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Caleb Budd

Purpose of refining wrought iron?

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Hi guys, like the title suggests I wanted to know the purpose of refining wrought iron? I have seen Niels Provos refine wrought iron in the process of making shear steel but was wondering if it has any other benefits besides that. 

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Wrought iron always came in different grades depending on intended use. The lowest grade was full of inclusions, could have large quantities of phosphorus and silicon- plus, sometimes, enough carbon to harden when you didn't want it to. and could be counted on to split if you looked at it in the wrong direction. The best grades could be forged very thin without splitting and were practically impurity free. 

Starting with high-quality iron gave you a better quality of steel, just as starting off with high-quality steel in a damascus billet gives you a far better product than welding up RR spikes and rebar.

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Al nailed it, pun kind of intended.  Wrought was sold in several grades, from raw bloom to triple-refined or more.  Bloom typically went to foundries or the aptly named finery.  From the 16th to the start of the 20th century, wrought bar stock was sold in four to six grades.  Muck bar is the bottom end and is just bloom barely refined enough to stick together in bar form.  Often found  being used as chimney supports or in other places price was more important than other properties, generally not good enough for wagon tire use.  The next grade is merchant bar.  That has been refined enough that it works well for structural supports and wagon tires.  This is the gnarly stuff we like to see, and yes, muck bar really is that much worse.

Double-refined was used for wear surfaces and general purposes where quality was important.  Anchors and anchor chain are often double-refined.

Triple-refined (often more like 24-times refined if you want to argue the point) was the best grade for both shear steel and ornamental forging.  It has no noticeable inclusions or weld flaws, and for this reason can be disappointing if you chose wrought iron hoping for an active etched pattern.  

To get raw bloom to muck bar takes from four to eight fold/weld cycles.  To get merchant bar from that takes four to eight more.  You see where this is going...

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Thank you Al for that easy explanation!

Follow up question if you wouldn't mind Alan, what quality wrought should one strive for when including it in a billet. To keep the pattern but also have a good structure? 

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Well, since you can no longer order it by grade from the maker, you use what you have. :lol:  

Anchor chain is usually good for our purposes, but sometimes is too clean.  Structural tie rods are often okay.  Wagon tire is iffy, etch and see.  If it's too gnarly or prone to split while forging, refine it a little.  

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What?!?! I can't just ask my local merchant for some double refined anchor chain? What has this world come to.:P

On a more serious note, thank you Alan for answering that! Especially that last bit. The wrought I've been working has a nasty tendency to split quite easily, so I wanted to know at what point should it be refined.

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:lol:  Also remember wrought of all grades must be worked at almost a welding heat or it will always split.

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Any thoughts as to wrought iron fences we see a lot over here ?

1860-1880 ish,

1/2" round from a church fence on cut and break test, fine to semi fine paint bristle look to break,

3/4" square school fence larger coconut bristle type look on break,

but could be getting them mixed up,

also thought i'd found a good find, only for it to be a cast iron fence, 

always cut and break test now,

anyone else cant not bring it home if it's off to be dumped ?

 

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8 minutes ago, LeeO said:

Any thoughts as to wrought iron fences we see a lot over here ?

1860-1880 ish,

1/2" round from a church fence on cut and break test, fine to semi fine paint bristle look to break,

3/4" square school fence larger coconut bristle type look on break,

but could be getting them mixed up,

also thought i'd found a good find, only for it to be a cast iron fence, 

always cut and break test now,

anyone else cant not bring it home if it's off to be dumped ?

 

By the mid-1800's wrought iron fences were being replaced by and large by cast iron which could be made cheaper for the same amount of ornamental work and shipped in large sections and assembled by unskilled labour.

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And yeah, I can't pass it up if it's being scrapped either.  Late 19th century wrought was mostly puddled from cast pig iron, but that just made it more economical to produce in quantity.  You still have to refine the "bloom" of decarbed iron and slag that comes from the furnace.  A good puddler could make a no-carbon almost slag-free ball; a lower-paid lower-skilled puddler might make as nasty a wad of variable carbon slaggy mess as ever existed.  Wrought iron is art and skill rather than science.  Back in the day you got what you paid for.  Now you get what they paid for without knowing what exactly that was...

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Thanks guys,

sounds like I got double lucky with the decent stuff I bagged,

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Yea, I wish there was a reliable source Of wrought iron up here in Alaska. The only piece I've been able to get is some from a gold mine.

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Well I might as well tell you. They are still making Wrought Iron! It is just not being made in the US. I had heard a rumor that that they were still making Wrought Iron in the UK. I could never confirm it. So while in the midst of a discussion on another forum, I thought why not do a search and here it the result!!

https://www.realwroughtiron.com/

Apparently according to their Bio they have been making it for about 30 years now! Of course the amount you may have to buy and the shipping across the pond. Weeeeeeeeeeeeell that is another story!!

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C Craft, I've checked them out and the shipping ain't bad enough (coming from an Alaskan which all shipping is expensive). I really want to buy their sample pack but I haven't gotten up the courage yet to spend the money. 

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Did you catch the payment must be in Sterling!! This link will give you insight into Sterling. https://www.cardfellow.com/credit-card-processors/sterling-payment-technologies

Just don't seem right while all of us are scrounging for wrought iron, you can out right buy it in the UK!!:o:lol: 

 

Edited by C Craft

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Sadly, they don't actually smelt the wrought iron. (Or whatever the correct word for wrought production is)  It is re-rolled from reclaimed vintage wrought.

What is charcoal iron?  Apparently they make that as well...

Edited by Brian Dougherty

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Charcoal iron is the best quality Swedish (usually) wrought, smelted from magnetite using larch charcoal.  It was the gold standard for wrought used in nail rod and ornamental architectural iron, because it was so pure and clean it could be worked cold.  Up to a point of course.  I'm sure tbat company is just re-rolling that as well.

All wrought was charcoal iron until Abraham Darby figured out how to use coal in a blast furnace in the mid-1700s.  Look up Coalbrookdale and Ironbridge Gorge for that history, but iron produved via coal and coke tended to pick up sulfur, which makes it hot-short or prone to crumbling at high heat.  Thus the 19th century reputation of charcoal iron.

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RWI seemed decent when I spoke to them,

offered to buy the stuff I had,

asked me to have the demo company contact them for the rest of the fences,

passed on the details explained the heritage issues etc, also added it was 2-3 times scrap value,

not sure if they did or not, site supervisor held a couple of panels for me till I got there in the van to collect,

workmates thought I was dumb not to scrap it,

school across the road has 1" square bar fence, thankfully not replaced with modern spike yuk,

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