Flame Hardeners Then and Now

27th March 2012

  Flame Hardeners Ltd has been a part of Sheffield's industrial scene since 1945 and operates out of Shorter Works inBailey Lane.

Many people have wondered, "Why 'Shorter Works'?" The reason is that the company was formed by Albert Edward Shorter, who developed and successfully patented a heat treatment process. There cannot be many sub-contract heat treatment companies that can claim they were founded on a process that they themselves developed. Albert Edward Shorter was an engineer working for Vickers Armstrong in the 1930s. He identified the need for a process of 'localised heat treatment' that would be both economical and reduce distortion. The main product of Vickers at that time was armaments and Shorter's initial enthusiasm was, therefore, directed to tank tracks and drive sprockets, with particular consideration to the hardening of roller paths on the tracks and the profiles of the sprocket teeth. He developed the idea of progressive flame hardening whereby localised areas were heated and immediately quenched, and further developed heating and quenching tools together with machinery to achieve the relative movements. He had developed 'progressive flame hardening'. Shorter took out a patent on the idea, which became known as Shorterising (a term still seen on drawings to this day). He then formed a company - The Shorter Processing Company, which designed and manufactured the equipment for the process. The process was instantly appreciated and one example of the application found in the company archives is the hardening of components for the engine and propulsion system of the SS Mauretania, an advanced passenger liner of the time. The British Oxygen Company saw the process as a future market for the gases that they manufactured and bought the operation from Shorter. The demand for 'demonstration' of hardening batches of components grew and the company realised that they were actually operating a sub-contract heat treatment company (not part of BOC's business plan!). At the end of the Second World War in 1945 they decided enough was enough and although they would keep the intellectual rights for the manufacture of equipment, they would sell the heat treatment company. The company was bought by Herrbert Buckley, who was already operating a heat treatment company known as Holt Brothers inHalifax. Realising the strategic importance of keeping the operation in Sheffield, Mr Buckley moved it to Bailey Lane but, most importantly, maintained the connection with the company's origins by naming the premises Shorter Works. Flame Hardeners Ltd. was incorporated when the operations moved to Bailey Laneand over the years has continued to develop techniques of surface hardening, under Mr Buckley and successive managements until passing into the present ownership. The company now serves almost every sector of engineering manufacture, from automotive, printing, mining, offshore and construction, to food, leisure, textiles and locomotive equipment. Services offered include surface hardening and tempering, hardness testing and MPI (Magnetic Particle Inspection), using flame and induction hardening techniques, with metallographic examination and hardness gradient reporting. A recent addition to Flame Hardeners' services is induction brazing. The Bailey Lane site houses the widest range of equipment in theUKfor hardening of gears, shafts, rollers, cams, machine tool beds, wear plates, wheels, excavator tracks etc. In addition bespoke tooling and customised equipment can be constructed to meet individual requirements. Managing Director, Roger Haw comments: At Flame Hardeners we are proud of our origins but also constantly searching for new applications for our years of acquired knowledge, skills and experience; and we are continually developing tooling to solve hardening problems on the most complex of components.

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