Steel and iron are two of the most commonly and widely used materials in the manufacturing and engineering industries.
The two are very similar with one big difference.
Is steel stronger than wrought iron? Wrought iron beats steel in strength almost every time due to its longevity, durability, and customization. Iron is a metal and steel is a less expensive man-made alloy containing iron and carbon. Depending on the infrastructure, engineers will weigh the options between steel and iron for their construction needs.
While the debate of which is stronger has been around since the invention of steel, it is important to note the history of each to see how mankind has adapted to each good and made improvements to a better society.
How To Evaluate the Strength of Metals
There are four determinants to consider when trying to find out the strength of the metal, and they include these four strength qualities:
Tensile strength involves pulling apart a material, and measuring how well it resists.
Compressive strength involves compressing, or squeezing, a material and measuring its resistance to being compressed.
Yield Strength involves bending or deforming a material and measuring its resitance to this.
Impact strength involves applying a forceful impact to material and measuring when the material will shatter from impact.
Why Wrought Iron Is a Better Choice Over Steel
It’s not that steel is a bad choice over wrought-iron, but it’s important to know why steel is often chosen over iron.
The popularity of steel came after the search for a quicker and less expensive way to produce building materials on a large scale.
Wrought iron is consistently strong and durable. It takes many years to master the difficult and technical craft of making wrought-iron materials but when it’s done correctly, it will stand up to some of the toughest blows that come its way.
Due to the precise nature of creating wrought-iron materials, a lot of work goes into producing something from wrought-iron. Because of this, you end up with a solid product or material that will last long enough for even your grandchildren to enjoy.
Wrought iron is fully customizable, and there’s typically just one person from start ot finish when creating something. Steel, on the other hand, is more like a giant factory with many different steps, process, people and robots making it.
Wrought iron can create something more similar to a piece of art, which makes the additional costs worth it in the long-term. You won’t end up with a generic looking product that is present in almost every other backyard or home.
Types of Iron
There are two main types of iron, cast iron and wrought iron.
Cast iron is iron that is not worked with hammers but rather produced by smelting iron. Cast iron is made through the use of a mould. The combination of high carbon and silicon is what makes cast iron a malleable product; what makes it “castable.”
Wrought iron is purely elemental (Fe). It becomes “wrought” after being heated in a furnace and “worked” with hammers on an anvil. By hammering iron, it becomes more of a cohesive material that welds the iron particles together.
So How Strong is Wrought Iron?
Wrought iron is not only a long-lasting element, but one that is timeless, practical, and eco-friendly. Wrought iron is timeless and still considered and used against steel for protecting your home as security doors, gates, fences, and more. Because of its composition, wrought iron can withstand great physical duress.
Among its strength and durability, wrought iron can also be designed and utilized for the individual according to the theme, look, and customization. This flexibility of design and strength makes it a very popular choice in safeguarding homes, businesses, and infrastructure.
Because it is easy to recycle and repurpose, wrought iron is also a heavily sought after material because it can be easily replaced and is the “green” choice for many individuals wanting to leave less of a carbon footprint.
Types of Steel
There are four main types of steel that are commonly used today: carbon steel, alloy steel, tool steel, and stainless steel.
Within carbon steel, there are three grades in which it is categorized. Low carbon steel, medium carbon steel, and high carbon steel. It is named carbon steel for its integrity of being mostly steel and containing very little carbon.
Carbon steel is used for high-tension wires, knives, and automotive parts.
Alloy steel is a more inexpensive steel option. For alloy steel, its strength depends on the combination of which metals are used. The most commonly used metals in alloy steel are nickel, copper, and aluminum.
Tool steel is used most commonly to make metal tools, hence its name, “tool steel.” It is both heat and scrapes resistant making it another durable steel option.
It is primarily comprised of cobalt, molybdenum, and tungsten.
Perhaps the most common, the household term for steel, stainless steel gets its name from its shiny exterior finish. It is used most commonly in surgical equipment and household appliances.
A Brief History of Iron
Archaeologists discovered that the origin of iron quite literally, came from the sky. Found from meteorites, iron is said to be used first by ancient Egyptians dating around 3200 B.C.
After the collapse of several civilizations and the end of the Bronze Age, The Iron Age began between 1200 B.C. and 600 B.C. With the collapse of civilizations in Egypt and western Africa, trade routes became dismantled, making bronze a difficult good to obtain so metal smiths turned to iron instead.
In Iron Age Europe, rural and agricultural life improved with iron tools, making farming easier and more efficient.
Since the Iron Age, iron has been a crucial need for any civilization. In 1644 America, two bog-iron smelters were built, one south of Boston and one north of Boston on the Saugus River.
Aptly, it was named the Saugus Iron Works and operated until 1668. The primary purpose of the Saugus Works was to mill wrought iron into thin strips, cut those strips into thin rods, and sell them to householders.
The household would then shape each of these rods into a point and use them like nails. These nails are what built the beginning infrastructure in the 17th century.
Iron has been a primal good since even before the Iron Age. Because of its longevity and longstanding history, we think of iron as stronger than steel. Both are used for different engineering and structural needs. Let’s take a look at the history of steel.
A Brief History of Steel
Steel, at its core, represents development. The history of steel dates back almost as far as iron. In the 13th century B.C., early blacksmiths discovered the combination of iron and charcoal.
The material that would be steel, became harder and stronger when left in the furnace. In ancient India, the discovery of ‘Wootz’ steel, and admired metal to this day, is invented around the 3rd century B.C.
While traditional ‘Wootz’ steel doesn’t exist anymore, it is still imitated in manufacturing today for its strength and durability. By the 18th century, blacksmiths were creating steel products like swords that were not only useful but beautiful.
As agriculture and civilizations advanced in the 1800s, farming drastically changed due to steel in Europe and the United States. In 1855, steel became massively produced thanks to Henry Bessemer and the Bessemer process.
Steel could now be mass-produced in a cost-efficient way from molten pig iron. In just 10 short years, another development enhanced the steel industry. Carl Wilhelm Siemens developed a regenerative furnace which helped save 80% of the heat originally used.
It seemed that every five years, a new discovery and enhancement was made with steel.
In 1865, the move from rural life to urban life was made possible due to steel railroads and by the 1880s, a labour union for steel and iron was created.
As the demand for military equipment increased through much of the 19th century for World War I and World War II, production of steel became that much more of a commodity.
More than 100 years later, steel is so widely used that recycling programs for steel became an efficient and economical way to reuse the highly commodified material.
Since the invention of steel, around the world, it has advanced technology, military weapons, and become a necessary recyclable. As the world continues to innovate, so do steelworkers and the use of steel itself.
If it’s strength and durability you’re looking for, wrought iron will almost always win over steel. This is due to its ability to maintain its strength and durability even when being customized.
But wrought-iron comes with a cost. If you have a large job or require lots of metal materials, wrought-iron may not be feasible. This is why steel came into existence, to offer a more affordable building material.
So if you’re looking for something more personable, customizable along with strength and power, wrought iron is the way to go, but you’ll be paying for those additional perks.