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Thoughts on using wrought iron for tongs

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So I recently picked up some 5/8 round wrought iron scrap from Old Globe, and its great stuff! Such a fun material to work with! 

I'm considering using some of this material for tongs, however i am reluctant due to the rare nature of wrought iron these days. I've got plenty of mild steel to work with, and have been perfecting my tong making with this, but a nice set of wrought box jaws would be a cool tool to possess.

Can i get some feedback as to the benefits vs drawbacks (if any) of using Wrought for tongs?



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If you want a cool pair of wrought iron tongs, then go for it. They would look even cooler etched. 

As far as any benefit, I don't know of any and would think the mild steel will work just fine for tongs. So were it me, I'd just stick with mild to medium carbon steel for tongs and use the wrought iron on projects that would benefit more from it. 

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I really like this idea, I’d would make a set if I had some wrought laying around. As Das suggested, they’d need to be etched to make it worth it. I would assume that you’d be able to let them get them really hot and be able to quench them without worry of harming them. 

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12 hours ago, Ranchmanben said:

 I would assume that you’d be able to let them get them really hot and be able to quench them without worry of harming them. 

Thats my thought at well - not that i make a habit of water quenching my tongs.


11 hours ago, ThomasPowers said:

Test First as high carbon wrought iron does exist!

I'm going to have to see if i can find a spark test guide that shows me the pattern if HCWI. Thanks for the heads up on that.

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After a productive weekend ive decided to forgo, for the time being, crafting tongs from wrought iron, and save that material for more decorative items. 

I'll probably give it a go at a later date once i get more comfortable with how W-I heats and moves.


Thanks for the info guys. the knowledge well is deep.


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Generally you can forge weld splits back together.  Coming into blacksmithing through knifemaking and the working of high carbon alloys it takes an act of will for me to heat wrought iron up to where it wants to be worked---those little voices in the back of my head start chorusing "you're going to burn it!' in 16 part harmony with descant and contrabass accompaniment. (It's really annoying when they start doing the Gregorian chant in Klingon...)

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I did my research well before even purchasing the WI, and yes, high yellow heat it works like clay, anything less is damaging to the grain structure. So much fun to work with!

1 minute ago, ThomasPowers said:

those little voices in the back of my head start chorusing "you're going to burn it!' in 16 part harmony with descant and contrabass accompaniment. (It's really annoying when they start doing the Gregorian chant in Klingon...)

odd, i was hearing something similar. or maybe it was the "viking metal" radio station streaming through the shop. same difference.

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  • 1 month later...

Late to the party, but hey I never show up on time..  

I never make tongs out of anything but wrought iron or mild steels..  for general use wrought and HR I prefer and for stronger tongs I use Cold rolled as it offers or at least seems to offer a little more strength vs Hot rolled.. 

I have no problem thowing hot tongs into the water bucket from even an orange heat.. Sometimes with difficultly shaped pieces or smaller pieces when forge welding,  the tongs end up getting right up there in temps and once done with the tongs can still be at orange heat when they go in the tub.. 

I have tongs that are 30 years old and still like the day I made them..  

Any of the tongs which are made from medium carbon or better have not faired so well.. I experimented back in the 90's..   I stopped the practice of making any tongs except scroll tongs out of tools steels just for the reasons mentioned above..  Scroll tongs and/or collar tongs don't get used when orange hot so they last for ever as they go into the tub only when cool enough.. 

I have maybe 15 pairs of wrought iron tongs and the wrought iron tongs have to be made heavier/thicker than the mild steel (1018 CR or HR) tongs for the same work load.. 

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  • 2 months later...
On 1/11/2018 at 10:48 PM, ThomasPowers said:

Test First as high carbon wrought iron does exist!

Really? I though iron+carbon=steel. And really high carbon is cast iron. Everything i was ever taught was wrought iron has "almost" no carbon.

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Steel is just iron with carbon added..     For anvils faces and such that were being beaten on carbonized wrought iron wasn't ideal. While it might have held up well enough. All the journals of the day, start to talk about crucible steels which are homogeneous.. It's one of the reasons when Crucible steels became more available every anvil maker jumped on the band wagon.. (Same with cast steel) 

Same as single wrought iron bodies verses wrought iron scrap or wrought iron worked 2 or 3 times to refine the grain structure as being a better anvil. Peter Wright advertised anvils made from scrap vs first run and offered both first run and scrap made anvils for sale.. The scrap run anvils being the premium product...    They also found that Solid steel anvils don't take on the same sag as a wrought iron anvil will..

 Wrought iron that has been converted to steel using the method of carbonization still have all the impurities of the original wrought iron..   all the slag is still in the bar.. As are the original Needle like iron segments which now are steel because of the carbon uptake.. 

These bars of blister steel  were not the same carbon content all the way through.. Basically it was a  deep case hardening so the outer surface had more carbon than the center of the bar.. 

This leads to a lot of variation in what is made.....  In other words depending on the quality of the blister steel or CWI it might be completely soft in the center with a very hard outside.. Forged and welded  a few times and you would end up with a wonderful Damascus pattern though it was never patterned that way...  

The reason why a knife or edged tool is sharp is because of how fine a bur ( the edge microscopically is a bur)  the blade will hold for a given work function....  Because the CWI still has the impurities in it.. This creates an edge where the burs or interspersed with the slag as a very fine matrix.. This make the burs very fine but also stronger or angular vs in homogeneous steels that have a  different edge matrix..  IE: the carbides will snap off different between the  CWI and regular steels because of the inclusions thus creating a different pattern of bur.. 

modern experiments vs old fashioned everyday use are quite different..  And not applicable to what we are discussing in a real product verses modern production.. 

It really is to bad I wasn't able to keep a lot of the stuff I had collected years ago..  I had a 3/8X5X12" piece of blister steel and you could see the voids in the surface from where it had been cooked to uptake the carbon..  It looked almost like a large piece of beef jerky.. Every pore and void could be seen.. Almost like it was etched in Acid but was still covered with mill scale from the cooking.. 

 The round rod I had would hold and edge like no tomorrow  and unlike modern steels it would almost get sharper just before it was dull..  

Forging the CWI was also different as the center of the bar could have a much reduced carbon content so one had to keep this in mind when forging chisels, and such as you would want to get the right carbon matrix on the cutting edge..  

Hope this helps some.. :) 


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It is confusing; perhaps you would prefer Wrought Iron Derived Steels, (WIDS)?  However what do we call high carbon blooms---Wrought Steel? (which then confuses with worked steel, I guess Bloomery Steel might work too; but what do you use then for indirect method stuff?)

 A bloomery can make anything from extremely low carbon wrought iron up to cast iron----the Tatara furnace is a bloomery after all! The indirect method is a bit different; but having the lower carbon iron solidify in a bath of decarburizing cast iron does allow for some entrainment too.

The defining component of wrought iron to me is the presence of the ferreous silicate spicules in the matrix of iron.

I will not try to push my choice in words for this as I feel it is a gray area.  Wrought Iron, blister steel and shear steel have solid definitions  (and cast steel and crucible steel are the same stuff)

Now should we be calling extremely low carbon steels steel? But if we call them iron we run into confusion with cast iron and wrought iron...

For a take on mainly the later methods:  "Steelmaking Before Bessemer, Vol 1 Blister Steel, Vol 2 Crucible steel" Barraclough; (UK is the main focus though)

Pushing carbon into iron/steel:  "The Cementation of Iron and Steel"   1914; Giolitti, Richards,  Rouiller  (I see it's back in print I have a copy of the 1915 edition) Full of interesting experiments like case hardening in a vacuum or using diamonds as the carbon donor...

And how did they finally figure out it was carbon that changes iron into steel: "Sources for the history of the science of steel, 1532-1786" C.S.Smith (has a wonderful list of renaissance quenchants that are supposed to make your steel *better*) (All non-english sources are in translation making it a much more readable book!)


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And to add to TP's post..  Wrought as in Hammered...  Where does that really leave if the wrought iron when made never sees a hammer at all,  but was only rolled or slit????? 

Thomas,, I'd love to spend a few weeks in your library.. 

Crucible and cast can be the same.. 

But in the early days Crucible was also defined as iron and a  carbon source were added to a vessel that was melted completely into a liquid mass then poured into ingots to be forged via other methods into the desired shape..  

Vs Cast steel in reference to anvils and being cast in a pattern of the anvil via a mold..  

I should have clarified..    Verses just cast steel and Crucible steel..   I had assumed the point was in anvil making vs the materials outright as JlBlohm had mentioned anvils.  

Sorry.. :)   and thanks for the extra info.....   

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Definition of wrought

1: worked into shape by artistry or effort
  • carefully wrought essays
2: elaborately embellished : ornamented
3: processed for use : manufactured 
  • wrought silk
4: beaten into shape by tools : hammeredused of metals
5: deeply stirred : excited often used with up 
  • gets easily wrought up over nothing
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However "wrought iron" is a noun specific to a particular type of material: a composite comprised of ferrous silicates in a iron matrix.   Just like "cast iron" is not just iron that had been cast but specific to a type of iron that is generally used by casting. The iron of "wrought iron" is a different material than the iron of "cast iron".

The term is often applied to items that were previous made from that material; but that is much like the term "linens" that refer to items that are NOT made from Linen nowadays.  We do have some linen towels in the kitchen but our bed and bath linens are all made from cotton.


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Definition of wrought iron  (true that) BUT.. 

: a commercial form of iron that is tough, malleable, and relatively soft, contains less than 0.3 percent and usually less than 0.1 percent carbon, and carries 1 or 2 percent of slag mechanically mixed with it..

Well then slap to together the definitions as a descriptive word or action word or what have you with the Noun and boom, There it is..  :) 

Pick number 4.  and well , we'll just call it beaten iron which is tough, malleable, and relatively soft, contains less carbon than 0.3 and carries a percentage of slag, mechanically mixed in it.. 

Wha lah....  done and done..      :( 
Problem with most of this stuff as time has marched on so has the definitions.. Wrought iron now refers more to ornate metal work vs the material or noun..  Every time i pound steel I'm wroughting the iron..  LOL..    :D 

It's all semantics and the craziness of it all.. But I suppose if we are to keep Law and order over the domain.. Then these types of things must be clarified and organized so one can have a clear and clean understanding of what this wrought (hammered) iron matrix really is..  
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Are you a blacksmith or an ironwright (from ísernwyrhta, of course)?  As smiths we can help keep the old terminology in use.

Other crafts have these issues too: for instance I am married to a spinster; correct term for a woman who spins.  Almost all the old gendered career names have slipped away, they have been trying to get rid of actress in my lifetime. Some richness of the language is also lost as folks just think I'm joking when I tell them about a couple I know: he is a Hammer and she is a Hamster. Yes "Your mother was a hamster" is a proper description; the insult was that she was not of the nobility!  (Brewer and Brewster, Poet and Poetess, Painter and Paintress,...)

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2 hours ago, jlpservicesinc said:

Then these types of things must be clarified and organized so one can have a clear and clean understanding of what this wrought (hammered) iron matrix really is.. 

That is kinda what i was thinking. The terminology has changed so much but these original materials still exist. We need to preserve these as they were originaly. You talk to a normal person and they think this is wrought iron. Just because it has some bends and twists doesnt change what it really is.


I had a guy I was buying an anvil from argue with me that the vulcan anvil he had (not the anvil i was buying) was not cast iron but wrought iron. No matter what i told him he refused to belive me even though he had AIA sitting on his shelf he wouldnt open the book and he stood his ground.

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Well it is wrought iron but not made from wrought iron....at least it's not rot iron or rotten iron; common descriptions down here...perhaps we need to coin wrought iron^2 for wrought iron items made from wrought iron.

Some folks you can't argue with; a big name weaver (webster) told a recent class that one fiber they were using didn't have scales; my wife the spinster talked to her later as it has scales and she has a shelf of books on fiber, she's been teaching spinning for over 40 years now,  showing photomicrographs of the scales.  She was told "well we will have to agree to disagree" Evidently being a BNW belief trumps scientific proof!

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