Discovered a Useful Technique with Wrought Iron

I had a little serendipity today. I am in the process of making an 8" x

8" 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.



Reply to
Ronald Reil
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Your handles sound great. I was wondering if you took any pictures.

I am also interested in what you were making when you discovered this. I have considered adding a floor socket to my shop and am interested in your bending jig and any other tools you have made to use in the socket. Can you share?

How deep is your socket and how did you construct it? I have a 4" thick concrete floor and want to add the socket into it.

I would appreciate any info you are willing to share.


Reply to

While I would like to have a socket or two, adding it after the slab sounds pretty tough. How do you plan on going about this?

Steve Smith

oso wrote:

Reply to
Steve Smith

Ron -

Yes! Pictures please!

Bruce Freeman

Reply to
Bruce Freeman

I th> While I would like to have a socket or two, adding it after the slab

Certainly easier to do from scratch, but if you don't have (or you know where they are and can miss them) conduits or heating pipes in the slab, it's a simple brute-force problem of chopping out a section of floor a couple of feet across, then digging a couple of feet down, drilling the existing slab for mating rebar (or isolating the remaining slab with strips of rubber - sort of depends what's going into the block), working up rebar and forms, then fill the new hole with concrete. Not much fun, but quite do-able, especially if you're willing to rent a few toys (concrete saw, jackhammer) or hire folks with the right toys.

I'm hoping I'll have done enough thinking before I get to pouring the "real" forge floor to get these sorts of things done right the first time, but there's no shame in retrofitting if you need to retrofit to make it work better.

Reply to

I have had a similar experience. Not knowing that a piece of scrap was wrought iron I forged it too cold. I was punching an extruded hole in a piece of flat bar. I stopped punching when I noticed that something was amiss. The result was very cool as the metal came apart in layers and looked like an eye.


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Reply to

I do have some images of the handles, and I will be glad to post one on my web site. I will let the group know when it is up.... probably later today. The image doesn't capture the grain structure as well as I would like due to the glare from the flash. One of these days I will have a diffused light tent for taking these images. Things are a little slow for me right now because I have just switched over to a Mac, and everything is brand new to me, including all the software.

My floor sockets are made around 8" diameter x 3/8" wall square steel tubing "cans" that I made up before the pouring of my shop floor. The sockets are 18" deep. My shop floor varies in thickness from 6", out on the shop patio slab, to 24" in the areas where the power hammer and floor sockets are. It is steel and fiber reinforce concrete also. I put

2' x 2' block-outs in the initial floor pour, then later placed the "cans" into place and aligned them carefully before doing a secondary pour. I think you could accomplish much the same thing by saw cutting a 2' x 2' section of your 4" thick floor out, digging a 2' deep hole, setting your socket can in place, and pouring it. I have three such sockets in my shop floor. Two are dedicated to my post drill an post vice posts, and the third is for various applications such as my bending post. BTW, I do have most of this info available to look at on my "Shop at a Glance" page and my "Shop Construction Page." Start at my Shop at a Glance page, which is mostly just images, and if you want detailed construction info go to my Construction page.

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As to the effort to add one of these sockets after the fact as you want to do, it would take some effort, but there is no doubt in my mind that floor sockets are definitely worth it. A small shop needs floor sockets and caster mounted equipment. One note about the construction, I welded on a number of pieces of rebar to the outside of the cans to provide good bonding to the concrete, as well as covered everything liberally with "Moose Milk" to enhance the concrete to concrete, and concrete to metal, bonds.

I made square plates with angle iron flanges that fit the floor sockets, to cover them when not in use. The plates are made of 1/4" steel. I also provided a rubber seal strip around the contact surface of the plates so that dirt and spilled liquids would not go down into the sockets.

Just as an aside, I have been making feather wedges during this Christmas break. My posts have dried and shrunk so that they are now lose in the sockets. I made the wedges out of 3/8" x 2" stock, and each socket/post has three of these wedges locking the post into place now. I decided to make the wedges a little special. Each one has a 90 degree bend at the thick upper end to make removing it easy, and I upset the outer corners so that they are square cornered. It was a lot of extra work to go through just for some wedges, but it was fun to learn to quickly make square outer corner bends.

I made a scan of the template I used to fabricate the steel cap plate for my bending post. If anyone is interested in having it I could post it too. I am making a cap structure to enclose the top of my post so that the bending pins that go down into the end grain can't split the timber. The cap is made of 1/2" thick plate and has two sets of four holes each for pins. One set has 9/16" diameter holes, and the other set has 1" diameter holes. I drilled the holes to exactly 1" diameter. Hot rolled stock will not fit them, but there was a purpose in my madness. Most scrap yards, and my own scrap iron piles, are full of old lug wrenches. I always pick them up when I see them. They just happen to be of very strong steel, are 9/16" diameter, and fit perfectly in the holes. I cut two pins from one of them yesterday using an abrasive cut-off saw so as not to damage the temper of the metal. I will get several long 1" high strength bolts and cut the heads and threaded portions off to make pins for the 1" holes also.

This may all seem like a lot of work to go though to make a bending pin structure, but I have several decorative gates I will be fabricating in the near future, and to do the large scrolls I need a stout bending structure and a big clam-shell forge. I did not wish to subject my post vises to the stress of bending heavy section steel, perhaps up to 1" or more in diameter. Also, the bending post and socket are located about

2-1/2' from my Acorn table, the top of the post being about 4" higher than the table top. I anticipate future value in that arrangement.


Golden Age Forge

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E-mail: Boise, Idaho

oso wrote:

Reply to
Ron Reil

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