Scott Roush of Big Rock Forge in Washburn, Wisconsin, filed the following post describing how he uses Real Wrought Iron salvaged from the 1887 Globe Elevator:
The larger rods get forged down into sizes that can be laminated to the sides of high-carbon cores to make a type of steel that has been around for centuries and that the Japanese call "san mai." This is basically a method of forge-welding iron and steel together. Some claim that this improves the performance of the blade, but I believe it is mostly a conservation technique. Making steel was extremely time consuming and expensive when manual labor, charcoal production and other variables were factored in. Low-carbon iron (wrought iron) was more abundant and less expensive, so making a blade in this manner was essentially pragmatic. The iron could be placed on the spine and the high-carbon steel could be left for the edge.
I like to do it because it adds "story" to the blade and it's beautiful. A lot of the lower-quality wrought iron was made with techniques that have been around since the early Iron Age, and these methods result in iron of a very heterogeneous nature. The imperfections inherent in the iron appear as complex patterns when etched in acid (see photo above). I love this character. The pattern is even more dramatic when contaminants such as phosphorus are present, as is the case with the iron from this old grain elevator. I also like to use this iron for the guards and other metal fittings in my knives, swords and axes (see photo below).
This iron can also be forged down into flat bars to be carburized into blister steel and shear steel. This is another ancient technique, and it makes functional and beautiful blades. I've also forged the wrought iron directly into knives and spears and carburized them as nearly finished blades in a charcoal forge fire -- a technique once used by the Vikings. You can check out Scott's blog at http://www.bigrockforge.com/blog/
The long war knife in this image has a pure wrought iron blade that was forged to shape and then carburized. The little blade has wrought iron sides and a high-carbon core.
Scott Roush of Big Rock Forge in Washburn, Wisconsin, sent us this photo of two blades that he made by melting down some Old Globe wrought iron nails into steel in his Aristotle furnace. "The steel was so high carbon that it had to be layered with iron to bring the carbon down," Roush reported. You can see more of his work, and learn how he makes carbon steel from wrought iron, on his blog: http://www.bigrockforge.com/blog/
Here is a creation by Daniel Kretchmar of Irontreeworks.com. Here's what Daniel has to say about the knife, which can be custom ordered.
This German style chef's knife was custom made for chef in Indiana. The blade is approximately 10 inches long and the handle is approximately 5 inches. The pattern welded (Damascus) blade is made from 81 layers of wrought iron taken from a 1880s grainery in Superior Wisconsin and 1075 high carbon steel. The odd number of layers (81) comes from the fact that prior to the final fold, an extra layer of 1075 was added to the center to gaurantee the edge would be high carbon steel. The addition of the wrought iron ennsures that this blade will not break. The experimental profile of this blade is forged, rather than ground to shape. This means that the outer layer remained intact, hiding the damascus pattern. Only the center layer of 1075 is visible along the edge. The entire pattern can be made visible and acid etched if requested at the time of ordering. The handle is made from oiled rattan, but future handles will be made from reclaimed teak. Any special instructions must be agreed upon before work begins.
Here is the latest creation from John Cohea using antique real wrought iron salvaged from the 1888 Old Globe Elevators.
John made the handle, frame, and guard from flat bar. The spacer is from a bolt head. The sheath prop on the stand is made from antique wrought iron nails that he twisted and then etched.
Here are pics of blacksmith Nick Wheeler at his forge, along with a knife he made using antique real wrought iron in the guard and ferrule. What is a "ferrule", you ask? That's the circular metal ring that holds the blade's tang to the handle. Click on picture to enlarge image.
Here are a couple pictures of a knife crafted by John M. Cohea and some friends which will be raffled to raise money for the march of dimes. John made the handle using antique real wrought iron salvaged from the 1887 globe elevators.
The spacer on the handle is forged from 3/4" round rod, and the frame is from flat bar.