Wrought Iron Sculpture
Artist Blacksmith David Robertson
What is Wrought Iron?
useage of the term wrought
iron is to mean any
decorative thing made out steel and usually painted black. This could
be applied to wrought iron furniture, chandeliers, gates etc.
Strickly speaking in blacksmith terms wrought iron is actually a type
of metal. Much the same as talking about sand and clay being different
types of earth. The definition of wrought is to shape by
hammering. So technically to be wrought iron it has to be hammered to
Today instead of using just iron we use steel (a
mix of iron and
carbon). So to make my sculptures I use hand wrought steel, or forged
steel to create the forms. Wrought iron as material has not been
commercially produced on a large scale since the early 1900's, so we
are forced to use steel.
Lets not confuse things too much, I will use the term wrought
iron sculpture. If you are a blacksmith then know I mean forged steel.
The joy of working the steel hot is that it
becomes very flexible and can create long self supporting shapes when
it cools. Most of my sculptural work has these free flowing organic
lines in it.
The sculpture at the above left stands about 30 inches high
completely forged and textured.
It can be argued that wrought iron sculpture is not limited to non
functional pieces of work. This garden gate shows variations
on how the metal can be wrought to shape.
The garden gate has a sculptural form all its own but is a very
functional decorative piece of work.
This wrought iron wall sculpture is 70 inches high and 20 inches wide.
This piece is heavily textured and contrasts textural components. By
using heat and hammer I can create a whole series of different textures
on the indvidual pieces.
In this photo you can see the detail in the texture. This in part is
what sets forged wrought iron apart from cold worked fabricated steel.
There is much more interest and life to something that is worked all
over its surfaces.
Instead of working just with line I tend to use form a lot more. This
is part of my individual style of working with the steel.
This is a wrought iron door grill that I made for one of my Ontario
Click on the picture to see better detail of how I
created the window grill.
Creating pleasing and sculptural door and window grills is a specialty
This is a sculptural funeral urn made for The Grave Goods
exhibit in Woodstock Ontario 2008.
The disk portion holds the ashes. It is constructed with
forged or wrought steel. I mostly used 1/2 thick plate with
heavily textured forging.
The overall height is about 24 inches high by approximately 20 inches
This wrought iron
is 60 inches high by 40 inches wide. It is currently on display at the
Woodstock, Ontario, Grave Goods 2008 exhibit.
All components are forged to shape.
The detail image shows the rich textures and
the contrast achieved with the hammer and the heat in the
How Wrought Iron Was
original process of making "steel" was to smelt iron ore. The smelting
process heats the ore and drives off impurities and then creates a
chemical reaction in the smelter that adds carbon to the iron granules.
At these very high temperatures the iron particles are almost tiny
molten drops that perculate down to the bottom of the smelter. Further
reactions both chemical and physical cause the iron to stick together
in a spongy mass called a bloom, at the bottom of the smelter.
blooms range in size depending on the size of smelter, ore used, etc.
The wrought process in wrought iron is the hammering. This bloom is not
yet useful, as it has not been consolidated
and has very little structural strength.
The first wrought iron was made by people heating and forge welding the
bloom into a solid blob shaped piece. The hammering or the wrought work
was done with sledge hammers. The blob would then be hammered out to a
bar cut into pieces and re-forge welded. The process would be repeated
many times to create a homogenous bar that had a refined tiny grain
Incredibly labour intensive just to get a workable piece of steel or
iron. When water power followed by steam power took over, it allowed
larger blooms of iron to be wrought to shape. Still time consuming.
the invention of different types of smelters in the early 20th century
a more uniform mass of steel could be created. This negated the need
for the wrought portion in the refining process of the iron and it
could be rolled into bars and sheet that we use today. The new types of
smelters allowed a much greater control of the process.
is a very brief introduction into wrought iron. The main thing to
remember is that what we call wrought iron today is usually cold bent
steel welded together. It needs to be hammered to shape be wrought and
typically only blacksmiths will make true "wrought
iron" artwork today.
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