Architectural Ironwork: What You Need To Know

Facts about Architectural Steelwork

Architectural Ironwork is an old art that is still being widely practiced till our current day. Though the tools and methods have changed and evolved over the years, the aim of creating beautiful, attractive, and functional architectural elements has remained the same.

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Fig.1- Classic Architectural Ironwork. Photo by Pikist

Many companies have been involved in this career for over a hundred years. Most of them started as what we called the village blacksmith in the XVIIIth century or later, and have been handcrafting beautiful works from iron ever since.

Architectural Ironworks is one of the most visible and exposed elements of a building and has been used for decorative and structural purposes for centuries. From complex railings to brutal beams, the proper ironwork can add elegance, style, and strength to any construction or edifice.

To create beautiful and lasting architectural ironwork designs, craftsmen must have a deep understanding of metalworking techniques as well as a creative flair. By combining these skills altogether with modern tools and technology, they can produce pieces that are both stunning and valuable. It also adds beauty to the architectural concept by using different ironwork elements.

Today, Architectural Ironwork is not considered as much an essential part of the construction process itself, but as part of the ornamentation required to add beauty and character to the project.

Unfortunately, this is probably the last part of the construction planning, where the project budget is often exhausted, reserving just a little sum of money for the decorative and ornamental works. While budgets and financial constraints cannot be set apart, what is often ignored is the value that architectural ironwork can add to any building; In other terms, this kind of additional carryout is more measured as a work of art than a regular construction work, which is typically more expensive.

Architectural Steelwork in History

It is hard to determine the exact period in which Architectural Ironwork first appeared but it indeed came into being when the first nail was used to assemble two pieces of wood or else to create some sort of primitive structure. From there till now, and passing thru the angle iron that could join angled pieces of wood arriving at bolts, hinges, latches, locks, frameworks, plates, and much more, architectural ironwork had made great steps forward.

As mentioned earlier, Iron has been used in building construction for centuries. The Romans were somehow the first people to use cast iron in their construction projects. The metal is strong and durable, which is why it is still used today. In the modern era, Architects and Designers are still coming up with new and innovative ways to use iron in their designs and various projects.

In fact, around the year 1884, some established firms started producing this art craft after being for long years limited only to those traditional village blacksmiths. (See Fig.2 below)

Even though, the basic process of architectural ironwork has not changed much since those past days; Metal is still heated until it becomes soft and malleable and then beaten into the desired shapes and forms. Modern production techniques have dramatically increased the speed and quantity in which architectural ironwork may be produced.

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Fig.2- The old Village Blacksmith, painting by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow- Photo: Pinterest

However, being a handcrafted or factory-produced work, ironwork always adds beauty and elegance to any building facade.

Types of Ironworks

Almost all construction materials, whether it is concrete, steel, or wood are either cast, carved, or rolled, only ironwork made an exception here: It is created by a process of heating the raw material and then hammering it into the desired shape.

The majority of people think of architectural ironworks as being just one type of wrought iron fixtures and ornamental elements. However, knowing the difference between the various types of steelworks will allow using the right type in the right place.

Here are some of the main types:

1- WROUGHT IRON

Is the iron that is set to form and create shapes. The most common example of this process is wrought iron for garden furniture and various fixtures. In architectural use, it can be found where the artistic appeal is most important to display such as in carved works around garden fences and gates, grills, wall-mounted light fixtures, or even balustrades of balconies. (Fig.3)

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Fig.3- Example of Wrought iron, by besopha - Flickr: Le Balcon, CC BY-SA 2.0, Wikipedia

Wrought ironwork is made by using the old classic blacksmithing procedures. It is then hammered and forged over an anvil. (See Fig.4)

Anvil,
Fig.4- Anvil, Photo: ubuy.com.tr

All other types of wrought ironwork have the same production process, which means by hand, and are called hand-wrought ironwork. It also uses an anvil and then heats and hammers the iron so that they can create various designs and textures in the melted iron. (See Fig.3 above)

2- FORGED WORKS

Those are where the metal is heated till it becomes malleable and then is beaten into the desired shape. This may be a preliminary application to wrought iron or a complete process in itself.

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Example of Cast Iron: Mounted light, Photo by Mathias Reding

Forged items are usually resistant materials and have great load-bearing capabilities. They are great solutions for applications where the architectural ironwork must have a dual function of decorating and supporting heavyweights to fulfill.

Shortly, this type doesn’t differ much from the previous one.

3- CAST IRON

On the other hand, is the type of iron that is put into an “oven” and "heated" using different layers of coking iron, and then it is poured into various molds. Cast iron is generated by melting iron until it reaches a liquid state and then pouring it into special molds that give its shape to the iron when it is cooled and returns to its solid form.

Cast architectural ironwork is relatively cheap to produce compared to other types; Since the molds can be reused enabling multiple productions of the same design. Looking for ready-made cast works to include in an architectural design might be more economical and lesser costly than using forged or wrought pieces specially customized to order.

Recommendation for DIYers!

To put your conception into reality, you have to properly design and draft your related drawings accurately to make them easy to be executed on-site and just as you desired them to be. Therefore, in this section, I will be sharing with you some AutoCAD drawings files, that contain examples of nicely designed ironwork, especially for the railing and window openings, in addition to external gardens gates and fences;

I make it super easy for DIY lovers to have hands-on with two very beautiful designs that can transform their normal elevations into majestic and legendary facades, especially for the Lebanese Traditional Style.

  • You can extract the drawing blocks from the downloaded (.DWG) or (.RAR) files type to use on your own, and much more. (See the links below)
  • Get inside the link to manage how you can benefit from the given file for both professionals and students.

➤ Get The PRIVATE RESIDENCE File TODAY for all the amazing balustrade and window openings patterns, that can be used to show the architectural ironwork in the Traditional Lebanese style! (A 3 Mb File Size to download)

➤ Also, try this another COLLECTION OF ARCHITECTURAL IRONWORK MODELS ready to use in your projects. For both professionals and DIYers.


Fields of Usage in Architecture and ID

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Fig.5- Example of a simple architectural ornamental Ironwork used for decorating an external window opening, Photo by Charles Parker

Ornamental Ironworks are mainly the architectural elements that are featured within a building and used for decoration. Usually, two types of iron are the most employed — Wrought Iron which is mostly used for commercial purposes, and Cast Iron which comes in white or gray color but is significantly more expensive.

One important field where iron is being used more progressively is Architecture. Architects are using cast and wrought iron to create fences, gates, railings, and other features of the building. The metal can be used to create complex designs that add visual interest and character to the construction. 

Additionally, iron is preferred because of its durability, sustainability, and strength.

Ironwork is often produced with a moderate state of the metal because raw iron is hard to find in some regions like the United States, and what is available in the market comes from the UK. This type of ironwork makes it low-cost compared to what it would cost for true wrought iron.

A variety of designs can be formed in that way from the very complex and complicated to the very simple creation regarding their quality or property.

Generally, most of the ironwork is custom-designed to fit the needs and the desire of each customer apart. Blacksmiths who perform this kind of ironwork can clone anything that their clients might replica on standard paper because they are skilled and talented in the usage of blacksmithing and welding techniques, plus years of experience in both methods.


Welding with cast iron or wrought iron requires special skills because these are not easy metals to manipulate and with so many welders specialized in several features, they have reached a level that allows them to easily produce this type of work.

Ironworks has been used in Architecture for centuries but are often considered a structural material. However, in modern times, architects are starting to appreciate and value the potential of ironworks and are using them in new and innovative ways. Ironwork is ideal to produce a variety of different components of a building, such as railings, staircases, and opening ornamentation. It is also a great material for decorative and functional elements, such as gates and fences.

Furthermore, ironworks can be used to create both indoor and outdoor spaces; Such as creating exterior and interior furnished living areas, and they can be applied to any style of architecture. (See Fig.6 and 7 below)

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Fig.6- A bedroom fabricated with wrought iron; Durable and strong furniture. Photo by freestocks.org

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Fig.7- Another sample of wrought iron garden furniture, Photo by: ofdesign.net

Welders will work with the repair as well (see the related section below) and with ornamental ironwork. They produce and install their creations which will beautify the front and back yards of people’s homes who appreciate this kind of work. Also, some manufacturers do use machines to produce some of their work to save time and effort.

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Tips on Maintaining Your Architectural Ironworks

Cover of the guide

For the best maintenance recommendation, download this quick but valuable guide that focuses on the conservation and caring of external decorative architectural cast ironwork.

It offers practical and helpful guidance on maintenance and repair issues, specially composed for Planners and Owners, Conservation, and other Heritage lovers.

Multiple suggestions on how to protect your wrought iron from bad climate and humidity in the air, and many more useful topics...

➤ You can download the full guide MAINTENANCE AND REPAIR TECHNIQUES FOR TRADITIONAL CAST IRON from here.

• (You can preview the cover of the e-book above)

PRODUCT DETAILS:
  • It is 100% free and 100% virus and threats-free;
  • Very tiny file size: a (.pdf) file of only 1.34 Mb
  • 40 pages, including many colored and explicative illustrations!
  • Date published: 01 March 2013
  • Language: English.
  • Reference and Author of this guide: Historic Environment Scotland.

2 Reference Books to Growth Your Knowledge

  • If you're interested in learning more about this fascinating art form or want to discover all the wonders of manufacturing, here’s a valuable reference guidebook, all with illustrated images, to help you become an experienced DIY in this profession. It will unlock all the secrets behind your favorite industry.

  • Another interesting book recently published, explores a specific region in a specific period: Beirut during the XXe century which was famous for its beautiful and various architectural ironworks featured everywhere in the city...

*THIS ARTICLE MIGHT CONTAIN SPONSORED OR AFFILIATE PROGRAM LINKS. WE MIGHT GET A SMALL COMMISSION ON YOUR PURCHASE AT NO EXTRA CHARGE TO YOU.
 

Nadim Maani

Blogging about Architecture and Designs AutoCAD, Photoshop, 3DS Max, and other software Tips and Tutorials, Lebanese Traditional Style, Real Estate, Home Improvement, Travel, and Places to Visit.

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