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Wrought Iron vs. Ornamental Iron

Published by Webmaster

At Top Line Fence, we have heard just about every question when it comes to fence repairs and installation. One of the most common questions we are asked is what the difference is between wrought iron and Chicago ornamental iron. Today, the terms “wrought iron” and “ornamental iron” are used interchangeably. However, historians will give you a different definition for wrought iron. Learn the difference between Chicago ornamental iron and wrought iron according to history.


The old definition of wrought iron referred to iron that was worked while white hot, shaped by physical force, such as a blacksmith’s hammers. In addition, instead of the arc welding used today, a traditional blacksmith used forge welding to join two white hot pieces of metal, then fused them together with blows of a hammer. Today, you can identify real traditional wrought iron by slight irregularities where it is shaped by hand tools rather than by machines.

Bent Work

Today, much of what passes for wrought iron would have been called “bent work” back in the day by purists. Instead of heating metal, until it’s white hot, bent work involved metal strips, tubing or bars that are cut, heated and then would be bent. Bent work is joined by arc welding or fasteners rather than forge welding.

Carbon Content

Another major historical difference between Chicago ornamental iron and wrought iron is carbon content. Old-time blacksmiths would use low-carbon iron, which contained 0.04% carbon. Today, Chicago ornamental iron work is made of mild steel, which has a 0.2 to 0.6% carbon content. It is very difficult to come across low-carbon iron today.

Call Top Line Fence today to learn about Chicago ornamental iron at (773) 637-2122.

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