Reasons to be cheerful - part three

Dormer's new UK headquarters at the Advanced Manufacturing Park in South Yorkshire.
Dormer's new UK headquarters at the Advanced Manufacturing Park in South Yorkshire.
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SHEFFIELD is heading for a triple celebration of its industrial heritage as Dormer Tools joins Henry Bessemer and Harry Brearley in the centenary stakes this year.

While the bicentenary of the birth of Bessemer – inventor of the Bessemer Converter that revolutionised steel making – will be celebrated next week, Brearley’s discovery of stainless steel will be the cause for a year long celebration.

Meanwhile, Advanced Manufacturing Park-based cutting tool specialist Dormer Tools is also celebrating its centenary.

Founded in Sheffield as The Sheffield Twist Drill and Steel Company, Dormer employed almost 1,500 people in Sheffield at its height.

In the 1950s, Dormer became the first drill manufacturer in Europe to introduce steam tempering, which gave its drills a blue finish that became characteristic to Dormer’s range.

In the mid 1980s, the company became one of the first in the industry to make it possible for customers to order products online at a time when the internet was virtually unknown outside of the academic world.

For many years, Dormer was based between Napier Street and Cemetry Road, moving to a £10 million state of the art factory in Holbrook in the mid 1990s.

Within a few years, its Swedish parent group Sandvik had moved operations out of Sheffield to Worksop and then abroad, but research and export operations remained in the UK and returned to South Yorkshire and the Advanced Manufacturing Park four years ago.

The company said at the time that it was creating a major research and development facility which would capitalise on the region’s engineering and management expertise and work with partners like the AMP-based Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre to push back the boundaries of tooling design.

Key projects have included developing new tools for machining advanced aerospace materials, high performance drilling and specialist applications in sectors such as motorsport and medical equipment.

The AMP development is also be home to a custom-built training centre, global corporate functions such as IT, sales and marketing and product management and an international export service.

Dormer UK marketing co-ordinator Simon Winstanley said: “The last 100 years has witnessed previously unimaginable advances in the technological and scientific world: the mass production of motor vehicles, powered flight and space travel, the birth of the nuclear age and the development of the telecommunications industry.

“Dormer’s products have helped to write the history of this industrial progress and it is here, in the millions upon millions of components that have been drilled, reamed, cut, threaded or otherwise shaped by the company’s tools, that the real history of Dormer lies.

“There is a certain pride, too, in the fact that our centenary falls at a time when Sheffield is celebrating the achievements of two industrial giants, Bessemer and Brearley.”

Henry Bessemer was born in London in 1813 and made his first fortune by developing a steam-powered machine for making bronze powder, before developing a continuous process for plate glass.

He is remembered today for his work in the 1850s developing the Bessemer Converter as a cheap way of making steel by blowing air through molten pig iron.

When companies spurned his process, Bessemer built his own steelworks in Sheffield, producing steel at such a low price competitors were forced to take out licences and begin using his process.

Harry Brearley was born in Sheffield in 1871 and discovered stainless steel while working at Brown Firth Laboratories trying to find a steel for gun barrels which would better resist erosion caused by the high temperatures when a shell was fired.

Brearley added chromium to steel to raise its melting point and then noticed that it increased the steel’s resistance to chemical attack.

Like Bessemer, Brearley also faced initial scepticism and ended up having to pay for knives to be made from his new steel before it was adopted by the cutlery industry.