Many people today don’t realize the difference between hand forged iron and wrought iron. And why would they? Industrialization coupled with marketing have succeeded in selling the consumer an efficiently produced product at an attractive price. While a select group of people have always had an interest in traditional craftsmanship, that group is increasing with the current trend towards supporting handmade works. And while the functionality of the finished products may be the same, the process that shapes the raw materials differs significantly. This, of course, alters the subtle beauty of the piece.
Hand forged iron is made the old fashioned way, requiring a coal forge, a hammer, and an anvil. A blacksmith uses intense heat and tools to shape the hot metal. Hand forged iron is the purest form of iron with the lowest carbon content. As you might imagine, this process requires a set of specialized skills that only someone with proper artisan training possesses. Wrought iron, in actuality, refers to a very old method of shaping iron. These days, authentic wrought iron is scarcely available. The term now refers to mass produced iron work possessing decorative embellishments.
The terms wrought iron, hand wrought iron, and forged iron hardware are often used interchangeably. But, as I’ve pointed out, they are not the same. Wrought iron once referred to the process of refining the iron ore. However today, both forged and wrought iron are referred to as being formed, but really, forged iron means the metal was shaped under heat. Wrought iron or just plain forged iron means shaped cold, or with a machine. Much of the products sold as wrought iron today are arc welded together from iron parts cut by computerized laser. This is a key difference. Molly and George, a pair of blacksmiths that make hardware for Horton Brasses, have a great pictorial titled “Shaping a Grip.” Follow that link to gain a proper appreciation for the art of hand forging. Molly and George’s photographs of different fire types and temperatures, as well as the finishing work done cold with hand tools, clearly illustrates the beauty of this dying art and enhances the beauty of the finished product.
Of course, work done by actual human hands will cost more. Hand forged iron is not mass produced. Molly and George’s post shows that. It costs more because each piece of hardware is made one at a time, shaped from a continues piece of iron. There is no cobbling together of parts. The metal takes on a rough “scaled” texture. The edges are beveled out by hand. The quality is immediately evident. Each piece is unique and reflects the individualized warmth and depth of handmade work.The black color does not come from paint–it comes from heat and linseed oil. This is traditional craftsmanship and, thankfully, there is a market for it. Without conscientious consumers who value the beauty of the process as much as the details of the finished product, this traditional art would be lost.
Unfortunately, the industry is not regulated to the extent that there are no guidelines regarding labeling and marketing. Iron hardware is available in a wide range of prices, however, the consumer is often confused at the disparity. Much of the iron products available are simply steel that has been stamped to a shape, bent, and and then painted black. Many companies pass off machine made hardware as forged or wrought hardware. They are not the same has hand forged, or hand wrought hardware and the price often reflects this.
When you purchase Horton Brasses hand forged iron hardware, you not only purchase a superior product, but you support traditional craftsmanship. Our products are forged with integrity. The entire process is overseen by skilled blacksmiths. When you receive a Horton Brasses hand forged pull or grip, be confident that you are receiving an authentic, one of a kind, hand produced piece that took hours to create.
To learn more about the production of our hand forged iron hardware, check our blog regularly to see what Molly and George are up to.