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
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.
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 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
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
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
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
Creating pleasing and sculptural door
and window grills is a specialty of
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
The overall height is about 24 inches
high by approximately 20 inches wide.
This wrought iron
Sculptural Cross is 60 inches high by 40
inches wide. It is currently on display
at the Woodstock, Ontario, Grave Goods
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 forging process.
How Wrought Iron Was
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
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.
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
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.
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
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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