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I Forge Iron

Old iron anchor chain

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Hi, new here. I have not taken up the hammer yet but I do have a strong interest in forging, anvils, fire, and old rusty heavy metal objects. I thought some here may find this of interest as well as offer some thoughts on it. I pulled this out of the frozen ground at the bottom of an iron scrap heap at the estate sale of a welder turned sculptor in a coastal town on Long Island NY. I believe it is a very old section of anchor chain. Each link measures 10" long and 5" wide. It is nine links long, measures about 6' stretched out, and weighs in at 70 lbs. One smith I shared the images with felt it dated to the late 1600s or early 1700s and was possibly Irish or Welsh. Something about the style. Does anyone have any opinion on when it dates to, where it was made, and or how it was made? The divoted areas are of particular interest to me. Thanks

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.Thanks. I believe it is real wrought iron. According to my research after 1820 most anchor chain had a vertical stud that added strength, weight, and helped prevent kinking. That's not to say none were made without that feature after that time, but it did become the standard.   

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That was standard for LARGE anchor chain which  is NOT what you have. 9 links and 70 pounds,  7.8 pounds per link; large chain would be more like 30+ pounds per link.  The indentations look like they were put in by a large steam hammer or press and not manually by sledges.  

Now can we get some data and not "belief"?  If it was as old as you think then there would be clearly visible striations of real wrought iron especially exposed to water or salt water for centuries. Also remember that chains were used for a lot of other uses; exp the great chain across the Hudson.  Pictures of which show the striations associated with real wrought iron---it dates to only 1778 btw. Each link weighed 114 pounds...)

Fastest way forward is to test if it's real wrought iron , if it's not; that will put a  start date of mid 19th century.  If it is then we have a lot longer timespan to look through.  You might also see if a University within driving distance has an Industrial Archeology program you could ask.

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Good afternoon,

I don't see the characteristic striations, or grain normally associated with wrought iron, especially after long exposure to salt water, although I may not be getting good enough resolution on my screen.  And it's not definitive, sufficiently refined wrought iron can be hard to find the grain on. 


The classic test is to cut a piece most of the way through, bend it over, and then see if the end shows splitting or a grain coming apart a bit.  If you like the chain, you may not want to do this, as it's a bit hard on the link in question.  If you decide to try this, you may want to look up the test first, to know what it looks like, and how to go about it.

And Mr. Powers has beaten me to it...

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 If I had exact data regarding the material I gladly would have shared it. Other than I thought it was old. How old?...I have no idea nor did I make any claim. I just said that one blacksmith that I shared the images with, that supposedly had expertise in this area (nautical items), dated it to the late 1600s - early 1700s and said in his opinion it was Welsh or Irish in origin, had typical construction for nautical chain, and was used to weigh anchor on a brigantine size ship. He additionally said it was "old iron process."    

That being said, if I thought the story ended there I would not have posted here. I am familiar with the great chain across the Hudson and I have seen a piece of it as I have spent time in that area visiting West Point. So now I have two conflicting opinions and dates - one smith saying 150 years later than the other and one saying anchor chain and the other raising the possibility of other industrial use. Myself, I just want to know when it was made, where, and why it is shaped like it is which is a bit unusual and not perfectly uniform with odd indentations that seem to have no function  - and now,  I would like to confirm the material as well. I have written maritime museums, a nautical research group, blacksmiths, and next on the list is Industrial archeology. Thanks for that thought. I think I will take a pass on any test that involves cutting it and leave the material in question for now. Best regards

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The acid test was to file a spot shiny on the metal and drop a drop of acid on it, how fast it turned black was a function of it being cast iron wrought iron or steel.  I used to have the exact details to hand---I think I read it in the 1925 edition of Scientific American Cyclopedia of Formulas, Hopkins; but I don't see it at a casual glance.

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From "Formulas for Profit", Bennett, copyright 1939, 4th printing

"To identify iron from steel"
"Mix 5 drops nitric acid with 10 drops H2O", (remember acid into water *NEVER* water into acid),"File a clean spot and place a drop on it.

If it is steel it will turn black immediately. If it is wrought iron or malleable iron it will stay bright for a considerable length of time."

Use at your own risk!

I have this from an old post of yours on Anvilfire

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