These downloads have been produced by our parent company TOPP & Co. Whilst a commercial operation TOPP & Co. endeavors to provide both education and technical advice on historic ironwork in order to raise awareness and raise the standard of restoration and thereby preserve an important part of our heritage. To this end various advice and information is available in Adobe Acrobat PDF format which is free for use by conservation officers, blacksmiths, educational bodies, architects and members of the public.
You are welcome to use this material as you see fit, whether or not you use our services, although if you publish any of the material, we would be grateful if you let us know and give us the credit. Some of the information is duplicated in some of the documents, so just keep what you need and delete the rest.
NOTE: We have attempted in our PDF file to provide the best available knowledge on wrought ironwork and restoration.
Wrought iron is actually a material, not a descriptive term for items made in iron. Wrought iron is the forgeable, ferrous material made until about the mid-twentieth century that has been replaced by modern mild steel. It was originally called “wrought” (“worked”) to distinguish it from cast, or poured iron, because its manufacture required extensive forming under power hammers and through rollers.
It is characterised by its composite nature which is fibrous like wood, although you cannot tell by just looking at it unless, it has been broken or badly corroded. The fibrous material is iron silicate, intimately mingled with the iron, and it gives wrought iron a combination of resistance to corrosion, plasticity when hot and, tensile strength when cold that are generally greater than in mild steel.
The Real Wrought Iron Company, is the only supplier of genuine wrought iron in the world. We supply both puddled and charcoal wrought iron to blacksmiths throughout the world, for use in the restoration of historic ironwork and the construction of prestigious architectural ironwork commissions.
One of National Heritage Ironwork Group’s (NHIG) goals is to educate those outside of the fields of conservation, who may have stewardship of historic ironwork, about the importance of proper treatment of decorative ironwork, including the most important recurring conservation process, that of refinishing.
An illustration of the harm that can be inflicted on works of art is the recent act of well-meaning ignorance by the overseers of the Globe Theatre, who had the sumptuously and subtly multi-coloured Globe Theatre Bankside gates painted in thick gloss black, obscuring both the details and the original stainless steel, copper, gemstone and graphite finishes of the many features contributed by artists from all over the world.
Click here for an explanation of the history of colour fashions for decorative ironwork finishes. Black has only been the norm since the 30’s and the new black is… whatever you like.
Puddled iron is a mixture of nearly pure iron with up to 5% siliceous (glassy) slags, which take the form of linear fibres – giving the metal its characteristic grain. Puddled iron is for the more advanced forger, more so than steel or homogeneous pure irons. Care must be taken to respect the properties of the material. It is necessary, when forging puddled iron always to do heavy forging at a high temperature – around 1350 to 1450 degrees Centigrade (bright to sparkling white heat). At these temperatures, the iron will move very quickly, whilst doing no damage to the grain structure.
Finishing work, bending etc., can be done at red heat. Should heavy working at lower temperatures result in splitting along the grain boundaries, it is necessary only to heat the iron to a welding temperature to close the split under the hammer. At a white heat it will be found that wrought irons are far softer to forge than even pure iron. This is due to the internal slags melting and providing an internal lubricant that reduces friction during distortion under the hammer.
There is nothing to beat the forge-welding ability of puddled iron, as the enclosed slags form a natural flux, allowing the iron to be heated rather more than can pure irons or steel, this extends considerably the heat range over which the iron can be welded.
Wrought iron is the traditional material of the blacksmith. Due to the siliceous slags combined with its fibrous structure, it resists corrosion far better than modern steels or pure irons, as is amply shown by the survival of much of our heritage of wrought ironwork, in many cases centuries old. It is neither necessary nor recommended to galvanise or zinc spray wrought iron.
In the event of any further queries on working techniques advice is readily available from http:///www.realwroughtiron.com
NHIG have announced they will be holding a one day seminar on Friday 11th November 2016 at The National Maritime Museum, Greenwich.
Topics to be discussed include –
How iron is made
Price: £45 including lunch and all refreshments (£35 students). Early bird discount: £40
For further information or to book a place follow this link http://nhig.org.uk/events/event/ferrous-seminar/
West Dean College in West Sussex is running a short course covering the conservation of structural metalwork and architectural features and includes repair techniques of both ferrous and non-ferrous metals.
The 3 day course runs from 6th to 9th February 2017
Further details can be found by following the link below.
We cannot publish anything but the abstract, but she has made her email address available and if you want to question her about her findings, you can. The abstract, which raises some of the issues NHIG was founded to solve, is below:
Emmerson, N. J. and Watkinson, D. E. 2016. Surface preparation of historic wrought iron: evidencing the requirement for standardisation Materials and Corrosion 67 (2), 176 – 189
The conservation of heritage wrought iron relies on corrosion prevention by preparation of surfaces and application of protective coatings. In contrast to industrial and engineering treatment of modern steel, conservation practice is not regulated by accepted national and international standards or underpinned by empirical evidence.
This paper presents the results of oxygen consumption rate testing (as proxy corrosion rate) of historic wrought iron samples prepared by five commonly applied surface preparation methods and subjected to high humidity environments, with outcomes assessed by use of international standards employed in industrial contexts.
Results indicate that choice of surface preparation method has a direct influence on corrosion rate of the uncoated wrought iron, which impacts on performance of the protective coatings that may ultimately determine survival or loss of our rich wrought iron heritage.
By implication, more extensive empirical evidence is required to underpin and develop heritage standards for treatment of wrought iron which encompass specifics of the historic material, heritage context and the ethics of conservation practice. The introduction of such standards is called for in order to bring treatment of historic ironwork in line with highly regulated engineering and industrial practices.
The National Ironwork Heritage Group (NHIG) are planning their first International Conference and Forge-In for 2017.
NHIG are currently in talks with a number of potential partners such as British Artist Blacksmiths Association (BABA) , The Institute of Conservation (ICON) and The Institute of Building Conservation (IHBC) to make this as successful and high profile an event as possible.
They plan to hold the event in the historic town of Bath, were NHIG will demonstrate traditional ironworking techniques to the general public and hold seminars and presentations on the history, conservation and replication of historic ironwork.
The city of Wolverhampton Council has secured funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund to support The Queen Street Gateway Townscape Heritage Scheme. As part of this they are running ‘Practical Conservation Skills Training’ as a series of day workshops, free of charge for up to 20 people.
Historic Ironwork Day is scheduled for early summer 2017. This includes an overview of the manufacture of wrought iron, cast iron and steel; uses of iron in building, failure and decay processes, conservation and repair of wrought iron and cast iron; specification for repair; cleaning, finishing and maintenance; demonstration of forging techniques; tour of working foundry showing casting and repair processes.
For further information contact;
The Queen Street TH Officer
John Healey on 01902 554 007 or email email@example.com
Tuesday 28 June 2016 in Winchester
From the earliest times ironwork has been used for utilitarian objects, and often with an ornamental treatment. This seminar will look at the history of the use of iron in architecture with particular emphasis on ornamental ironwork.
It will discuss the properties and manufacture of wrought and cast iron from early charcoal irons and steels, through puddled iron, cast iron and modern steels.
The CPD will cover
– How to identify and date;
– How to understand wrought ironwork, techniques of repair and replication;
– The techniques of the blacksmith, remedial techniques for damaged wrought and cast iron objects;
– Good and bad practices.