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I Forge Iron

Iron forging newbie ?

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Ok, as mentioned in my first thread, I reclaim iron out of a tidal estuary, from wooden ships long rotted away, the iron work and anchor chains being fairly easy to find at low tide, a bit of grubbing around in mud and they can be dragged out. Now my recent stuff I tried to reforge into something useful, well at least blanks for things to be made out of, but in forging, I noticed some unusual effects;

Heating the metal to what I know is the correct temperature for mild steel forging, straw yellow, and beating the stuff to shape it, the metal breaks, almost like crumbles at the edges and bits break off. It can be shaped, and the result is the lovely lines of grain very prominent in the metal, it cooled and polished, it just looks like a piece of worn wood painted silver grey. But my concern is the crumbling of the metal at yellow heat, am I forging iron wrong, or is it likely the iron has lost some of it's properties by being submerged in saltwater laden estuary mud ?

I do like the grained wood effect, and have plans to use this natural appearance as a constituent part in my jewellery making, wood, but not.

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Donnie is correct; the forging temperature for wrought is higher. Please be aware also that wrought iron is inconsistant and some old iron is hot-short, with too high sulfer content, very difficult to forge. Also be aware that a hundred years or more of soaking in the ocean has certainly both added and removed elements from your iron. For example, the grain is the pure iron with the surrounding silica eroded away, and yet in some areas the iron to silica ratio may be inverted. The ocean, while having leached out some elements has added others which may not be helpful, a mix of acid and base salts. One thing you could try, if you have the time is a long soak in a fresh water pond. A barrel or basin will not do, as the water needs to be continuously changed to dilute the salts emanating from the metal. Sounds as if you have found a wonderful resource for a remarkably beautiful material.

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I've a friend who has salvaged lots of wrought from estuaries and salt water bays, etc. Salt can be a problem, he soaked his in a creek for a time though I don't recall how long. Boiling in fresh water might do it more quickly.

Forge at near welding heat. Things like anchors with thick cross sections and not terribly structural were often muck bar or if it was a high class job single wrought. The grain will be large and unrefined with large poorly distributed inclusions.

Of course you can forge fold and weld a few times to refine the grain. Etching will bring it back out again after forging.

It makes very nice jewelry, very tactile.


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