Ontario Wrought Iron Sculpture

Artist Blacksmith David Robertson

What is Wrought Iron?

Common 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.

Strictly 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 shape.
Wrought Iron Table Sculpture
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 and is completely forged and textured.

Forged Garden Gate,
                                  Forged organic steel forms shaped by
                                  blacksmith David Robertson.
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.

Genesis Wrought Iron Wall
                                  SculptureGenesis Wall Sculpture

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.

Textural Detail of
                                  Wrought Iron Genesis Sculpture
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.

Wrought Iron Door Grill

This is a wrought iron door grill that I made for one of my Ontario customers.  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 of mine.

 Wrought Iron Sculptural
                                  Funeral Urn
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 wide.

Wrought Iron Cross
                                  Sculpture by David RobertsonThis wrought iron Sculptural Cross 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.

Wrought Iron Cross Detail
                                  ImageThe detail image shows the rich textures and the contrast achieved with the hammer  and the heat in the forging process.


How Wrought Iron Was originally Made

The 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.

These 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 structure.

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.

With 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.

This 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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Artist Blacksmith
David Robertson

R.R. #2 Cargill, Ontario, 
Canada, N0G1J0
519 366 2334

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