What is ferrous metal?

Posted May 3rd 2018

A ferrous metal is made up of iron and other metals to give the ferrous properties required. Although iron on its own is often referred to as a ferrous metal, the term really relates to any metal compounds that have iron in them. To test if a metal is ferrous or not, the valance is measured. A valence of +2 means that the metal is ferrous.
Ferrous metals have some well-known properties. One is that they are magnetic and another is that they are very durable. Ferrous metals are also usually very strong and rust resistant. As iron is the main factor found in all ferrous metal, the use of this sort of metal dates back to the start of the Iron Age. This was roughly around 1,200 B.C. when iron production really took off.

Types of ferrous metal

Ferrous metal is the name given to a group of different metal compounds that have the above properties. The most common type of ferrous metals around now are:
• Steel
• Carbon steel
• Engineering steel
• Cast iron
• Wrought iron
There are other forms of ferrous metal around such as tungsten carbide but the above are the most widely used in the modern age.

What can it be used for?

Due to the particular properties it has, ferrous metal has a wide range of uses. It is used extensively in the construction sector for example, where super-tough engineering steel is used to build with. Cast iron is used a lot in things like water pipes where its hard-wearing properties are valuable. Wrought iron is used for fencing and railings where its resistance to oxidisation is vital. The engineering sector also makes extensive use of ferrous metal for building machines and tools.

Let us help with your ferroalloy needs

Another use of iron within the engineering industry, in particular, is in producing ferroalloys. These alloys use iron as the base metal to which other elements, such as manganese, are added to give certain properties. If you are looking for ferroalloy suppliers then let us help.
As one of the leading ferroalloys suppliers around, we have a wide range to choose from to help meet all your engineering needs. Our ferroalloys come in a selection of forms, packages and sizes so you can get the one that is best suited to your needs.

Antimony Metal – What you need to know

Posted February 15th 2018

Antimony metal - what you need to know

Antimony metal

Antimony metal – what is it?

Antimony is a semimetallic chemical element which can exist in two forms: the metallic form is bright, silvery, hard and brittle; the non metallic form is a grey powder.

Antimony is a poor conductor of heat and electricity, it is stable in dry air and is not attacked by dilute acids or alkalis. Antimony and some of its alloys expand on cooling.

Antimony has been known since ancient times. It is sometimes found free in nature, but is usually obtained from the ores stibnite (Sb2S3) and valentinite (Sb2O3).

Nicolas Lémery, a French chemist, was the first person to scientifically study antimony and its compounds. He published his findings in 1707.

Antimony makes up about 0.00002% of the earth’s crust.


Antimony and its compounds were known to the ancients and there is a 5,000-year old antimony vase in the Louvre in Paris. Antimony sulfide (Sb2S3) is mentioned in an Egyptian papyrus of the 16th century BC.

The black form of this pigment, which occurs naturally as the mineral stibnite, was used as mascara and known as khol. The most famous user was the temptress Jezebel whose exploits are recorded in the Bible.

Another pigment known to the Chaldean civilization, which flourished in what is now southern Iraq in the 6th and 7th centuries BC, was yellow lead antimonite. This was found in the glaze of ornamental bricks at Babylon and date from the time of Nebuchadnezzar (604–561 BC).

Antimony became widely used in Medieval times, mainly to harden lead for type, although some was taken medicinally as a laxative pill which could be reclaimed and re-used!


Antimony is used in the electronics industry to make some semiconductor devices, such as infrared detectors and diodes.

It is alloyed with lead or other metals to improve their hardness and strength. A lead-antimony alloy is used in batteries. Other uses of antimony alloys include type metal (in printing presses), bullets and cable sheathing.

Antimony compounds are used to make flame-retardant materials, paints, enamels, glass and pottery.

What are Christmas baubles made of?

Posted December 20th 2017

Although modern day baubles are typically made of blown glass, they have a long history and in the past have been made of glass, wood, metal and various other materials.

Hans Greiner, who made glass beads and tin figures to hang on trees in addition to the traditional apples and candy canes, first manufactured Glass baubles in Lauscha, Germany. Glass tubes were heated over fire, and then inserted into a clay mold where they could be blown so that the glass expanded to fill the shape of the mold. Although the molds used today vary wildly in shape and size, the original ones tended to be fruits or nuts. In the 1850s, a silvering technique developed by Justus von Liebig was also incorporated which involved swirling a silver nitrate solution into the cooled glass after which the bauble could be painted.

As glass baubles became popular, other local glassblowers saw an opportunity and began to produce them in a wider range of designs and finishes. In 1832, a young queen Victoria was delighted to have a Christmas tree adorned with baubles, lights and other ornaments and when a picture of her tree was featured in a London newspaper, from her husbands native Germany, Lauscha began to export products through Europe, leading to the rise in the decorated Christmas tree that we know today.

Although round, glass baubles are the most well known, and typically seen Christmas tree decoration, they are available in all shapes and sizes, as well as different finishes now. Plastic can often be used to make cheaper and more affordable baubles, and metal may be used to make more intricate figures and decorations such as reindeers, angels and stars. Older Christmas decorations tend to be made of more expensive materials, such as silver bells or tinsel made of shredded silver – although this is rarely seen anymore. The decision to use cheaper materials, as we see today, is to make them more accessible and affordable, as well as cheaper and easier to mass produce.

metal christmas baubles

What does being a scrap metal dealer entail?

Posted December 5th 2017

Scrap metal is made up of recycled materials that have been left over from manufacturing and consumptions of products that use metals. This could be anything from parts of old vehicles, to surplus materials that have been discarded during the manufacturing process. It does not, however, include gold and silver, or any other alloy that is comprised of more than 2% of either gold or silver.

A scrap metal dealer is someone who deals with the sale of scrap metals and must have a licence in order to do so. Anyone who is a motor salvage dealer, or conducts business, which deals in any part of the buying and selling of scrap metals, may be deemed a scrap metal dealer. There are two types of licence that can be obtained – a site licence, which licenses the holder to buy and sell scrap metal from one or more sites in the local authority area, as well as transporting the material between multiple registered sites, and a collectors licence, which authorises someone to collect scrap metal in the local authority area. A separate licence must be obtained from each council the collector will be operating in and only one of each type of licence may be held in an individual local authority area.

The price of scrap metal may vary widely depending on location and these are often negotiated directly between sellers and buyers, although sometimes you may see scrap metal prices posted online or in publications. In the US, for example, scrap prices can be found in several publication such as American Metal Market.

One of the key benefits in recycling scrap metals is the impact on the environment. The US Environmental Protection Agency conducted research, which found that using recycled scrap metal instead of iron ore can save up to 75% of energy used in production, as well as giving a 97% reduction in mining wastes and 86% reduction in air pollution. These figures are phenomenal and are just a small insight into the benefits of using scrap metals, which can be just as effective as using virgin materials.

William Rowland is proud to include in its portfolio, the purchasing and sales of specialty revert and scrap metal. Our product range includes nickel based alloys, nickel and cobalt irons, nickel, chrome and molybdenum alloys, nickel copper alloys, cobalt based alloys, nickel cobalt alloys, and many more.

turnings scrap metal


Posted November 6th 2017

Tin is a chemical element, belonging to group 14 of the periodic table. Its symbol is Sn, which comes from the Latin stannum, and it is what we call a post-transition metal. It is commonly used in alloys, including bronze and pewter, as well as in the plating of steel to add a corrosion resistant layer.

Malleable and very ductile, tin is a silvery white coloured metal that has a relatively low melting point of 232 degrees Celsius (the lowest within that group in the periodic table). As it is so soft, it is unusual for tin to be used in its pure form and instead it is most commonly seen in alloys. Bronze is one of the most popular alloys we see tin in, produced since as early as 3000 BC. It is comprised of around 12% tin and the remainder of copper with a small amount of other metals such as aluminium and nickel. Tin is also used heavily in pewter, which can contain as much as 90% tin alongside copper, lead and antimony.

Due to a high level of corrosion resistance, tin is often used as a coating for lead, zinc and steel. Combined with a low level of toxicity this makes tin a perfect material for us in food packaging, such as tin plated steel cans.

Tin is also popularly used with lead as solder, which is used in electric circuits as well as piping systems. Following the European Union Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive and Restriction of Hazardous Substances Directive, which was introduced on 1 July 2016, the content of lead has decreased which leads to problems when trying to replace it, such as a higher melting point. Tin pest can sometimes occur in lead-free solders, which causes the deterioration of the tin at low temperatures.

Today the London Metal Exchange (LME) is the primary trading place for tin, although other tin markets include the Kuala Lumpur Tin Market (KLTM) and the Indonesia Tin Market (INATIN). Tin has historically had a high price especially during the years of agreements between producer and consumer countries. The International Tin Council have tried to keep this stable by buying stockpiles during periods of low price and selling these again during periods of high price in an effort to keep the price steady. However, the stockpile was never large enough and during the years of 1956 to 1985 tin prices mainly rose. The recession of 1981-82 had a dramatic impact on the tin industry with consumption reducing and the ITC stumbling into debt. This culminated in it reaching its credit limit in 1985 and tin being delisted from trading on the LME for three years. Following this, the ITC was dissolved and the price of tin has become more stable.

Today, William Rowland sells tin in the form of pellets and sticks.


Where is all the gold?

Posted October 25th 2017

The journal Nature recently published an article that argued the gold and silver found on Earth should be much more abundant than they are. Whilst both metals can be found scattered throughout space, they are relatively rare to find on Earth compared to other elements, and the lack of gold in particular has been a growing concern amongst the mining industry. Whilst the metal has always been scarce, it is being found less and less often which will certainly mean an increase in price as time goes on.

Bernard Wood, a geologist from Oxford University, argues that ‘The silicate Earth is strongly depleted in moderately volatile elements (such as lead, zinc, indium and alkali elements) relative to CI chondrites, the meteorites that compositionally most closely resemble the sun’. His paper studies the lack of gold and silver found on the planet, concluding that the way it was formed is the cause of this.

‘Earth’s Volatile Contents Established By Melting And Vapourisation’, as the paper is titled, looks at the formation of the earth and argues that the gold that would have been present at one time turns to gas once it reaches a particular level of temperature. Using a furnace, Wood studies the effects of heat on a model version of an early Earth, using temperatures of up to 1,300 degrees Celsius, as well as adding elements such as carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, basaltic rock and zinc oxide to the process, to mimic the formation of the planet.

‘Our experiment shows that melting processes explain the pattern [of volatile depletion] perfectly’, concluded the study. ‘We find that the pattern of volatile element depletion in the silicate Earth is consistent with partial melting and vapourisation rather than with simple accretion of a volatile-rich chondrite-like body’.

gold bricks

Recycled metals – What do we use them for?

Posted September 26th 2017

In the society of today, recycling is more prevalent than ever. We are encouraged to recycle whenever we can, but what happens to the things we do recycle? Where do they end up?

Metal is one of the major materials that can be recycled. Aluminum, iron, steel, copper and brass can all be recycled and reused, more than once, to make new products. Not only is it easy to use the scrap metal to make new products but it also reduces the need for new mining. It makes economical sense to recycle and reuse materials where possible and by doing this we can cut CO2 emissions, air and water pollution. When you bear in mind that the average household uses over 600 food tins and 380 drinks cans per year, it isn’t difficult to see how this energy can be saved.

How scrap metal is used differs depending on the metal. Some of the most commonly recycled metals are aluminum and steel, which can be recycled over and over again without losing their quality. The benefit of this is that the recycled metals can be used to make the same items. They are commonly used to make new food packaging – often the packaging will carry a mark to let you know that it has been recycled, and it can take as little as 8 weeks for a tin to be bought at the supermarket, used, recycled and make its way back to the supermarket. Most food tins contain at least a percentage of scrap metal if they are not made from 100% recycled metal. Recycled aluminum is also commonly used in the construction industry, alongside scrap iron, particularly in the building of bridges and roads. Other uses include the manufacture of aircraft, cars and even home furnishings.

recycled metals

The History of Metal in Sheffield

Posted September 15th 2017

The city of Sheffield is well known for steel manufacturing and metallurgy. From the 18th century onwards it was quickly established as one of the main industrial cities in the UK, although it was recognised for the manufacture of knives as early as the 14th century with a notable mention from Chaucuer in The Reeve’s Tale.

Ay by his belt he baar a long panade,

And of a swerd ful trenchant was the blade.

A joly poppere baar he in his pouche;

Ther was no man, for peril, dorste hym touche.

A Sheffeld thwitel baar he in his hose.

Round was his face, and camus was his nose;

The location of the city, situated amongst a multitude of rivers and streams, made it ideal for water powered industries to flourish and in the 1600s, Sheffield became the hub of cutlery production in England, outside London. In the 1740s, Benjamin Huntsman, who lived just outside Sheffield in the town of Handsworth, invented a version of crucible steel process that would produce better quality steel than had previously been possible. His method involved a coke-fired furnace that could be heated to a staggering 1,600 degrees °C. Clay crucibles would first be heated, before adding an alloy of carbon and iron known as blister steel. After 3 hours in the furnace the pots were removed, and impurities skimmed off, before the molten steel was cast and cooled. Also notable at this time was the invention of Sheffield plate by Thomas Boulsover, a combination of layers of copper and silver that is very strong and was used to produce a multitude of household goods. Because there was a large amount of copper, covered with a thin coating of silver, items were able to be produced at a far lower cost than if they were made only of silver.

In 1912, Harry Brearly discovered stainless steel in his research laboratory based in Sheffield. The metal was marketed as Staybrite in England by Firth Vickers and was used in the new entrance to the Savoy Hotel in London in 1929. Although when he applied for a US patent Brearly found that someone in the US had already registered one, he was able to join forces with Elwood Haynes to create the American Stainless Steel Corporation.

As steel began to be mass-produced the population of the city grew exponentially from the 18th to the 20th century, going from 60,995 in 1801 to 577, 050 in 1951. Although the industry has since declined Sheffield is still recognised as a key contributor to the metal industry and continues to manufacture specialist steel today.

sheffield metal history


Casting Metals

Posted September 7th 2017

‘Casting’ is a process used in metalworking where a metal in liquid form is poured into a mould and allowed to cool in the cavity to form a specific shape. It is a commonly used process for making complex shapes as the use of the mould allows for great detail and it is more economical than other processes might be. Once the metal has solidified it is removed from the mould and is known as a casting. Items commonly produced by casting include pieces of jewellery, sculptures, tools and some weapons.

The process of casting has been used for thousands of years, but it has been steadily refined and modern casting can now be broken down into two distinct sub-categories – expendable and non-expendable casting. In the expandable casting process, a temporary mould is used that cannot be reused, whereas in non-expendable casting the mould can be reused. This is then further differentiated by which material and which pouring method is used.

There are a variety of materials that can be used for casting, including non-metals such as sand and plaster. If using metal, the most common ones are iron, aluminium, steel, copper and zinc. When casting metals, a non-expendable method of casting is commonly used. For example, permanent mould casting uses a reusable mould, usually also made of metal, to cast metals such as iron, zinc, tin, aluminium and copper, amongst others. Usually, gravity is used to fill the mould, but vacuum or gas pressure can also be used. Another popular method is die casting which pushes molten metal into a mould using high pressure. Die casting usually uses non-ferrous metals such as zinc, copper and aluminium alloys, but it is also possible to use ferrous metals, although they are less common.

It is possible for defects to occur during the cooling period, also known as the solidification process, such as gas porosity and solidification shrinkage. Because of the nature of the casting process, it is difficult to do anything to prevent these from occurring so proper steps should be taken throughout the process to combat these. Shrinkage, for example, usually happens when the metal cooling in the mould is less dense in its liquid form, meaning as it cools to a solid the density decreases. In order to prevent this a suitable metal should be used.

casting metal

The origin of the steel skyscraper

Posted August 23rd 2017

Although they are undoubtedly still impressive, skyscrapers have become a common feature of modern cities that we have become accustomed to seeing on busy skylines such as New York and London. Constantly evolving, they push the limits of architectural design, with the Burj Khalifa pushing an imposing 828 metres in height. However, this is a far cry from the humble origins of the modern skyscraper which began in 1884 with a small structure of only 10 storeys in Chicago.
The Home Insurance Building of Chicago, designed by William Le Baron Jenney, was the first structure to utilize a steel skeleton on the interior to support its weight. This is one of main factors a building must have in order to be classed as a skyscraper in modern architecture so despite the relative lack of height, the Home Insurance Building is what kickstarted the evolution of skyscrapers.
Jenney was the man who came up with the idea of relying on the strength of metal to support his vision, rather than stone. At the time the building was constructed this was unheard of and the city of Chicago halted construction of the building at one point to investigate its stability, so new was the idea. Although Jenney initially thought an iron frame would be the best option, he switched this to steel half way through the project, which would go on to become an incredibly important decision.
As architects began to incorporate steel and other metals into the construction of their buildings, it became possible to start pushing the limitations of height as buildings became stronger and more stable. Although the first skyscraper may only have been 10 stories tall, todays skyscrapers are defined as having at least 40-50 floors and are usually higher than 100 metres, although many go far above this. Modern skyscrapers do not have load bearing walls as they used to, due to their height, and instead architects must consider how to counteract things like wind and seismic loads through their structure. Most modern skyscrapers use a tubular design, a concept made popular by designer Fazlur Rahman Khan in the 1960s, as this allows them greater flexibility in their design rather than having to confirm to a rectangular or box shape. There are many famous examples of both designs still in existence.