Friday, September 16, 2011

Forged Iron vs. Cast Iron: Simple Iron Offers Two Unique Choices for Cabinet, Door, and Other Home Hardware

Understanding the differences between forged iron and cast iron is one of the first steps in the process when shopping for decorative iron door, cabinet or other home hardware products. The processes for creating forged iron and cast iron hardware are very different and the differences in the processes results in distinctive differences in the types and qualities of iron hardware products that they produce.

In this blog entry, we will explore the differences in how the two types of iron hardware are created. We will also provide an overview of the types of hardware products that are made from forged iron and those made from cast iron. Additionally, we will point out the differences one should expect in the aesthetic qualities and cost of forged iron verses cast iron hardware of the same type (i.e. a forged cabinet pull verses a cast cabinet pull).

I’ve been fortunate enough to witness and, to a degree, participate in the process of making both forged hardware and cast hardware. Forged iron hardware is handcrafted by a blacksmith. The particular blacksmith that I worked with had been honing his skills for over twenty years. I’d say that the guy looked pretty ordinary except that he had unusually large Popeye-like hands and forearms, the product of years of hammering and twisting wrought iron bars and iron sheets into shape. The blacksmith uses his muscles, hammer, anvil and a blow torch in creating each piece of hardware by hand. Cast iron hardware is created at a foundry. The foundries that I’ve worked with operated on manpower rather than automation but were designed for mass production. The foundry melts raw iron inside an industrial strength melting pot called a crucible and pours the molten iron into molds. Once the iron cools, the molds are removed revealing a nearly completed piece or pieces of hardware. Thus, cast iron hardware can be mass produced where as each piece of forged iron hardware is handcrafted one at a time.
There are many types of hardware products that are made from both forged iron and cast iron.  Some types of hardware products, however,  are only offered in cast iron. Here is a summary of the various forged and cast iron products offered by Shop 4 Classics:

Forged Iron and Cast Iron Cabinet Hardware
Cabinet hardware is offered in both forged iron and cast iron, however, there are many differences in the types and styles available in forged and cast cabinet hardware. Forged iron cabinet hardware primarily consists of bar, bail and ring style drawer pulls. Since forged iron hardware is handcrafted, manufacturers like Acorn Manufacturing and Artesano Iron Works are able to offer a wide variety of forged iron cabinet pull styles. Generally speaking, forged iron cabinet hardware is more expensive than cast cabinet hardware due to the amount of time, labor and skill required to create each piece. Cast iron cabinet hardware consists of cabinet knobs and cup pulls in addition to bar, bail and ring style pulls. Shop 4 Classics offers cast iron cabinet hardware from Antique Revelry, John Wright and Copper Mountain. Cast iron cabinet hardware is not only less expensive than forged iron cabinet hardware, it is also typically less expensive than other types of cast metal hardware because iron is cheaper than bronze, brass and copper.

Forged Iron and Cast Iron Door, Shutter and Gate Hardware
All sorts of exterior home hardware are offered in both forged and cast iron. All styles of entry and interior door hardware, gate hardware and shutter hardware are available with forged or cast iron door handles and back plates. Generally speaking, however, the internal mechanisms, like latches, are made of brass. Forged iron door and gate hardware can become increasingly more expensive compared to similar cast iron hardware depending on how complicated or large the piece of hardware. Shop 4 Classics offers forged iron door, shutter and gate hardware from Acorn Manufacturing and Artesano Iron Works. Shop 4 Classics offers door, gate and shutter hardware from Acorn Manufacturing and the John Wright Company.

Cast Iron Vent Covers
The grilles for vent covers have to be fairly thick in order to withstand foot traffic and accommodate optional louver assemblies. Therefore, all iron vent covers grilles are made exclusively of cast iron. Shop 4 Classics offers cast iron floor registers and cold air return vent cover grilles from Acorn Manufacturing and Reggio Register.

Cast Iron Clawfoot and Pedestal Bath Tubs
Cast iron has been used to create bath tubs for a couple hundred years. The inside of cast iron clawfoot bath tubs and cast iron pedestal bath tubs have a porcelain coating that makes them smooth to the touch and easy to clean. Shop 4 Classics offers cast iron bath tubs by Sign of the Crab, Sunrise Specialty, Elizabethan Classics and Cheviot Products.

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