Tuesday, July 12, 2005

What is Wrought Iron ?

Clearing the Confusion
Over Wrought Iron

Is it rod iron? Is it rot iron? Or is it wrought iron?

By Todd Daniel

One of the most confusing terms in the ornamental metals business is the phrase "wrought iron." However, the confusion is understandable since even dictionaries cannot agree on a single definition The first thing to clear up is the spelling. Many consumers spell the metal "rod iron" or "rot iron."

Secondly, when the public talks about wrought iron, they could be referring to one of three things - actual wrought iron, hand forged items, or the "look" of wrought iron. Your challenge is to determine what the customer actually wants.

When someone calls your shop and says he wants a "rod iron table," that person has something clear in mind. Chances are, he's thinking about an old piece of metal furniture that his grandfather made. The table he envisions is black, full of scrolls, and pretty.

Now could that customer actually want genuine wrought iron? Not likely. Does he want something hammered out at the forge or is he just looking for the silvery black finish characteristic of wrought iron?

In most cases, when your shop receives a "rod iron" call, you may have to play detective to find out what the customer is thinking about. You've probably had so many "rod iron" calls that you are used to them, but they are still a little frustrating.

The following is an attempt to clear up some of the confusion about wrought iron by breaking the term down into its most commonly accepted definitions.

Definition 1: The Metal

One reason behind the confusion is that somewhere between the time that grandpa made his wrought iron table and today, the actual metal went out of production in the U.S. During the 1960s, one plant after another discontinued its wrought iron operations until the last plant ceased operations in 1969.

The reason wrought iron was phased out is simple _ the process is very labor intensive and costly. In the old days, a laborer had to hold the metal with tongs and "work" it under a steam hammer. In addition, recycling of scrap added downward pressure on the price of steel. According to one estimate, production wrought iron cost nearly twice as much as steel.

Currently, the only way to get true wrought iron is to import it from Europe or find an old bridge, wagon wheel axle, or other antique item. The scarcity of the metal is unfortunate for the ornamental iron industry because wrought iron is an ideal metal to work with. The metal is corrosion resistant, handles stress well, and can accept a thicker finish.

Wrought Iron Figure 1

Rather than having the "snap-off" characteristic of modern steels, true wrought is like bread dough or candy taffy [Figure 1].

The reason behind the metal's unusual properties is the addition of iron silicate. This glasslike slag is interwoven in the iron and gives the metal its "dough-like" form [Figure 2]. In a single square inch there may be 250,000 or more of these little slag fibers. By their very nature, the fibers help the metal do a better job of absorbing stress.

The slag in wrought iron also provides natural corrosion resistance. Let's face it, nearly all ferrous metals rust, but wrought iron does a better job at handling it. As corrosion progresses, the fibers tend to disperse the rust into an even film, which gives the metal a natural brownish appearance. This film repels the scattering spotty corrosive attack t that other metals endure.

Because of its corrosion resistance, wrought was the metal of choice in earlier years for marine use, bridges, and girders. In fact, in extremely corrosive areas, an architect may still specify the metal. Another niche where wrought is still alive and well is in the craft of knifemaking.

According to Bob Bergman of Postville Blacksmith, who regularly works with true wrought iron, wrought's low carbon content makes it easy to weld. "Wrought can stand tremendous heat and is more forgiving," says Bergman. "It is better structurally for old time blacksmithing."

Yet another advantage of wrought is that its rough and irregular surface can hold a finish better [Figure 3]. Reportedly, wrought iron can carry a zinc galvanizing coating that is 25 percent to 40 percent thicker than what would be accepted by a smoother metal.

It is no small wonder the word "wrought iron" is still used, even though the actual metal itself is a hard-to-find item. For at least 5,000 years craftspersons have used wrought iron to make functional items and works of art. Some of the world's most famous metalwork is made of wrought iron.

A 1971 article that appeared in Fabricator magazine made an eloquent defense for wrought iron. Written by William F. Kruse, the column compared wrought iron and steel with Carrara marble and cement. He argued: "Marble does cost more than concrete, but they both have their proper place. Neither really substitutes for the other." His reasoning was that true wrought should not have been phased out by cheaper substitutes.

He went on to say, "If death could come to a whole ancient and honorable industry as a result of a market erosion brought on by technologically cheapened substitutes, may not a similar erosion threaten the continued existence of the entire ornamental metals industry?"

Mr. Kruse's prophetic warning may have been a little off base. For one thing, the ornamental metal industry cannot take the blame for the demise of wrought iron. It was the plants that discontinued the metal when they no longer found it profitable. And second, the arrival of cheaper substitutes didn't mean the industry was "selling out" _ it just means change is inevitable in any industry.

Wrought Iron Figure 2

Definition II: Wrought or "Worked"

More likely, when people talk about wrought iron they probably mean metal that is worked. It is generally accepted that "wrought" means any metal that is hammered, twisted or bent into shape, as compared to "cast" which is poured at a foundry. The common vision of the public is of a blacksmith hammering wrought iron on an anvil with a coal forge in the background.

By definition, this form of wrought means "to be forged and formed in a plastic state developing an ornamental effect." In other words, "wrought" describes both a process of working metal and a type of metal.

Not surprisingly, nearly all "wrought iron" products produced these days are actually made of mild steel. As a fabricator, the only time you may ever need to use genuine wrought iron is if it is specified for reproduction work.

As Bob Bergman describes, "It's a term that went from steel making to a term now largely used to describe crafts making."

Technically speaking, any metal can be "wrought," but the common usage and perception is that "wrought" applies to ferrous metals. Now, the question is: does the client actually want something made at a forge or just the "look" of wrought iron. This leads us to our next definition.

Definition III: The "Look" of Wrought Iron

Actually, you don't even need to own a forge if all the client wants is the "look" of wrought iron. Achieving the look can be as easy as putting a hammered texture on a mild steel bar. You may also wish to knock the corners off your stock. Better yet, use coarse emery paper to bring out some of the natural silver in the metal. The goal is to rough up the surface so it won't have the smooth "machine made" appearance of stock metals.

Another way to give steel a "wrought" look is with the finish. In the old days, a blacksmith would finish his work with wax and a little soot from the forge. The mixture would give the metal its famous dull black appearance with silvery highlights.

Wax can still be used for interior applications, but it's important to instruct the customer on how and when to re-wax the item. Any wax like Miniwax, Beeswax, or Johnson's Paste Wax will work.

Applying a clear coat is another option for interior work. On outside jobs, a clear coat will not resist the elements as well as a good paint system. If you do decide to use a paint system to give an exterior item a "wrought" look, be careful. If the paint is placed too thick, it will fill in a lot of detail.

Wrought Iron Figure 3


As every fabricator knows, good communication up front is a key to avoiding problems later. When the words "wrought iron" come up, proceed with caution. The term has different meanings for different people and a major misunderstanding could mean "eating the big one." Take the time to determine if your customer wants a forged product or just the "look," or maybe they would be open to having the item wrought in aluminum. And if a client insists on genuine wrought iron, don't brush them off too quickly. There are a few applications where true wrought iron is still used.


A "thank you" to Bob Bergman of Postville Blacksmith for his help with this story.

"Wrought Iron on the Scrap Heap?," Ornamental & Miscellaneous Metal Fabricator, William Kruse, Jan/Feb 1971.

"Wrought Iron - Its Manufacture, Characteristics, and Applications," A.M. Byers, Pittsburgh, Pa., 1942

Reprinted from Ornamental & Miscellaneous Metal Fabricator, November/December 1993, p. 38

Back To Support

© 1996 NOMMA/ArtMetal

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Question paper for Blacksmithy exam.

Sample question paper for entrance exam of the MetalWorkers Guild of India apprentice blacksmithy entrance examination.

Why should the welding fire be deep, clean, and compact? (b) How often should the fire be cleaned when welding?

What is meant by scarfing? (b) What are the characteristics of a good scarf f? (c) Why are long thin pieces hard to weld? (d) Why are irons usually upset before scarfing?

What materials may be used for welding flux? (b) When and how is it applied? (c) Just how does a flux assist in welding? (d) What kinds of iron and steel, if any, may be welded without flux?

What precautions should be observed in heating irons for welding? (b) What should be done in case one iron heats faster than the other? (c) Why should the scarfs be down instead of up just before the irons are removed from the fire for welding?

How may the welding heat be recognized?

(a) Outline the process of making a welded chain link or a ring. (b) What is the general shape of the link scarf ? (c) Why is it important to have the ends lapped at about 90 deg. when they are being welded? (d) Why is the link given a sharp rap over the edge of the anvil just after it is taken from the fire and before the ends are welded together? (e) Why should the weld be started with only medium and not heavy blows? (f) How may the welded part of a link or a ring be neatly and smoothly finished?

(a) Explain and be able to demonstrate how to quickly take two irons out of the fire and place them accurately on the anvil for welding. (b) Should the thin edges of the scarfs be welded down first or last, or at some other time? Why? (c) After a weld is completed in a round rod, just how should the welded section be neatly smoothed and brought to size?

(a) What are common causes of failure in welding? (b) What procedure would you recommend in case irons do not stick at the first attempt to weld? At the second or third attempt?

(a) Just how would you proceed to make a welded eyebolt? (b) How may the work be done to prevent marring and drawing the stem next to the eye?

(a) Just how should a steel. plowshare be placed in the fire for heating?, (b) How much of the share should be heated at a time? (c) What is the proper forging heat for steel plowshares? (d) Should the share be hammered on the top or on the bottom side? (e) What important points should be observed in shaping the share?

(a) How may plowshares be hardened? (b) What kind of shares should be hardened very little if at all? Why?

How are chilled iron shares sharpened?

(a) How are spike-tooth harrow teeth sharpened? (b) Should they be hardened? If so, how?

(a) What is pig iron? (b) How is it made? (c) For what is it used?

(a) How are castings made? (b) What are some of the important properties or characteristics of cast iron?

(a) What is chilled iron, and how is it made? (b) What are the main uses of chilled iron in farm machines?

(a) What special property does malleable iron have? (b) How are malleable castings made?

(a) What is wrought iron? (b) How is it made?

(a) How is mild steel made? (b) By what other names is mild steel commonly known? (c) What are its important properties or characteristics?

(a) How is tool steel made? (b) What are the chief differences between tool steel and mild steel? (c) How is the amount of carbon in tool steel commonly designated? (d) How much carbon is contained in steel used for making blacksmithing tools like hammers and cold chisels?

Just how may one distinguish between the various grades of steel?

(a) What is soft-center steel, and how is it made? (b) What are its particular advantages over other kinds of steel? (c) In what parts of farm machines is it commonly used?

(a) What is an alloy steel? (b) What materials or metals are commonly used in making alloy steels? (c) In what respects may allow steels be better than plain steels?

References (text books)

SCHWARZKOPF: "Plain and Ornamental Forging."

RADERAUGH: "Repairing Farm Machinery."

FRIESE: "Farm Blacksmithing."

HARCOURT: "Elementary Forge Practice."

Boss, DENT, and WHITE: "Mechanical Training.

SMITH, ROBERT H.: "Agricultural Mechanics."

SELVIDGE and ALLTON: "Blacksmithing."

backlink: India Blacksmith

Black Iron and Steel Metallurgy


There are many different kinds and grades of black iron and steel used in implements and other farm equipment. To be better enabled to repair such equipment, a mechanic should know something about the different kinds of black iron gates and steel and their properties and uses.

Pig Iron.-The first step in the manufacture of iron and steel is to extract the iron from the iron ore, which is mined in various parts of the world. This is done by means of the modern blast furnace. The molten iron accumulates at the bottom of the furnace and is drawn off into sand molds and allowed to cool and form short, thick bars known as pig iron. Pig iron is then used as the source from which other kinds of iron and steel are made.

Cast Iron.-To make castings, the pig iron is remelted, together with small amounts of scrap iron, and poured into molds of the desired shape and then allowed to solidify. Cast iron is used extensively because it is cheap and can be readily molded into complicated shapes. It is hard and brittle and cannot be bent. It cannot be forged or welded in the forge fire, but it can be welded with the oxyacetylene torch. It crumbles when it is heated to a bright red or white heat. It can be drilled and sawed easily and also filed easily after the hard outer shell is removed. The quality of cast iron can be controlled by varying the amounts of scrap iron and steel mixed with pig iron when it is melted.

Chilled Iron.-Chilled iron is cast iron that has been made in special molds, sometimes water-cooled molds, that cool the outer portions of the casting rapidly, thus making the surface of the casting very hard and wear resistant. Chilled iron is used for bearings on certain farm machines and for shares and moldboards of plows that are to be used in gravelly or stony soils.

Malleable Iron.-Malleable iron is cast iron of special composition that has been treated, after casting, by heating for a long period. This prolonged heating removes some of the carbon from the surface of the casting and reduces its brittleness. Malleable castings are softer and tougher than plain castings and can be bent a certain amount without breaking. They are also more shock resistant.

Wrought Iron.-Wrought iron is practically pure iron with only very small amounts of carbon or impurities. It is made by removing the carbon and impurities from pig iron. The best grade of wrought iron comes from Norway and Sweden where the purest iron ores are mined. Wrought iron was formerly used extensively by blacksmiths, but, because of its high price, its use at present is quite limited. Wrought iron has about 0.04 per cent carbon.

Mild Steel.-Mild steel, also known variously as machine steel, low-carbon steel, soft steel, and blacksmith iron, is the common material used by blacksmiths. It is made by removing practically, but not quite, all the carbon from pig iron. To remove it all would be much more expensive. It contains from about 0.1 to 0.3 per cent carbon, not enough to enable it to be hardened to any appreciable extent by heating and quenching in water. It can be bent and hammered cold to some extent and can be forged and welded in the forge. It is a little more difficult to weld than wrought iron.

Tool Steel.-Tool steel is made from pig iron by first removing all the carbon and practically all the impurities and then adding a definite, known amount of carbon. Tool steel contains from about 0.5 to about 1.5 per cent carbon. It is granular in structure instead of fibrous or stringy. It must not be heated higher than a bright-red or low-orange heat, or it will become honeycombed and therefore weak and brittle. The higher the percentage of carbon the harder the steel may be tempered, an the more difficult it is to weld. Blacksmiths' tools, such as hammers and cold chisels, are commonly made of steel having from 0.5 to 0.9 per cent carbon. Taps and dies and such tools are made of steel having 1 to 1.25 per cent carbon. The carbon content of iron and steel is designated by points, one point being one-hundredth of 1 percent of carbon. Thus a 50-point carbon steel contains 50/100 or one-half of 1 per cent of carbon.

Distinguishing between Grades of Steel.-A good way to distinguish between the various grades of steel is to grind them on a grinding wheel and note the sparks that are given off. Sparks from wrought iron are light yellow or red and follow straight lines. Sparks from mild steel are similar but more explosive or sprangled. Tool steel gives off sparks that are lighter in color and still more explosive. The higher the percentage of carbon in steel the brighter and more explosive are the sparks.

Soft-center steel consists of a layer of mild steel welded between two layers of high-carbon steel. The outside surfaces can therefore be hardened, while the center remains comparatively soft and tough. It is used in moldboards of plows and in cultivator shovels where it is desired to have a very hard outer wearing surface combined with toughness and strength.

Alloy Steels.-Small amounts of one or more other metals, such as tungsten, nickel, chromium, silicon, vanadium, etc., are commonly mixed with steel to form alloy steels. These metals are used in steel to give certain desirable properties, such as great strength, resistance to corrosion, toughness, and resistance to shock.

Source: black iron gates

tempering Black Iron knives

Tempering Punches, Screw Drivers, and Similar Tools.-Tools like punches, screw drivers, scratch awls, etc., may be tempered in the same manner as a cold chisel, but may be made harder or softer according to the requirements of the tool. A scratch awl should be made somewhat harder than a cold chisel, a rock drill somewhat harder, a center punch just a little harder, a punch for lining up holes somewhat softer, a screw driver somewhat softer, etc.

Different grades of tool steel will have different degrees of hardness when quenched at the same color. Therefore, it may be necessary to experiment a little with the first piece of a new lot of steel in order to secure the desired degree of hardness.

Tempering Knives.-Knives and tools with delicate parts are usually hardened and tempered in a manner slightly different from that used for cold chisels, in order to avoid the danger of overheating and warping and to insure uniform hardening and tempering of the cutting edges.

After a knife is forged, it should be annealed. It is then heated slowly and uniformly to a dark red, or the critical temperature. It is then quickly cooled by dipping edgeways in clean tepid water or oil, thick edge first. This method of dipping helps to insure uniform cooling and therefore uniform hardening and freedom from warping. It is then polished and reheated by drawing it back and forth through a flame, or by laying it against a large piece of red hot iron and turning it frequently to insure uniform heating. When the desired color, usually blue, appears, it is again quickly cooled.

Another method of heating knives and similar tools for hardening and tempering is to draw them slowly back and forth inside a pipe in the forge fire. The pipe should first be uniformly heated in a big fire and then turned frequently to keep it uniformly heated on all. sides. The knife should not be allowed to touch the pipe.

source: wrought iron forge

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Ornamental iron gates sitemap

  • ornamental iron gates

  • India Iron Group
  • Support of export buyers has transformed the India Iron Group into an efficient mass production unit for export of iron components and builders hardware from India. The markets presently supplied to by the group are USA, Europe like UK, Ireland, Holland ...
  • Free Wrought Iron by the Container Offer
  • BISON EXPORTS of New Delhi, India has unveiled a compelling offer for International iron gate fabricators. The scheme enables small iron and steel fabricators to fill up a 20 foot container at BISON's warehouses with a mix of standard and pre-fabricated ...
  • SMXIRON franchises gate operations
  • On 7 June 2005, SMXIRON Works appointed 2 new dealers for ornamental iron gates in the cities of Nellore and Secunderabad in the Southern India state of Andhra Pradesh. Balaji Ornamentals (Nellore) and CRM Iron Traders (Secunderabad) will now exclusively distribute SMXIRON CKD custom iron gates and BISON brand gate components within the territory alloted to them within A.P. State ...
  • Castle Entries expanding into Orlando
  • Castle Entries LLC, a distributor of Mexican-made wrought iron doors, gates and windows, will open an ornamental products showroom in Orlando this summer. Leon Alliston, owner of the Birmingham-based company, is spending $200,000 to build out space ...
  • Wrought Iron Machines
  • The India Iron Group has announced the new export prices for their wrought iron machines with effect from 01,June 2005. The Group say that prices have been increased by about 12% from last year on account of the tremendous hike in iron and steel prices ...
  • Virginia Metalcrafters the end of an era
  • When gracing a home with the most intricate iron and bronze chandeliers and sconces available, local Internet shop Blue Moon Galleries looks to Virginia Metalcrafters for the handiwork. But, for how much longer? News of an impending massive layoff at the ...
  • American and Indian Blacksmiths forge new links
  • The Mechanised Metalworkers Guild of India announced on Sunday 29,May 2005 that 2 members from the American Blacksmiths Association would be conferred honorary life membership of the Guild. The ABA has been running a Technology and Training program in ...
  • Blacksmiths of Walnut Grove Pioneer Village
  • Dan Dirksen, Riverdale, Iowa, pulls a piece of hot iron from the fire while working in the blacksmith shop at the Walnut Grove Pioneer Village at Scott County Park. Bob Tuftee has gone from buying his own forge more than a quarter-century ago to becoming ...
  • Blacksmith Robert Jordan
  • ORLEANS - It started as a thin rod of scrap metal that Robert Jordan pulled out of a barrel at his Captain Doane Way home. However, by the time Jordan heated it, pounded it with a hammer on his anvil and a mechanical sledgehammer, heated it again and ...
  • Healing Sun Artmetal Iron Gates
  • Umstead Hospital's "Healing Suns" is a public art project, sponsored by the State of North Carolina - Artworks for State Buildings Program. The artwork consists of two hand forged wrought iron gates and a large 42 foot wide, etched glass wall depicting a ...
  • India iron products
  • At the India Iron group, members are craftsmen and mechanised manufacturer blacksmiths, exclusively doing traditional wrought iron fabrication and hot forged designs products in steel and formed sections for ornamental gates, balustrades, staircases ...
  • Decorative metal working
  • The lost art of decorative metalworking is undergoing a renaissance through numerous metal hobby craft circles. The simple hand tools used by the skilful metal art craft workers, allowed them to create some of the most beautiful ornate iron work...
  • Fabenco safety iron gates
  • Fabenco now is run by LaCook's son, David, who serves as president. Over the past 40 years the company has produced an array of fabricated metal products for various industries, from ornamental iron for home construction to guardrail and highway posts ...
  • Custom Ornamental Iron Works
  • Richmond's Manfred Henschler was recently honoured with a B.C. New-Canadian Entrepreneur Award, which recognizes the achievements of successful new Canadians. Henschler, who was born in Germany and immigrated to Canada in 1967, won in the manufacturing ..

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