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Sade McCraw

Forging wrought Iron

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Hello. Long time reader, first time poster. Have seen a lot of great information pass through this board, and was hoping someone might be able to give me some help with a problem I've been having. I've been forging for some time now, but have recently introduced myself to wrought iron and have some questions about working with it. For example, what forging temps should I be using? The piece that I have forged down gave an appearance similar to wood, with a grain and small hairline cracks, and that's after grinding of course. Is this normal, or should I be expecting a smooth, polishable surface? Any info y'all may have would help me greatly. Thanks a lot!

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Sade

There are many different grades of wrought iron. All should be forged at welding heat or it will crack and split apart. All wrought has silica in it and is made up of many layers you will see these layers after forging and etching. It sounds normal but a picture would help.

Welcome to the forum!

 

Bob

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Bob nailed it.

 

I don't usually see cracks after grinding though, sounds like you're working it too cold. Start forging at a full white, stop at light orange. Forging below light orange is a big no-no if you want it to stay in one piece, unless you've got the REALLY good stuff.

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Thank you for the replies gentlemen, this is what I was afraid of, I clearly have forged it down using not nearly enough heat, guess I'll have to start over. I have pretty good wrought I got from Ellis, I was forging it down to make fittings with, it didn't fall apart on me, but the forging temp must have been too low because I ended up with pieces that had little hairline cracks in it. When I ground it into little square pieces I found the "wood grain" like cracks went all the way through. Sorry I don't have a way of adding a picture yet. Thanks again. By the way is it possible to fix the mistake by bringing it up to welding temp and welding it up?

Edited by Sade McCraw

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You can fix the cracks very easy by re-heating to bright yellow and some gentle hammering. The silica content will be liquid at yellow heat and hammering will get rid of it thus helping to refine the iron. If you are using anchor chain the yellow heat and hammering will also make the grain pattern more fiqured or erratic. Anchor chain wrought has a very structured silica lines that are not too attractive compared to if you mix it up a little.

 

This is some anchor wrought that was not hot forged. I heated it just to orange to straighten out the curvature in the piece before chucking it in the lathe.

 

Old iron shot glass

 

Yellow heat forged with more figure and pattern.

Forged guard

Edited by B Finnigan

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You can fix the cracks very easy by re-heating to bright yellow and some gentle hammering. The silica content will be liquid at yellow heat and hammering will get rid of it thus helping to refine the iron. If you are using anchor chain the yellow heat and hammering will also make the grain pattern more fiqured or erratic. Anchor chain wrought has a very structured silica lines that are not too attractive compared to if you mix it up a little.

 

This is some anchor wrought that was not hot forged. I heated it just to orange to straighten out the curvature in the piece before chucking it in the lathe.

 

Old iron shot glass

 

Yellow heat forged with more figure and pattern.

Forged guard

 

That's excellent. Thank you, the shot glass is what I have now, it is anchor chain. I'm really glad to know that I can turn this into a good looking guard. Thank you very much.

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Welcome from another desert dweller. azmike

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That's one of the great things about wrought. When you think it's toast, all you have to do is re-refine it, that is, flux it and reweld it solid. Never forget it's a composite material rather than a solid metal bar, and don't think it has no carbon. It's usually low enough not to matter, but sometimes just for fun it'll harden on you.

 

Japanese tamahagane is just really high-carbon wrought iron, and really old western bloomery iron can be nearly as hardenable if the guys doing the smelt weren't paying attention.

 

The later puddled wrought (your anchor chain, for instance) is nice clean low-carbon stuff.

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Well, that worked just as described. I threw a chunk that I had forged down into a little 4"x3" block back into the forge and brought it up to yellow and lightly reforged it, it looks great now. I've got some bigger pieces that I'll flux and reforge later. Thanks for all the help.

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Good to hear that! Another thing different about old iron is what looks like heat scale is actually more like slag. It chips off easy without maring the good iron underneath but it doesn't disolve as fast in vinegar. After forging wrought I do a normalize in the forge after I shut it down. That sems to make the slag a bit more brittle. Then under that will be a thin layer of regular heat scale that is vulnerable to vinegar.

 

This is a hawk head before I chipped all the slag off. It looks more like molten glass/clay then heat scale. You can see that drifting the eye out squeezed a larger portion of the slag out and also where I necked it down.

 

wroughthawk-web.jpg

Edited by B Finnigan

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Good to hear that! Another thing different about old iron is what looks like heat scale is actually more like slag. It chips off easy without maring the good iron underneath but it doesn't disolve as fast in vinegar. After forging wrought I do a normalize in the forge after I shut it down. That sems to make the slag a bit more brittle. Then under that will be a thin layer of regular heat scale that is vulnerable to vinegar.

 

This is a hawk head before I chipped all the slag off. It looks more like molten glass/clay then heat scale. You can see that drifting the eye out squeezed a larger portion of the slag out and also where I necked it down.

 

wroughthawk-web.jpg

 

It's funny that you happen to mention that, I have the piece sitting in vinegar right now and it doesn't seem to be eaten' away. Now that you bring it to my attention I can now see your right, it does have a slag like layer that can be chipped off rather easily. Thanks again.

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Welcome from another desert dweller. azmike

 

Thank you az mike. What part of the desert do you call home?

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B Finnigan

Now thats a piece of art er I mean nice shot glass.

Chris

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Thanks Chris, I thought it would be cool to have a 160 yr old shot glass. Some time soon I will be making a 10,000 yr old coffee mug.

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Taking a welding heat on the end of a bar of wrought and butting it against the side of your anvil will help prevent the end from delaminating. Be aware that the slag and sparks will be shooting out on a horizontal plane, so if you like to have your eyes about three inches away from your work, as I usually do, they'd better be protected!

Wrought iron commonly has one of two faults- being hot short or cold short. Hot shortness is a an effect of excess sulphur, and causes fracturing when hot. Cold shortness is an effect of excess phosphorus, and unsurprisingly causes weakness in the material when it's cold (or is it the other way around?!). I'm not sure if wrought always needs to be worked at such a very high temperature, but either way, the material itself will tell you pretty quickly what is required.

Edited by Dan P.

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umm here is a question..

i got some stuff that i think is really old... i forged it up.. apparently much too cold and it worked like a dream. is that bad? bo cracking nothing.. i hard etched it, and here is what it looks like.. i found the iron near an OLD warf on the james river (like the 1607 kinda old)

 

IMG_0036.jpg

DSC03151.jpg

 

thanks!

`Chris

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According to Overman in 1849, really well made bloomery iron can be cold forged without cracking. I have had some that was good enough to do that with, but the stuff most of us get hold of is not that good. :rolleyes:

 

That's why I always tell people to work it HOT, it minimizes potential problems. Unless you've got hot-short iron, in which case you're better off not using it to begin with. :lol:

 

Nice knife, by the way!

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According to Overman in 1849, really well made bloomery iron can be cold forged without cracking. I have had some that was good enough to do that with, but the stuff most of us get hold of is not that good. :rolleyes:

 

That's why I always tell people to work it HOT, it minimizes potential problems. Unless you've got hot-short iron, in which case you're better off not using it to begin with. :lol:

 

Nice knife, by the way!

Alan,thanks for that info,and,it is a darn nice knife,i agree.I have an order for a 13th c. Anglo-Saxon spear head,and decided to use some of Darren's (hope the things are going o.k.for him...)wrought,that's my excuse to sqauk here.WI behaves admirably-nothing that my carelessness can do to it that cannot be healed,lovely material,by any standards.This is how far i've gotten in the last couple of days:an iron core and socket,and a cat bolt wrapped around the deal.I've a couple of questions,if appropriate:1)Is this in any way period-correct,shape/construction wise?

2)Of course i've screwed up the tip-3/16 or so of bad weld,not all the way through,and may even come out in finishing.Does something like this automatically get trashed?The client is casual as can be,and i was planning to leave much of the deal as-forged.Are crapulous welds precedented in the artifacts?

By the way,how's the Goosewing Challenge?I'm still really interested in building one,but had some discouraging news from my Quaker/Mennonite friend-apparently,the use of those has rapidly declined,after the Moravians and the like folks have been here a while,they,for some reason,have switched to a simpler broad-axes...So the actual user of one would be practically impossible to find,and we'd have to re-engineer the entire balance of the tool,the most daunting challenge...

P.S.Just quick & dirty polished and lightly etched the area around the flaw.

2016.JPG

2018.JPG

2021.JPG

2023.JPG

Edited by jake pogrebinsky

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Wow, Jake! :blink:

 

For the questions, well, by the 13th century we don't really talk about Anglo-Saxons anymore, they're pretty much considered the English after 1066. Actually kinda before that, since the last few kings from around 1000-ish to the end were Danes and Norwegians by birth.

 

That said, it's a nice shape and a lovely socket! Some of the "Viking" spearheads were pattern-welded, with the full opposing twist pattern thing going on, but most spears of the time were plain iron without steel. I'm sure there were steeled spears, and maybe Jeff P. will weigh in on this, but I think most were plain iron well into the 1400s and beyond.

 

Weld flaws are indeed historically correct in pattern-welded blades. Doesn't make 'em less annoying, but you're in good company. :lol: If the customer doesn't care, that's the only important thing.

 

As for the goosewing, well.... <_<:rolleyes: In my wisdom or lack thereof I used some heavy wagon tire wrought, which is like herding ferrets to forge. You get one crack welded back up, and four more open elsewhere. :wacko: By the time I'm done it'll be okay (hopefully, fingers crossed), but so far I've just got the head end of the socket part done. Next time I have time to forge all day I'll do the rest of the socket section, and then try the blade weld and the edge. The socket section is the make-or-break portion anyway, so we'll see how that goes. Right now it's quietly rusting on my anvil, but it does have the ridgeline forged in. No pics yet, maybe someday if I think it's ever worthy of being shown. ;)

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Alan-i so appreciate all this information.It helps a greatest deal,on many counts,i just knew that you're the person to ask.I realize full well that i'm meddling in something that,by rights,i still need several more years of practice in.So thank you also for humoring me as far as that goes.Sometimes it's counterproductive to bark up a project too complex for one's skill level,i guess that i just couldn't resist this time around.

Fantastic news about your progress on the goosewing!Congratulations!Do me a favor,please-P.M. me your mailing address.I've come into a modest,but sufficient,quantity of wrought about exactly like Darren's.Maybe even slightly better,the stuff was made to the U.S.Navy specs(part of the old arrest gear for the jets,here on the AFB base).The stuff is sweet-all the layers parallel as a ruler,and just exellent in all respects.It fractures only when i do something careless to it-a fuller of too small radius,sharp transition,e t.c.,and heals easily.Will send you a link of it,forthwith.This way i could participate,even vicariously,in the rebirth of such a neat tool.My own progress on that particular project being at a standstill.

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Man, you've got MUCH more skill than I do! I've seen your work, and I can't hold a hot chunk of iron to it. :lol:

 

You're way too humble. ;)

 

PM sent.

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Dang Alan,

i really appreciate it.. but i would disagree with the part about you not being able to hold a hot chunk of iron to it...

you do AWESOME work. i especially like you hawks.. and you do great damascus.. i cant hold a candle to that

thanks man!

~chris

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Dang Alan,

i really appreciate it.. but i would disagree with the part about you not being able to hold a hot chunk of iron to it...

you do AWESOME work. i especially like you hawks.. and you do great damascus.. i cant hold a candle to that

thanks man!

~chris

I definitely second Chris on all that.yI much admire your work,Alan-your love for material is plainly obvious,so no wonder that it's rewarded.Respect.

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Uhhh... This is kinda embarrassing, but I meant the original comment for Jake and his axes... :lol: I will add, though, that Chris is far better than I at knives, period. I will brook no argument on that, at least as far as pictures can convey the feel of a blade. ;) That said, thanks both of you for the compliments, I only hope I can one day deserve them. :unsure: Seriously, Chris, you do some FINE looking knives. The fact that you're 19 or so only serves to annoy me. :lol:

 

As I always say at demos, I am not a great knifemaker. All I can claim is a feel for the steel (or iron as the case may be) on the anvil and a kinship with axes. B) I'm far more about how it works and how it feels in the hand than about how it looks, which is a good thing considering I don't think I've ever polished anything above about 400 grit.... :blink::rolleyes:

 

Quick edit to add RESPECT to both of you. this whole post was meant to be awkwardly complimentary, and it just came out awkward. I'll stop now...

Edited by Alan Longmire

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