Huntsman started business as a clock, lock and tool maker in Doncaster, Yorkshire. His reputation enabled him to also practice surgery in an experimental fashion and he was also consulted as an oculist.
Huntsman experimented in steel manufacture, first at Doncaster. Then in 1740 he moved to Handsworth, near Sheffield. Eventually, after many experiments, Huntsman was able to make satisfactory cast steel, in clay pot crucibles, each holding about 34 pounds of blistered steel. A flux was added, and they were covered and heated by means of coke for about three hours. The molten steel was then poured into moulds and the crucibles reused. The local cutlery manufacturers refused to buy Huntsman's cast steel, as it was harder than the German steel they were accustomed to using. For a long time Huntsman exported his whole output to France.
The growing competition of imported French cutlery made from Huntsman's cast-steel alarmed the Sheffield cutlers, who, after trying unsuccessfully to get the export of the steel prohibited by the British government, were compelled to use it in the interests of self-preservation. Huntsman had not patented his process, and his secret was discovered by a Sheffield iron-founder called Walker. Walker, according to legend, entered Huntsman's works in the disguise of a starving beggar asking to sleep by a fire for the night.
- Samuel Smiles, Industrial Biography (1879) p99
- Samuel Smiles, Industrial Biography (1879), p 103
- One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Huntsman, Benjamin". Encyclopædia Britannica 13 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 955.
- "Huntsman, Benjamin". Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900.
- Pub Guide, accessed January 2010