Tag Archives: Bronze

18th Century Naval Cannons

Cannon View

Cannon View (Photo credit: Travis S.)

English: Cannon - Scillies. One of the cannons...

Image via Wikipedia

Fort Vancouver Cannons

Image via Wikipedia

In the 1500’s gunpowder was beggining to be used in Europe, and light firearms began to be used. Gradually, people began to get ideas that these small pistols could be enlarged to fire large stones and metal balls and so be more effective than the current catapults and trebuchets. Thus the cannon was born. Cannons were large hollow canisters with a hole approximately 7 in. across, and a much smaller one at the back about a centimeter in diameter. 

Gunpowder was poured through the front hole and a large metal or stone ball was rolled in after it. Then, a lighted match was touched to the gunpowder through the smaller hole and #BOOM# the ball is blown out the front with incredible force and blasted into the hull of an enemy ship.

These cannons were made of bronze, which is strong, and though it cannot hold an edge, does not need to. The reason Iron was not used is because before Henry Bessemer, Iron was too brittle and when the powder was lit, it would backfire, throwing shards of metal at the gunners. Not a pretty sight. As I said in my last blog, Steel could be produced, but in small quantities- a two ton cannon is not small quantity.

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Bronze vs. Iron in Antiquity

My favorite ancient civilization is Greece, because of their mythology (cool but revolting and cruel) and also their armour, weaponry, and their love of arts. So, about ancient Greece, you probably know that the Bronze Age came first and then the Iron Age. I told that to Dad, but he said that can’t be, because we all know that Iron is much more common than either copper or tin, the two metals alloyed to make bronze. I showed him a page on wikipedia and proved I was right.

Just a few minutes ago, I researched in a book, and this is what I found: Copper melts at a fairly low temperature, and Tin can be melted in a regular kitchen oven, so it was easy to smelt, mix together, and cast them. Iron melts at too high a temperature for the people in the Bronze Age to make, so it wasn’t until the Iron Age that people could make a high enough temperature to melt the Iron. Once people discovered that, their army had now stronger and more plentiful weaponry.