designate the type of iron or steel and the corresponding properties are far from uniform and clear. For example:
* what exactly is the difference between cast iron and cast steel; between wrought, puddled, forged and rolled iron; between ingot iron, ingot steel, weld iron and weld steel, etc?
* what did engineers mean by Krupp steel, cementation steel, malleable cast iron, etc?

When trying to gain insight to the functioning of metal structures and their bearing capacity, it is indispensable to know exactly which materials were available in one specific period, how the nomenclature evolved in time, what properties were assumed for which material and how those evolved, when, how and where arose the first (inter)national standardisations, what did these specify, etc.

This paper discusses the development during the period 1850 to 1920, as during this time many different metals were used simultaneously. At present (and even back then), they often are (and were) mixed up. The research focuses especially on the situation in Belgium as it is particularly interesting due to the Flemish-French linguistic problem and the clash of the English, French and German influences. The Belgian 19th-century steel manuals and some important surveys were consulted. Besides the Flemish and French terms, the paper draws some parallels to the English and German terminology too. The paper provides a useful overview and guidelines for today's architects and engineers that are confronted with these historic materials.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of International Conference on Structural Studies, Repairs and Maintenance of Heritage Architecture X
EditorsC.a. Brebbia
Number of pages11
ISBN (Print)978-1-84564-085-9
Publication statusPublished - 2007
EventFinds and Results from the Swedish Cyprus Expedition: A Gender Perspective at the Medelhavsmuseet - Stockholm, Sweden
Duration: 21 Sep 200925 Sep 2009


ConferenceFinds and Results from the Swedish Cyprus Expedition: A Gender Perspective at the Medelhavsmuseet

Bibliographical note

C.A. Brebbia


  • nomenclature
  • iron
  • steel
  • Belgium
  • production techniques


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  • STREMAH 2007

    Michael de Bouw (Speaker)

    3 Jul 20076 Jul 2007

    Activity: Talk or presentationTalk or presentation at a conference

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