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How do you know you're buying authentic wrought iron?

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How do you know you are buying authentic Wrought Iron?

That stuff sold in the big box stores, coming out of China, is it authentic wrought iron? What is the difference between wrought iron and forged steel? How do I tell the difference between mass produced and hand made? Handmade Wrouught Iron

If you’re like me and love handmade wrought iron and want to promote American made products you may have asked all these questions. This post will answer all of these questions for you.

What is Wrought Iron?

First let’s talk about what “authentic” wrought iron is.

Traditionally wrought iron was a type of iron. It all had to do with the amount of carbon in the iron and the process for producing the iron. If you really want all the facts about traditional wrought iron Wikipedia has a great article all about wrought iron. Wrought Iron as a type of iron has not been produced commercially for many years. So why do we still use the term wrought iron? The word wrought translates as “worked by hand”. Authentic wrought iron, today, is any mild or high carbon steel that is worked by hand.

Don’t Be Fooled by Mass Produced Fakes!

There are companies out there (mostly imported from China and India) that are mass producing items and selling them as wrought iron. These items are usually cast iron, or mild steel machine forged items. How can you tell if something is hand forged (wrought) or machine forged?

  1. The first things to look for are hammer marks. Hand forging is a process of forming the steel into the desired shape by hitting with a hammer. If you don’t see any hammer marks chances are it is machine made. Even the best smith will leave hammer marks.
  2. Next look to see if there are “hold” marks on the item. When an item is machine made the machine grabs the steel to hold it in place and then forms it by bending and curling into the desired shape. Look for the hold marks where there is a uniform curl or bend with a flat end. This is where the machine “grabbed” the item.
  3. Lastly, is the item too uniform, too generic, no unique curls?When an item is hand forged each curl and bend will have its own unique shape. No curl will be exactly the same, no bend at the same exact angle. This gives the item its own unique character.

Don’t settle for blah mass produced imported iron products. Look for authentic wrought iron made in the USA. By law if an item is imported it must be labeled with the country of origin.

Cast Iron is not Wrought Iron

As mentioned above, some companies are passing off cast iron as wrought iron. So what is the difference and how can you tell? Cast iron is a process of taking molten iron and pouring it into a mold until it cools. This process increases the amount of carbon to steel ratio which makes it more brittle and non-malleable. What that means is if you try to bend or reform cast iron it will break. Wrought iron can be bent, twisted, and reshaped without breaking. Here are a few things to look for to determine if something is cast.

Cast Iron Finial

  1. Edges around the center. Items are molded by putting two halves of a mold together and pouring the molten iron into the mold. When the mold is broken apart there is a raised area around the middle of the item. A good manufacturer will grind that edge to make it smooth and seamless. Mass produced imports many times are not finished in this manner.
  2. The process of casting can leave very small pits in the item. The surface can be rough. Many times dirt or particles get in the mold leaving small inclusion on the surface. Look for these imperfections.
  3. No hammer marks. Hitting a piece of cast iron with a hammer would crack, chip, or break the piece. Hence there will be no hammer marks.

Don’t get me wrong here. I’m not saying that wrought iron is better than cast iron. Or that cast iron is bad. There are many applications and reason to buy cast iron rather than wrought iron. In fact I found a great article at Reliance Foundry pointing out this very thing. All I am saying is if you are looking for authentic wrought iron don’t let the mass produced importers fool you by calling cast iron wrought iron.

Support American Made Artists and Craftsmen

The passion that drives my blog is supporting our American Artisans. Can you buy authentic wrought iron imported from other countries? Yes, there are countries that are hand working steel. I have been in this business for almost thirty years and I can honestly tell you there is no comparison to the hand forged items made in the USA and those coming out of India, China, Mexico, or South America. The quality is nowhere near that of USA made wrought iron. Not to mention the fact that those countries are running sweat shops (literally) paying their works next to nothing. Can you buy cheaper items from the big box import stores? Sure you can, but why would you want to? Why not purchase a quality item handmade by American craftsmen that you will enjoy for a lifetime rather than a cheap piece of junk that will eventually break or end up in some thrift store? At Mountain Stream Forge we only sell handmade wrought iron made in the USA by skilled artisans.

After comparing high-quality wrought iron wall hangings with cheaper pieces that can be found in discount stores I will never again purchase the lower quality alternatives. The difference is astounding. Posted by Crystal Ray on Yahoo Voices “Ideas for decorating with wrought iron wall décor.”

I hope that I have answered your questions regarding buying authentic wrought iron. If you have any questions post them below. If I can’t answer them hopefully someone else out there can. Please leave a comment or share your thoughts.

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