The Master Cutler

THIS year promises to be an interesting one for manufacturing - reflecting the consistent hard work put in by business people and organisations to promote the Sheffield City Region at every opportunity.

For example, plans for the third Global Manufacturing Festival, taking place 17 - 19 April at the Advanced Manufacturing Park, are well under way. This is the first time we have used this venue but it is particularly fitting given that the AMP’s hi-tech engineering activities mirror the aims of the GMF. This is an event which I urge every business person in the Region to support. It presents an ideal opportunity not only to highlight all that is best in the Region’s manufacturing industry but also for individual businesses to promote their particular area of expertise. Further information is available on the dedicated GMF website at

But 2013 sees something else which is close to my heart - the centenary of the discovery of stainless steel. At The Cutlers’ Hall we have on display Sheffield metallurgist Harry Brearley’s earliest stainless steel experimental knives and, as part of the year-long round of events, (we don’t do things by half at The Company of Cutlers) The Cutlers’ Hall will host an Open Day on March 23 when these knives will be given pride of place.

Other events and exhibitions will be staged at The Millennium Gallery and the Kelham Island Industrial Museum while the University of Sheffield will be a holding a number of conferences.

Harry Brearley had been trying to solve the problem of corrosion on the inside of gun barrels. But he hadn’t been alone in looking for a “rustless” steel. Other scientists, notably in Sweden and Germany, had also been looking at the effects of adding chromium to steel. Harry’s genius, however, was his vision which recognised the immense commercial possibilities the product presented and his drive and determination which pushed his discovery forward, despite the opposition he faced at almost every turn.

He wasn’t required to enter the 20th Century equivalent of the Dragons’ Den but he certainly had an uphill battle with many in the cutlery industry. And, like many a modern-day entrepreneur, he looked to others to help him perfect the process. Without their co-operation we would not be celebrating Harry Brearley’s success - a fact which should be remembered during this year.

Working together, supporting and promoting manufacturing in the Sheffield City Region is as important now as it has ever been. Without the partnership of the various organisations, educational establishments, local authorities and business Chambers this region will struggle in the face of continuing fierce competition from other regions in the UK and abroad.

Neil MacDonald