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Blacksmithing and Metallurgy Hand-wrought manufacture of metal objects, extracting metals from their ores, or purifying metals and casting useful items from the metals.

Blacksmithing and Metallurgy

Wrought Iron - how to identify it ?


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  #1  
Old 11-20-2016, 06:51:48 AM
miro miro is offline
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Default Wrought Iron - how to identify it ?

I've come across a pile of very old farm machinery.
I'm almost sure it's pre- WW1 and I suspect that there might be some wrought iron on some of the stuff.

But how to identify it?
It's all rusty of course - is there any way to increase the chances of IDiing it before I haul this stuff out of the bush? It used to be an open field but now there are 15 - 20 inch trees growing inside some of these pieces.
Most of the wooden parts on the machines are long gone and rotted so it's been there a long time. It was all horse drawn stuff.
M
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Old 11-20-2016, 10:10:27 AM
Bill Hazzard Bill Hazzard is offline
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Default Re: Wrought Iron - how to identify it ?

If the iron is rusty then you will see lines of pits or layers of rust like the grain in wood.
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Old 11-20-2016, 10:10:47 AM
Joel Sanderson Joel Sanderson is offline
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Default Re: Wrought Iron - how to identify it ?

Hmmm…. I'm no expert here by any means, but maybe, just maybe, I can help. Wrought iron varies a lot in quality; some is very coarse and weak with a lot of impurities, while some is so fine grained it's almost like modern steel. The coarse grained stuff is relatively easy to spot, because often the surface will rust in big longitudinal striations. The insides of old wagon tires quite often show this. If the grain doesn't show on the surface (and that's not fool proof) you'll have to do some testing. You could give it a spark test. Of course, that's only as good as the fella doing the sparking. (I'm bad at it.) Generally, red sparks come from wrought iron and yellow sparks from steel. If you have some known wrought iron, you could compare and see. The thing is, wrought iron is so varied, there really is no set result. Another test is to cut the bar half way through with a hacksaw and then bend it until it starts to fail. If the wound pulls open and is very grainy, well, you probably have wrought iron; if the grain is small and tight, the wound will be too, and you probably have steel. Steel can have grain too though, so even that's not a sure thing. I've found old springs with grain about like wrought iron.

Just because it's old doesn't mean it isn't steel. Steel's been around for millennia.

Does this make any sense? I hope it helped.

Joel

(I think I just said, "Who knows.")
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Old 11-20-2016, 01:18:57 PM
Pete Spaco Pete Spaco is offline
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Default Re: Wrought Iron - how to identify it ?

Just google:
wrought iron identification.

Not too far OT, I hope:
I got very slightly involved with the Titanic thing some years ago (just to donate some "known" wrought iron to NIST to develop a range of wrought iron quality).

At the time of the Titanic's construction, I think I heard that, in England, at least, there were 4 grades of wrought iron and the question was whether the Titanic builders had snuck in some grade 3 rivets instead of the spec'd grade 4.

So, at least in about 1911, wrought iron was still in use in some applications.
I think it was preferred for boilers for quite a while. The Titanic's hull, by the way, was apparently made of "mild steel", not wrought iron.

But, between about 1860 and about 1884, in the USA, there seems to be a huge switch away from wrought iron towards "modern" steels produced by the Bessmer and open hearth processes.

So, how fast did that change affect the farm implement business? I sure don't know. I have some of that old horse drawn stuff rusting away down by the creek, too. in my case, there's a manure spreader, for sure. I see that the horse drawn manure spreader was first designed in about 1875. By that time, a manufacturer could have already been using modern steel, but who knows?

I like the "saw half way through and bend it" approach to testing.
I have a few hundred pounds of 2 foot long wrought iron bridge spikes that are pretty highly refined. I'd guess they are at least grade 3. They show the breaking filament look pretty clearly.

Maybe I should go down to the creek and test some myself.

Pete Stanaitis
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Old 11-20-2016, 01:43:05 PM
David Hughes David Hughes is offline
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Default Re: Wrought Iron - how to identify it ?

More OT comments:

I have (had, since I've been using it) wrought iron that was used as mine track. It was strap iron designed to be nailed? fastened? on top of 2x4 to make up mine track. This was obviously at the prospect or low-grade mine, as this combination was not durable (wet and dark conditions in the mine destroys the wood). I also think this stuff was used as skid surface for skip buckets. It passes the "wood grain" test. I always thought it was 1930s depression era, based on above comments it must be earlier

Wrought iron, like gold, is where you find it
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Old 11-20-2016, 04:26:28 PM
Bill Hazzard Bill Hazzard is offline
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Default Re: Wrought Iron - how to identify it ?

Wrought iron was still being used for some pipe up until the 1940's.
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Old 11-20-2016, 04:26:40 PM
miro miro is offline
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Default Re: Wrought Iron - how to identify it ?

Thank you all for the answers - I'm sure they'll help.
In the past 24 hours however, the pile has been buried in snow and the temperature has fallen dramatically below freezing - plus there's howling wind blowing.
I'm not inclined to go out in that mess to get a sample - but if it lets up in the next couple of weeks. I'll get to it.
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