Wrought Iron Fencing

What is Wrought Iron and How is it Made?

What is wrought iron? The word “wrought” comes from the old English word meaning “to work.” So, the term literally means “worked iron.”  Wrought iron material used to form pieces of art and fencing first had to be refined through a process of smelting and oxidization to remove the carbon and other elements from raw iron material. The refined, almost entirely pure iron was then cast, hammered to further refine the product, and cooled into basic bar forms that were ready for use in the iron working process. To form something like a fence panel or gate, blacksmiths would work patiently to heat, reheat, and shape each individual curve and detail. The pieces would then be welded together to construct the final design.

A Quick History of Wrought Iron

For thousands of years, iron has been worked into shapes for the purpose of making tools and weapons. The medieval period saw a rise in the use of worked iron for protective and ornamental purposes, such as for gates and artwork in castles.

When iron workers came to the US during the colonial period, so did wrought iron technology and production. A rise in iron workers led to a vast increase in wrought iron in the 1800s. But, this did not mean that it became more affordable. Wrought iron railings, gates, and other features was still made laboriously by hand and could only be afforded by the wealthy. Thus, it became a sign of status and wealth, especially in the South where it was most popular.

Wrought Iron fence at the White House

Advantages of Wrought Iron

Wrought iron represents an extremely unique niche of fence and railing features. These are handmade works of art that are impossible to replicate with other factory made fencing materials.

Wrought iron material is very strong and durable.

Disadvantages of Wrought Iron

Over time, wrought iron fencing will develop rust, begin to corrode, and eventually flake and degrade.

Wrought iron has always been an expensive material associated with the wealthy, and that fact has not changed in recent years. Nowadays, it is even harder to find someone who makes and installs true wrought iron, even if you can afford it.

Wrought iron fencing is difficult to install. The material itself is very heavy in comparison to other fence materials. Wrought iron must be welded together and welded to the bracing on site in order to achieve the right fit. The result is a perfectly fitted fence or railing that will last for decades, but the installation is always customized, tedious, and expensive.


Modern Iron Fence Products

Like many other things, hand-made iron has given way to factory made fence pickets and panels. It would be very difficult nowadays to find someone who still practices the craft of creating wrought iron. Modern Iron fencing is actually made of a mixture of materials, not only pure iron. Unlike pure iron, modern iron material is manufactured to resist rust and corrosion, lasting even longer than old-world wrought iron. Today, iron is utilized more for security reasons than for decoration. The design is also much simpler and appears to be a simple aluminum fence, but still boasts the strength of welded iron.

The modern Alternative to Wrought Iron

Aluminum is the closest you can get to replicating the look of wrought iron fencing. Aluminum is an ideal material for residential fencing, as it is light weight, affordable, simple to install, and functional. Style options are much more simplified than old-world wrought iron styles, but there are still a few intricately detailed styles available. Various grades (residential, commercial, industrial) represent different levels of strength within the material itself. Learn more about our residential aluminum here!

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