Studying the history of wrought iron is in short looking at the account of the innovations of man. Throughout history, wrought iron has been used to make warships, ancient structures, and railways. The term “wrought” is the ancient past tense of the word “work” but it has since been replaced by the modern “worked. As such, the term wrought iron means “worked iron.”
Before the start of the popular use of steel, wrought iron was used for nearly all metallic purposes. Unlike cast iron, wrought iron is malleable and was therefore universally favored by artisans and craftsmen. For both its toughness and malleability, wrought iron was preferred by many ancient blacksmiths. To many people, the ability of the blacksmith to fashion out something beautiful out shapeless pieces of iron was really magical.
Wrought iron comes in two different types: puddle and charcoal iron. Charcoal iron was widely used from the Iron Age up to about the end of the eighteenth century and it was produced through charcoal. Puddled iron, in the other hand, became popular around the onset of industrialization and it is made from cast iron that is subjected to an indirectly coal-fueled furnace.
Various methods have been used to produce wrought iron with the use of bloomeries being the very first one. The introduction of blast furnace and water power boosted the use of wrought iron leading to groundbreaking production techniques that made it possible to produce wrought iron without charcoal. Before the Middle Ages, wrought iron was primarily used to make weapons and tools. It only got its decorative and architectural use in construction and ornament-making after the 16th century.
The demand for wrought iron hit its climax in 1860’s when the construction of railways hit its all-time high in the United States. The popularity of wrought iron began to diminish with the availability of mild steel. Mild steel has less carbon and has many characteristics of wrought iron and it thus easily started to replace it. However, mild steel has not completely replaced wrought iron and nearly every other homestead has utensils and other household paraphernalia made of wrought iron.
One of the reasons why wrought iron remains a darling of many is that is durable and its items last a life time. The manufacturers of such items also love it because they find it easy to work with. As such, wrought iron is still a darling of both manufacturers and consumers and it most likely will as popular for thousands of years to come.