History of Iron Works

by pateluday

Iron has been in use since prehistoric times dating back to 4000 BCE. That is the period when artifacts were made of meteoric iron in absence of the mining and smelting process.

The use of iron for making artifacts, weapons, and cooking utensils dates back to 1400 BCE when smelting was discovered. The stone age was brought to a glorious end with the advent of metalworking. The use of bronze diminished whence relegated by iron.

Advances in extraction and fabrication introduced iron for making architectural features of residential buildings in Europe. Iron gained popularity and remained in vogue for an extended period in Europe before steel came into the picture. Used mainly for utilitarian purposes the metal fulfilled the needs of the armies and the households with little decorative impressions. It had become commercialized as smelting advanced subsequently it evolved into diverse alloys chiefly wrought and cast iron. Ironworks in the present times refers to an alloy of mild steel very much popular for the fabrication of building components and period structures.

Image Ornamental Window

Ornamental Window Iron Works
Ornamental Window Iron Works

Popularity of Iron Working

Advent of Industrialization

During the middle age, the metal took firm ground commercially as well as for residential purposes. This is the period whence metal use improved strikingly due to technological innovations in Europe. The same technology powered American colonies but the impact was much different from that experienced in Europe. 

The use of water vapor in American colonies with the blast furnace expedited the whole manufacturing process as compared to concurrent European methodology. Blacksmithing increased the demand for metal with a focus on housewares and castle armories in Europe. Ironworking in the era was becoming popular in the rest of the World as well but there was no industrial revolution taking place since most of the countries had become colonies from where the raw material was sourced. 

Technological innovations reached down the line to farmers in small towns and villages thus transforming agricultural practices and enriching society. This was the beginning of the industrial era which turned the Americas and Europe into economic powerhouses that still dominate the World. 

Eventually, the tussle between the Europeans and colonies led to better methods of smelting and smithing but unfortunately, vast tracts of forests became a casualty. While Europe lost nearly all of its wooded area barely five percent of forests now survive in America.  

Window Grill

Window Grill Ironworks
Window Grill Ironworks

Decorative Impressions

Architectural Features

Wrought iron gained popularity because it was malleable and could easily be turned into desired shapes, unlike cast iron. As architectural use became popular the metal was used incessantly in making gates, doors, and windows.  

Ornamental angle crept into ironworks in the sixteenth century. Artisan or rather blacksmiths created artistic patterns in the building components in order to make them more appealing than just products of plain metal. The style matched well with the outlook of the royals and nobles of that Era. Some of the fine examples are beautiful designs seen in historic works in Europe. These works were incorporated into the doors and windows of notable churches and castles.  

Some of the examples are:

  • Notre Dame Paris
  • Royal Chappel Granada
  • Chantilly Castle Gates

The industrial revolution brought about tremendous change in the way iron was produced. Notable among them is the invention of a puddling furnace with grooves that resulted in the mechanical production of ornamental works. The invention is credited to Henry Cort of the UK who patented the process in 1784.   

Steel Masters IronWorks

Ornamental Iron Gate

Ornamental Iron Gate
Ornamental Iron Gate

Contemporary Iron Works & Preserved Structures

US Ironworks

The works created by Spanish and French masters are well preserved in New Orleans. The exquisite patterns as a result of ornamental works can be best seen at the places mentioned below:

  • LeBranche House
  • Gateway of Cabildo
  • Washington Cathedral
  • Harvard University
  • Yale University

Craftsmen like Samuel Yellin of Philadelphia were instrumental in promoting ornamental works in the USA. The last three are his works in 1900, and leave a distinct impact on the course that was being followed in that century.

As civilization moves forward modern ironworks follow the course. In the contemporary era, intrinsic ornamental work has been replaced with aesthetic design with fewer motifs, twists, and turns. Nevertheless, in modern times mild steel ironworks does not fail to impact our civilization. Still alive and roaring it is cruising along with the fabrication of diverse steel alloys that rule the roost. The designs are functional and long-lasting with aesthetics in place to enhance the natural beauty of the living structures.

Products Iron Work

Updated: 12/01/2022, pateluday
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pateluday on 10/04/2021

Historical events are better recorded in Europe than in India, and chronological overlaps are in a haze here.!

frankbeswick on 10/03/2021

Quite correct, but there was a period when technologies overlapped. In Britain bronze was an elite alloy so ordinary people used stone weapons. Iron is easier to handle than bronze is, so became the metal of choice, but flint tools continued to be knapped [made] until about 500 BC.

pateluday on 10/01/2021

Yes true but I believe as soon use of metals became popular wood was used as support may to make a base or handle of swords and daggers etc.

frankbeswick on 10/01/2021

Archaeological evidence of wooden weapons is hard to find, as wood decays, whereas metal is more durable.

pateluday on 09/27/2021

Tribals in India do use bows and arrows made of wood. So wooden weapons may have been common in the country, but widespread mention is not there. Thanks for the information.

frankbeswick on 09/23/2021

Weapons made of wood were used in the British Isles. One version of the King Arthur legend [500 CE] has Arthur being killed with a spear made of ash wood, a wood that made hard, sharp spears.

pateluday on 09/23/2021

Iron age was between 1300 TO 300 bc Post-Harappan Period in India. Wood was used in conjunction with metal but there is no record of weapons made entirely of wood. But wooden artifacts have been used all over the world since prehistoric times. Recent excavations show that ironworking may have originated in 1800 BCE in India.

The iron pillar of Delhi is a structure 23 feet 8 inches (7.2 meters) high with 16 inches (40.64 cm) diameter that was constructed by Chandragupta II (reigned c. 375–415 CE. (Wikipedia). No such mention of building components made of iron. The European style of gates and windows were incorporated with the arrival of British and Portuguese in India.

DerdriuMarriner on 09/20/2021

pateluday, Thank you for practical information, pretty pictures and product lines.
Ancient Hawaiians perfected wood-working to the degree that their equipment and spears respectively cut and pierced competitively with metal. Hawaii is mineral-poor but ancient Hawaiians knew metal from what drifted in on the tides from other distant civilizations.
Do you know if perhaps ancient Indians did likewise, perfected sharp-edged weapons, sharp-sided tools before embracing metal?
Also, what would rank among famousest, oldest subcontinental equivalents of famous iron gates, grills, structures and works that you give for America and Europe?

pateluday on 08/09/2021

Thanks, blackspanielgallery

blackspanielgallery on 08/08/2021

Nice images of creativity using iron.

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