Wrought iron is a gorgeous metal that adds beauty and charm to your home in the form of doors, railings, gates, and even garage doors. Wrought iron doors and related products are typically hand-made due to how wrought iron is made. Since each product is made by hand, it results in unique, one-of-a-kind finishes.
What is wrought iron composed of?
Wrought iron composition consists primarily of iron. There is a small amount of aluminum oxide, sulfur, silicon, and phosphorous, which are by-products from smelting the iron. Wrought iron is considered “pure” iron since it consists of roughly 98 to 99 percent pure iron. The other 1 to 2 percent of materials are the by-products, with between 0.05 to 0.25 percent carbon.
How was wrought iron made historically?
Wrought iron has been around for a long time. The earliest “modern” use can be traced back to the Han Dynasty in China during the period of 202 BC to 220 AD.1 The Chinese had developed a process using a forge to heat iron ore to remove impurities. It was pounded, cooled, and reheated numerous times.
Before the Chinese invented a forge, another early process that was popular during the Iron Age, which was between 500 BC and 800 BC, is called the bloomery process.2 A kiln-like furnace was constructed to heat the iron ore so it could be smelted. Once heated, the iron could be pounded, shaped, and formed.
Just like the Chinese forging processes, the more the iron was worked, through heating, cooling, and reheating in the bloomery, the stronger it became. The iron’s strength increases as more and more of the impurities in the iron ore are removed.
A fun fact about wrought iron is it got its name because of processes used to hammer, shape, and form the iron while it was hot, as wrought generally means “to work.”
How is wrought iron made today?
In the late 18th century, several new smelting processes were developed that did not require placing the iron ore directly into the heat source. One of these processes is called puddling, which was the invention of Henry Cort in 1784.1
The iron ore is placed in a furnace without coming into contact with the heat source. Hot air is blown over the iron to heat it so it can melt. As the iron melts, it is stirred to help remove impurities. The pure iron gradually starts to float on top of the puddle of melted iron ore.
From there, a blacksmith carefully removes the wrought iron from the furnace using a puddle bar. Next, the wrought iron is pounded or pressed to remove any remaining impurities. Once cooled, the iron can be reheated later and shaped into the desired object.
Rolling mills were also invented around the same time. After the wrought iron went through the “shingling” process, where it was pounded or pressed, it could be rolled before it fully cooled into bars called puddle bars.
The puddle bars were not only used to remove wrought iron from the puddle furnace but could be reheated, pounded, re-rolled, and worked even more to create a higher quality of wrought iron.
Why is wrought iron so popular?
Wrought iron production slowed in the early 1900s as steel become more popular. Over the next century, wrought iron was not used that often and gradually became a niche market for specific products like wrought iron front doors, railings, gates, and so on.
Since wrought iron is not as widely used today as it once was, it has generated a new trend because of the hand-crafted processes used to create various items. These workpieces offer beauty, charm, and elegance while providing strength and durability that lasts a long time.
Are all wrought iron products the same?
You need to be careful when shopping for wrought iron products. Some manufacturers will use another type of metal to create decorative workpieces that look like wrought iron but lack the durability and strength of real wrought iron.
At Universal Iron Doors, our wrought iron doors, gates, and related products are made from real wrought iron. We hand-craft each product using tried and trusted traditional methods. For further information about our wrought iron doors and other products, please feel free to explore our website or contact us at 818-771-1003 today!