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Tips for working with wrought iron?


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So I've come across a fair amount of wrought iron and found that working with it a very different experience. I did some work with a bit today and even though I worked it very hot, I couldn't believe how fast it cooled and caused cracks.

 

I could only manage to get a few blows in before it cooled too much to work. Am I doing it wrong or do I really only have a very short working time with the material?

 

Thanks in advance.

 

-Tim

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What kind of cross section are you working with? You do have to work hot, often at a near welding heat, but it shouldn't shed heat any faster than a similar piece of modern steel.

 

Geoff

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MIG weld the end, and keep it juicy hot.

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Yep...hot hot hot as these guys said. I don't forge wrought below a middle orange, unless I'm wanting to add cracks into the material for character.

Like this:

IMG_20131215_173000.jpg

The palm swell is forged 165yr old or so wagon wheel wrought iron, and when I made it (this was my fourth knife) my forge wouldn't GO over a middle orange heat lol. Luckily cracked and old is what I was going for, so it worked out.

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It is a pretty small piece, about a 1.5 inch cube. It was pretty rusted and rough, the only reason I forged it rather than ground it was to clean it up and to shape it for a bolster for a knife I am making.

I knew it would cool fast for the size of the piece but it got out of working range so fast! Before I knew it I was causing cracks which I'm not going for. Almost thinking now that I should weld that little piece to the larger bar that I got it from so I don't waste it. And with that larger mass it'll be easier to roughly shape it to a bolster without cracking, although the cracking can like nice, I'd rather etch it. Etched wrought should look nice against birch bark :)

 

C. Anderson, nice work!

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Etched wrought will indeed look good with birch bark!

 

If the wrought is nasty enough, i.e. muck bar (barely consolidated bloom), you will need to keep it at a full welding heat for every bit of forging, and don't hit it too hard. You are basically refining it rather than forging it. If it's just moderately gnarly start forging at a white heat and stop forging in the yellow range, orange is too cold. If it's high-P or high-S, all bets are off, but heat is your friend with all forms of wrought.

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Thanks!

Wrought and birch bark will be stunning together :).

A quick side question...where are you guys finding your wrought? I've been keeping my eye out but so far all I've gotten is these few pieces of wagon wheel, and they were a gift from a mentor. I would think here in Arizona there'd be boatloads of the stuff, lol....but I'm really not sure where to go about looking.

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Wrought is where you find it. I have a big pile of wagon tires that I rescue from the wild when I see them, some tie bars from a barite mine ore washer, some factory barstock I bought from Dick Sexstone many years ago, and a pile of anchor chain I got here on the forum last year. Haunt old ruins, poke around old farms, and keep an eye on the forums. Or buy some from Globe Elevator, keeping in mind it is high-phosphorus.

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Haha, I'm not up to smelting yet!! Though eventually one day I might.

The Globe Elevators thing might work. I need it for kitchen knife spacers, so 1" rounds would be perfect. I don't think the phosphorous would be an issue as I don't forge it much anyhow, just enough to give it some cracks in the grain...so that would probably work the best regardless.

 

Here's an example of the kind of use it's being put to:

 

20150428_142047.jpg

 

20150428_142033.jpg

 

That's the 165yr old wagon tire stuff. It gets shaped with the handle, so it's difficult to etch (at best!) once it's finished. Ferric chloride does ugly things to beautiful burl wood!!...and the 25% acetic acid I tried doesn't even touch the stuff...so the gnarlier I can get it as far as grain, the better it looks on the finished knife.

Here's an example that didn't etch even as well as the above:

 

20150513_175103.jpg

 

Same piece of wrought too lol.

Anyhow, sorry for the derail!! I'll definitely look into the Globe Elevator thing. Thanks Alan!

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Alan, I think you hit it right on the head. I was letting it get in to the orange range AND trying to move too much at once. I'll have to try it with a bit more patience. I'm learning that wrought iron is a whole different animal, but it's a pretty neat animal.

 

I happened upon some wrought iron on accident. There are some old timbers from an old dam here that I pulled out thinking that it wasn't old enough to be wrought. But I did a break test, and being really excited I etched it with muriatic acid and low and behold!

 

 

FullSizeRender (15).jpg

FullSizeRender (17).jpg

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I have to say I don't really find WI to be noticeably softer than mild under the hammer when comparing at the same heats, but then again I've only tried a couple of sources.
I've been using the outer part of the cone on a wagon axle for knives lately, since the rest is more work to draw out, and it's behaving completely different on each end. (there's a weld in the middle)
One end is of fine grain with few flaws and can be worked into middle red. The other end is rougher and with two dark lines that will open at anything lower than high orange.

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Alan,

What does the high phosphorus do?

Thanks,

Doug

Jn. 3:16

It increases the tendency to crumble, especially at lower forging temperatures. It also work-hardens a bit. The P geta into the grain boudaries and doesn't play nice, which is bad enough in a homogeneous modern steel, but can be frustration incarnate in a composite material like wrought. The old timers called it "red short" because of the tendency to fall apart if forged too cold.

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It increases the tendency to crumble, especially at lower forging temperatures. It also work-hardens a bit. The P geta into the grain boudaries and doesn't play nice, which is bad enough in a homogeneous modern steel, but can be frustration incarnate in a composite material like wrought. The old timers called it "red short" because of the tendency to fall apart if forged too cold.

 

Best news I've heard all day :D.

 

Just ordered a bunch of 7/8" rod from David at Globe Elevator. It's nice to know I can work it yellow to get my shape, then lower the heat and beat it up a bit to break it apart some lol.

 

Thanks for the tip Alan!

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It increases the tendency to crumble, especially at lower forging temperatures. It also work-hardens a bit. The P geta into the grain boudaries and doesn't play nice, which is bad enough in a homogeneous modern steel, but can be frustration incarnate in a composite material like wrought. The old timers called it "red short" because of the tendency to fall apart if forged too cold.

 

I thought it was called "red short" as opposed to "cold short" (high S).

I've seen red short can crack up at a yellow heat, too (or maybe that's just my special technique?).

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I have had best luck with bloom and wrought to forge at welding heats. Sheds a lot of thick scale, but a necessary loss. Save the scale for a remelt.

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Daniel, I can't say I'm into smelting....yet. Not sure that's something I want to learn all by myself. I can just see lots of wasted time and swearing. Not sure how many times I've watched the History channels episode for the Ulfbert with Ric, I just was amazed when he was coming up with the formula for the steel. Wow.

 

But overall, I'm understanding a lot more with wrought iron. To sum it up; work in the yellow range, don't try and move too much at once, don't work too hot, or too cold. To be safe that is.

 

Thank you for the great conversation guys, really gives me the opportunity to "dork out" and speak the lingo.

 

-Tim

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Hey Tim!

If you happen to find any more give me a yell! I would be happy to take some off your hands.

 

-Gabriel

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It increases the tendency to crumble, especially at lower forging temperatures. It also work-hardens a bit. The P geta into the grain boudaries and doesn't play nice, which is bad enough in a homogeneous modern steel, but can be frustration incarnate in a composite material like wrought. The old timers called it "red short" because of the tendency to fall apart if forged too cold.

It also gives you great contrast against "normal" wrought in a classic Viking multi-bar pattern, which is why I hoard it. I've got enough other crummy wrought for spacers and such.

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Hey all, just wanted to give an update. All of your advice paid off, work hot, work slow, and its all good.

 

Thanks again.

 

-Tim

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