Before the development of effective steel making processes, wrought iron was the primary metal used in all industries. Its uses ranged from rivets, wire and chains to warships and railways. It was the key ingredient in swords, axes and cutlery. Wrought iron was the most common form of malleable iron, and due to its malleability and ductility it is perfect for hand work ornamental products. It is strong, workable and easily welded making it ideal for many different applications requiring hot or cold working and welding.Wrought iron is an iron alloy with a very low carbon content of 0.05 to 0.25%. In comparison cast iron which contains 2 to 3.4% and pig iron 3.5 to 4.5%. This low carbon content reduces the brittleness of the metal, making more ductile and malleable. Wrought iron also contains up to 2% of fibrous inclusions (slag) by weight. These inclusions give wrought iron a wood like “grain” that can be seen when stressed or bent to the point of failure. Once considered “commercially pure iron,” wrought iron is no longer considered pure iron because of modern day specifications of carbon content of .008% for pure iron. The term “wrought” comes from an archaic past participle of the verb "to work”. The name of this metal roughly translates to “worked iron”.
The bloomery would produce wrought iron from iron ore or taking cast and pig iron and melting it down in a finery forge and puddling furnace and partially removing the slag and carbon content. A puddling furnace draws hot air over the molten iron without the oxygen coming in contact with the gases and fumes of the fuel heating the iron. This reduces the amount of impurities contracted by the molten wrought iron, and therefore making a higher quality product.
The peak time of wrought iron production was the 1860’s due to the railways and the development of ironclad warships, like those used in the American Civil War. The decline came about as mild steel was more easily produced and advantageous for certain applications of the metal. Although wrought iron is not commercially produced like it was in the 1860’s, it is still used today in many different applications. Ornamental Wrought Iron is used for fences, gates, furniture, lighting, and many other decorative applications. The ease of working the metal and the ease of welding the metal make it ideal for ornate decorative pieces.