River City Ironworks - The History Of Ironwork
When it comes to ironwork the first thing that might come to many people’s minds are iron fences, iron gates, handrails, and other residential ironwork. And rightly so.
Our knowledge of ironworks is often influenced by what we are exposed to. But ironwork is far more than that. As a matter of fact, ironwork has long been put to commercial use as much as it has for residential purposes.
It all started way back in time, as far back as 2000 BC when the Hittites were known to make their weapons out of raw iron ore. Due to the rarity of metal and exclusivity of the blacksmithing craft, ironwork was limited to military use at that time.
With increasing knowledge, training and the availability of iron ore, ironwork would transition from solely military use to more utilitarian purposes. Ironwork would be used in architecture, artwork, and even common cooking utensils.
Back in the day, blacksmithing was a revered profession as people viewed their skill-set as otherworldly. As we moved into the Middle Ages, ironwork would be prominently used as decorative features in both publicly and privately owned structures.
Decorative ornate ironwork can be seen in ancient popular Cathedrals like the Notre Dame de Paris in Paris, France and the Canterbury Cathedral in Canterbury, England.
The impressive ironwork craftsmanship in these Cathedrals and others like them served the dual purpose of prestige and functionality. The ironwork served to provide protection to various points of entry into the Cathedrals including the windows and doorways. Ironwork was used to secure these points of entry from the threat of invaders and robbers.
The ornate nature of ironwork would be enhanced from the early 16th century when blacksmiths would hone in their craft and design works of art that would endure for centuries.
Cathedrals built in Spain and those developed abroad by the Spanish conquistadors were renowned for their rejería. The rejería were large iron screens with a height of about nine meters which adorned the Cathedrals providing both a sense of style and security to the edifice.
Wrought iron was predominantly used in the Baroque as well as Rocco eras. Wrought ironwork was heavy, expensive and could only be molded into works of art by skilled blacksmiths of the time.
The French were particularly skilled in developing fashionable gateways, stair railings, and wrought iron balconies. This was a skill that was introduced in England by Jean Tijou and is prominent in many structures like St Paul’s Cathedral and Hampton Court.
Wrought ironwork would become a common theme in Europe and would eventually be introduced in North America by both the English and French colonists.
Over time the use of wrought iron has been substituted with ornate ironwork which incorporates steel in the smelting process. Ornate ironwork does not rely on raw iron ore alone like in the case of wrought iron.
Ornate ironwork is machine produced rather than developed solely by a blacksmith like wrought ironwork. This makes ornate ironwork a more commercially produced, less expensive, and lightweight form of ironwork.
The availability of ornate ironwork has increased its use for both commercial and residential purposes. Artistic ornamental ironwork can be seen in many homes throughout North American with beautiful railings and gates the most common.
With the help of articulated ironwork machines, more ironwork can be produced on a much large scale and at a much faster speed. This is why in today’s market; ironwork is more accessible than ever before.
While the use of wrought iron never went out of fashion, it’s unique blacksmithing process and high cost of production seemingly limited its wider use.
Wrought iron as mentioned earlier makes use of only raw iron ore which makes it heavier and more expensive than ornate ironwork. But wrought iron also offers quite a few benefits that have endeared ironwork to the hearts of many people all around the world.
Some of these benefits include:
- Wrought ironwork is developed with premium or high-quality raw iron ore.
- Wrought ironwork is sturdy, highly durable and can last for a very long time.
- Wrought ironwork is designed by blacksmiths making each ironwork unique in their design. If you want an original ironwork design and you can afford it, then wrought ironwork could be perfect for your needs.
- Wrought ironwork offers customized designs that are limited only by your imagination. You can bring back Victorian styled gates, fences, railings, chairs, tables, patio furniture, and so on.
On the other hand, ornate ironwork is made from steel which makes it lighter and cheaper in comparison to wrought ironwork, but by no means less functional or aesthetic.
Ornamental ironwork offers users many benefits; some of these benefits are:
- Ornate ironwork can be mass produced. This makes it perfect for both residential and commercial projects as this type of ironwork can be easily replicated or repaired by machines.
- Ornamental ironwork is durable and long lasting. They often come with product warranties that can range from 10 years up to 25 years.
- The lightweight nature of this ironwork makes it very practicable. Ornate ironwork can be used for a number of functional and aesthetic purposes.
- This ironwork provides good security for your home or business. Ornamental ironwork can be used in making fences, gates, guard rails or burglary proofing for both windows and doors.
- Ironwork is available almost everywhere. Unlike wrought iron that offers a uniqueness in product design, you can find similar designs for your ornate ironwork.
- Ornamental ironwork is weatherproof and can withstand very harsh climatic conditions including extreme cold and heat.
- If you need ironwork for a large-scale project, then ornate ironwork will be ideally suited to your needs.
- Ornate ironwork is very flexible and can be fitted into all sorts of uneven angles and corners. This ironwork comes in a number of different shapes and forms. You can get them as rings, sheets, bars, and so much more.