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Wrought Iron Wagon Wheels

Discussion in 'Shop Talk - BladeSmith Questions and Answers' started by unky_gumbi, Jun 29, 2011.

  1. unky_gumbi


    Aug 28, 2009
    So after reading a number of threads yesterday on the subject, it leaves me wondering just what part of the wheel are people getting the wrought iron from. Most of the pictures with people showing the break test where you saw part way through and bend it to expose the grain were done on spokes and not the rim. The one picture I saw of a rim was Robert Mayo's cross section of the rim that showed two distinct metals but no grain.

    Is the spoke the only part that they used wrought iron on in wagon wheels? Also does any one know the rough time when they switched over from wrought iron to mild steel for farm implement wheels?

    The reason I am asking is because I was out for a bike ride in the country the other day and saw a number of wheels for sale at a reasonable price and I was thinking of grabbing a couple if there is a good chance of them being wrought iron. I do know where there is a big chunk of wrought iron here in town, but they may get upset if I start cutting pieces off of the anchor they have mounted down town:p

  2. Stacy E. Apelt - Bladesmith

    Stacy E. Apelt - Bladesmith ilmarinen - MODERATOR Moderator Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Aug 20, 2004
    Most wheel bands I have seen are steel, not WI. Some older ones are WI. Those are usually pre-1880.
  3. fast14riot

    fast14riot Gold Member Gold Member

    Oct 27, 2010
    You know I was wonering the same thing not that long ago, except I just let it go. I know some of the smiths over in the axe, hawk & hatchet forum use wagon wheels (along with traditional methods) quite a bit. Why not jut look for anything about wagon wheels to find out what was used on which part. As far as when it fell out of use, I think it going to be close to 100 years ago. Haven't seen anything made of wrought iron any newer than that. Maybe look for some large anchor chain, it often times is wrought iron as well.

    Ill be paying attention to this thread, one thing about living in the middle of '49 rush country has some benefits, lot of old stuff!

  4. Kentucky


    Dec 13, 2008
    One of my very favorite materials..I love to make hawks from it...
    Look for wagon wheels that have wooden spokes and hub.If it has steel spokes then its not gonna be wrought. Only the outside band around the wooden rim is wrought iron. Wrought is easy to tell if you know what to look for. It has a grain, like wood and even when rusted it will be rusted "with the grain"..It will have long striations in the surface usually. Even easier to tell when you cut about half way thru and break it..This is the only pic I have handy. This is a piece of wrought wagon rim. Its kinda hard to tell but you can see the long streaks in the wrm that hasnt been forged on thru the rust. then on the piece thats been welded in the middle you can really see the striations on the forged side..
  5. unky_gumbi


    Aug 28, 2009
    OK I ended up giving up on my search to find some wrought iron locally in the wild and bought some of the stuff that AC Richards had for sale. It just arrived today and I realized that I don't really know how to work with it:eek: I have done some searching, but have had no luck in finding information on things like forging temps or what to use for etching to get the pattern to come out.

    Any info to point me in the right direction would be a BIG help.

  6. Carl_First_Timer


    Dec 6, 2010
    This was found by my Grandfather up in California Gold country. My Great Aunt has the matching one.

    From a best guess would this be Wrought Iron?

  7. mete

    mete Gold Member Gold Member

    Jun 10, 2003
    You need higher forging temps than steel . The 'Grain ' caused by the inclusions which are strung out from forging . NYC still has lots of 100 + year old wrought iron water mains in service !!
  8. jawilder


    Jun 27, 2006
    Speaking of WI WW...
    I picked these up yesterday from a lady trying to sell her dad's house. I just had to do a little bit of weed pulling and these are mine. Remember, it never hurts to ask.
    I got all 4.

    Very wide rims

    I cut one of the bands from the hub off and it sure looks like what WI is supposed to look like. I suppose there is around 200# of this stuff here. Enough to make fittings for at lest one knife :)
  9. Mark Behnke

    Mark Behnke

    Apr 16, 2008
  10. Brian Ayres

    Brian Ayres

    Feb 4, 2011
    I'mm looking forward to some advice on forging wrought too. I have forty ponds of wrought anchor chain and need to forge a guard this next week.
    Last edited: Aug 2, 2011
  11. Kentucky


    Dec 13, 2008
    Work it hot, I mean hot. Like as in high yellow almost white hot..Anything below a high orange/low yellow and it will start to tear apart..
  12. A C Richards

    A C Richards KnifeMaker / Craftsman / Service Provider Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Apr 14, 2006
    Work the wrought at forge welding temps. You can usually tell wrought from the uneven rust and stringy appearance to the wheel rim. I have found a few non-wrought rims. There is some very refined wrought out there also but it still has a different look than mild, at least to me. I have a whole wagon, well the remains of one, where the metal parts were all wrought iron. All the lag bolts, rings, axle and running gear. All the metal parts were made form wrought. If in doubt do an etch test to make sure. I have some wrought that is very clean but it is wrought. Almost no grain but it is visible and when I do an etch I can see the different blooms that were used in the billet.
  13. Phil Dwyer

    Phil Dwyer KnifeMaker / Craftsman / Service Provider Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Feb 28, 2006
    Hi Friends!

    I love looking at this stuff. When I behold, and especially hold, some wrought iron I feel similar to when I do with meteoric iron. I guess it's a back to the roots kind of thing. Anyway, I'm wondering what you WI experts think of this stuff. I grew up with this thing in the woods across the street. My Dad hauled it over to his property some years later when the developers started building over there. I've cut up one of the rims and brought it back to Hawaii with me. I didn't realize they sometimes worked the iron until it was so clean and tight--if it is the real stuff that is. Seems like it is. Oh ya, do you recon the axle and hub stuff is good too?

    All the best, Phil

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Aug 5, 2011
  14. Phil Dwyer

    Phil Dwyer KnifeMaker / Craftsman / Service Provider Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Feb 28, 2006
    Here's a closer pix of the a piece sawed
    most of the way through, then bent and broken...

    One side of the break...

    The other side etched a bit...

    Some of the surface sanded to 800 grit and etched...

    So what do you think???
    Last edited: Aug 5, 2011
  15. A C Richards

    A C Richards KnifeMaker / Craftsman / Service Provider Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Apr 14, 2006

    It is hard to say for sure if you have WI. It looks like it might be based on the one picture that shows some separation on the bend, second to last pic. It is very clean but does not look like mild etched. Do a heavier etch and see what happens. Make sure it is s good 800 grit finish too, it almost looks like there are some heavier scratches on the bottom etched piece. If there were no scratches at all then you are seeing the WI grain. There is some very clean WI out there. It is not usually seen on wagon wheels though. It took too much work and was more expensive. The really clean stuff is called triple puddle. They actually re-smelted the bloom to remove most of the silica slag. The really dirty grainy stuff is called muck-bar. Literally they too the muck left over from the smelt and formed the billet to draw out into useable material. Looking at some of those standing wagon parts I would have taken them all home and done some testing. Just takes a little time and it looks like there is likely a lot of WI in there. Hope this helps, off to a mini show in town.

    Take care

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