No-one will blame you if you’ve never heard of a steel cutting ceremony. They aren’t too common in this current day and age. However, the history of steel cutting ceremonies dates back to the early days of shipbuilding in the 19th century.
Originally steel cutting ceremonies were founded as a result of mythology and folklore. Though the superstition surrounding steel cutting ceremonies has died away, you will find that the ceremonies themselves are still fairly common.
What is a Steel Cutting Ceremony?
Steel cutting ceremonies are a remnant of the glory days of shipbuilding, when the best way to travel across vast distances was by boat. These rituals were carried out to improve the luck of the ship being built, lest they were to sink in the open waters. This type of ritual is understandable given the risk and casualties associated with navigating the high seas in the early days of ship building.
This tradition is grew out of an older tradition dating back to the days when shipbuilders made ships out of wood, not steel plate. Why, might you ask, is this tradition still common today? On a symbolic level, steel cutting ceremonies can be good for business and excellent PR opportunities for new shipbuilding projects.
How Does A Steel Cutting Ceremony Work?
Well, some would say that steel cutting ceremonies don’t work at all – at least not in improving the likelihood of your ship sinking or not. However, if you are wondering what is actually involved in a steel cutting ceremony the following few paragraphs may be of interest to you.
A steel cutting ceremony is a celebration involving both stakeholders, shareholders, company executives, employees, business personnel and the general media. Speeches are made and then an honorary guest is given the privilege of pushing the start button on the laser cutter.
A steel profile cutter cuts through the first piece of sheet steel used in the production of the ship. Oftentimes, the profile cutter will be made into a shape to be used as part of the ship, or even added on the design of the ship for sentimental reasons.
It could take up to two years for the completion of a ship from the time of this ceremony. Considering the size of some vessels, this is quite a remarkable time-frame.
More Shipbuilding Rituals
Steel cutting ceremonies are only one of the most recent additions to the ceremonial happenings associated with shipbuilding.
Keel Laying Ceremonies
One of the other popular ceremonies is the keel laying ceremony. In this ceremony, the bottom of the boat is laid on blocks and then raised to a height.
Before the ship sections are placed on the blocks a lucky gold coin is put on the blocks first. This tradition dates back to when sailors used to place gold coins under the base of the mast. This tradition was meant improve the luck specifically of the sails. It was so commonplace that if a mast needed replacing a new gold coin would be put in its place. Sometimes the gold coins were not simply built into the frame of the ship, rather they were put on display for passengers and crew to see. Needless to say, we don’t think a single gold coin is going to help much if you vessel runs into rough seas.
As a little tangent, gold itself was considered very lucky in the days of shipbuilding before steel. According to folklore, gold earrings were meant to protect the wearer from poverty and gold on the face would help improve eyesight. Unlike the gold coin under the mast, we can imagine that a gold earring may be a good omen against poverty (at least if you have access to a pawn shop).
This tradition may be a little more familiar to you than steel cutting or keel laying. Once a ship is constructed, it is common for there to be a naming ceremony. This ceremony is typically the liveliest of the bunch. You might recognise the smashing of a champagne bottle over the front bow of a ship? As well as some cordial speeches and the naming of the ship, his is exactly what a naming ceremony entails.
Steel cutting isn’t just for shipbuilding. Steel is used almost ubiquitously in ever part of our modern lives. For more information about steel distributors, steel cutting and steel suppliers, read one of our other recent steel blogs.