I had a little serendipity today. I am in the process of making an 8" x8" bending post for my shop. I have 18" deep floor sockets in the concrete floor to mount 8" square posts for a variety of uses, post drill and post vise mounts, etc. I am setting up a post with a steel cap plate with holes in it to drop pins in, in various configurations for bending heavy scrolls, and other similar work. The post is removable when not needed, and I wanted some handles on it to make lifting it out of the floor socket easy to do.
I want out into my scrap pile yesterday and pulled a length of twisted up 5/8" square stock from the pile. It is a piece of iron that was part of a big trailer load I scavenged over in Oregon several years ago, about a thousand pounds or so. I knew most of it was wrought iron, but this piece didn't have any indicators of wrought, so I assumed it was steel. It looked like normal steel, so I put it in the forge and cut off two 8" lengths. I used the fly-press to cut it off hot, and when I did so, it cut like butter. I should have known something was different, but I wasn't tuned in I guess.
As soon as I began forging it I discovered what was different, it was wrought iron. I put in a double reversed twist into the part that would be the actual part the hand grabs, and then drew out the ends and made a flat bolt tab on the ends to bolt it to the post. I knew that it should be worked at welding heat, but I didn't feel like working at that temperature, so I allowed it to split and develop its structural pattern as I worked. If it completely fell apart I was not concerned as I would just grab a piece of steel to do the job.
The result is spectacular. The metal developed lots of longitudinal splits which rotate around its axis, and the grain structure was developed also to an astonishing degree. When they were all done I threw them into the pickle tub to remove the scale, then cleaned them well, wire brushed them extremely well to remove any sharp edges on the splits, and finished them by heating them to a blue, and finally soaking them in beeswax to get full penetration into the splits. The resulting handles, which are now installed on my post, are about the most beautiful handles I have ever seen. They have a very pleasant feel also. They look like they were made from ancient wood, with very pronounced eroded grain. A guy could sell these for a very high price in the right market.
So what I wanted to pass on to the group is the idea of working wrought iron well below its normal working temperature for some applications where appearance is the important factor. There is no question that structurally, working wrought iron too cold is very damaging to it, but the results I got today have opened my eyes up a whole new and potentially useful technique for occasional applications in the future. Certainly you can't do this with some kids of wrought, it would just break to pieces, but this stuff worked very well, holding together as I did the forging.