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Monday, August 11, 2014

What is Wrought Iron?

You've admired it on Parisian-style bistro sets or enjoyed the view from a balcony rail made of it, but have you ever wondered how this classic building material got its name?

One of the most common malleable metals, it was used for centuries in the manufacturing of tools, weapons, railways and even warships. This low-carbon form of iron was prized for its ability to be easily worked while still being strong enough for functional and decorative elements. It was referred to as "wrought" because the metal was beaten out by hand with a hammer.

When steel became more commonly available and the methods to work it improved, it replaced this form of iron in most commercial applications. Similar in appearance to mild steel, the difference lies in its strength and durability. It resists corrosion and is able to be worked under hotter conditions which allows it to be easily formed into many shapes. As proof of its permanence, railings on 200-year-old Victorian townhouses and stone cramps on 500-year-old Tudor bridges have survived into modern times with little maintenance or repair.

Most items described as wrought iron today are actually made of steel or cast iron. Although you will not be able to see a difference in the overall appearance, the mild steel or cast iron will succumb to corrosion in time. These items include garden or patio furniture, gates, fences, balconies and stairway banisters.

If you are in search of items made of the original form, you can find reclaimed pieces at antique markets and scrap metal dealers but they won't be cheap. A pair of small brackets can go for as much as $1400!

When your next project calls for classic ornamental details that can weather the elements, wrought iron is the perfect choice. Even if the genuine form is not in your budget, today's reproductions can add class and style to the interior and exterior of your home.


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