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Custom Metal and Glass – Design, Fabrication and Installation
 
“Iron is broken up into two categories: wrought iron and cast iron.”
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The term ironwork refers to any structure or object that is fabricated out of iron. This can include rails, grates, utensils, artwork, weapons, and architectural features. The ways in which iron has been used have changed over the course of history.

Iron is broken up into two categories: wrought iron and cast iron. Wrought iron is a type of iron that is easily welded and forged. It is made up of a mixture of metallic iron and siliceous slag, which makes up one to three percent of the mixture. Cast iron is a nonmalleable iron-carbon alloy. It is hard and brittle. To shape cast iron, the metal must be cast. Cast iron contains anywhere from two to four and a half percent carbon and anywhere from half to three percent silicon. It also contains smaller amounts of manganese, phosphorus, and sulfur.

When working with wrought iron, a blacksmith forges the iron using an anvil. Cast iron, conversely, is produced in a furnace that has been stoked with alternating layers of coking iron, which is then poured into molds. In both instances, iron must reach a desired temperature in order to be shaped appropriately. A trained individual who knows how to work with iron and creates ironwork is called a blacksmith.

Cast iron was first used in the 15th century in Europe. Initially, cast iron was used decoratively to create plate for wood burning stoves and firebacks for stoves. By the later half of the 18th century, cast iron was being used architecturally for balconies, banisters, railings, and garden furniture.

Wrought iron has a lengthier history than cast iron. The earliest known uses of wrought iron date all the way back to 3500 BC, when meteoric iron was used. Smelted iron was later used in Mesopotamia. The techniques used in both instances were not the same as what is done today, however. The techniques of smelting and purification that are used today were first recorded as being used around 2000 BC by the Hitties.

Wrought iron worked its way through history, with recorded instances of its use existing from the Middle East, Greece, and the Aegean region. It reached Europe by approximately 600BC. Unfortunately, because of rusting, many of these earlier pieces do not physically exist today.

By the 1600’s, wrought iron was very popularly being used in architecture, particularly in Europe. Railings, balconies, and stairways made of wrought iron became increasingly popular in Europe in the 1600’s, first in France and later in the rest of Europe. In fact, the reason that New Orleans traditionally has as much ironwork as it does is because of the French influence in the area. Before the 1600’s, ironwork was considered somewhat utilitarian. However, as it began to be used in more decorative manners, it was seen as ornate, timeless, and desirable.

As time went on and ironwork became more popular, it began to be used for smaller items in addition to architectural elements. Common applications for iron included (and include, today) stoves, grates, locks, and cooking utensils.
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