Blacksmithing with wrought iron

I was asked a question yesterday regarding wrought iron and its ease of ‘fire welding’. Fire welding is a technique only really of interest to blacksmiths who like to work with traditional methods, rather than cheating with an arc welder. However, the modern use of the term wrought iron is worthy of a post in itself.

What are sold today as ‘wrought iron gates’ are in reality nothing of the sort. They are ‘mild steel gates’. It is simple misrepresentation. Would you be happy to order a mahogany table to find that a pine table arrived? Well, in my mind the same applies to mild steel being sold as wrought iron.

I’ll explain. Wrought iron is a specific type of steel/iron, with a low carbon content and a high ‘contaminates’ content. A specific feature of this material is that is is relatively soft and can be formed into intricate shapes. It became the material of choice for gates and ornate structures through to the early part of the 1900s.

As steel manufacturing processes developed, the demand for wrought iron dropped to the point where it was no longer financially viable to manufacture. What exists on the planet today is all there will ever be.

gates wrought ironIf you want to see wrought iron today then you will find it either in 100+ year old gates hanging from ornate entrance ways, or perhaps in Victorian railings in Chelsea. What isn’t in use is in the guarded stores of a few blacksmiths who have work to restore old gates and use the material sparingly to patch in rusted sections. If you do have an old rusting wrought iron gate at the end of the garden (and that’s where blacksmiths find their stocks) then it is worth a lot as recyclable material. Don’t let it rust away.

Today however, any old gate with a bit of twisted metal in it is described as being ‘wrought iron’.

Describing it as a ‘wrought iron gate’, rather than the reality of ‘mild steel gate’ is a simple marketing ploy to suggest high quality. Marketing huh, or as I say, misrepresentation.

That’s my blacksmithing rant over. I’ll save an explanation of fire welding for another day.

Oh and as to the mis-use of the term blacksmith, that’s for another day.