The beginning of the blow.

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Molten iron from the mixer was charged into the horizontal vessel from a ladle suspended from the overhead crane. A compressed air blast at about 25 pounds per square inch of pressure was applied through the base of the vessel, then it was raised to the vertical position in a shower of sparks.

During the 25 minutes or so for each heat the initial shower of sparks became an intense flame as the carbon, silicon and manganese was oxidised. The person in charge of the operation was known as the blower and he occupied a very senior position in the hierarchy. The blower controlled the vessel from the blower's box - a control room (or pulpit) across the bay and a safe distance from the vessels. It was his many years of experience that determined the end point of the heat.

As a summer student I was employed as a work's recorder in the Bessemer department. My job was to log the parameters of each heat in a log book. (Back in the 1970s labour was still a cheap resource!) This was my first ever job and the first time I had ever experienced shift work. On one occasion, in the midst of a sequence of night shifts, I didn't get any sleep during the day and could scarcely keep my eyes open. My desk was situated in the blowers box in front of, but with my back to an open window. It wasn't unusual for sparks from the heat to enter through the window. The blower and his crew took great delight in my discomfort each time tiny white hot particles of molten iron singed my skin and peppered the back of a perfectly good cotton shirt.

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