This section is from the book "A Treatise On Architecture And Building Construction Vol3: Stair Building, Ornamental Ironwork, Roofing, Sheet-Metal Work, Electric-Light Wiring And Bellwork", by The Colliery Engineer Co.. Also available from Amazon: A Treatise On Architecture And Building Construction.
1. Iron is used in building construction to serve two purposes, one structural and the other ornamental; but becomes an element of architectural consideration only when both purposes are combined. Unfortunately, the facility with which iron may be cast or wrought into any desired form, renders the execution of the whole facade of a building as simple as though it were constructed of wood, and imbues the ironwork designer with a tendency to ignore the characteristics of the material with which he is working, and to execute columns, capitals, and friezes in cast iron, with fidelity to original examples which were carved in stone, and whose designs are ill suited to iron.
However, the incombustible character of this material, and the fact that its use materially shortens the time and decreases the expense of erecting a building, render it certain that iron as a building material is as important at the dawn of the twentieth century, as was stone before the Christian era; and instead of condemning it as an "unarchitectural material," as some are inclined to do, it is our duty to study its character and possibilities in design, and to develop a system or scheme of design which will be consistent with the conditions imposed by the material and its structural use.
To do this it will be necessary for the student to understand the method of manufacture, and difficulties attendant upon the execution of any design in ironwork, so that in preparing a design he may keep it free from impossible demands. For instance, if the design is for a piece of cast-iron work, the designer must provide a means of molding the form properly, and of getting the fluid metal into the mold without injuring any of the finer details. If the design is for a piece of wrought-iron work, such as a grille or a railing, provision must be made for enough space to permit riveting, hand welding, etc.
Thus it will be seen that a careful consideration of the methods used in general shop practice, will be the best way for the ironwork designer to advance in the comprehension of his work. This section will, therefore, treat of the details of shop and field work in connection with the manufacture of iron for architectural purposes; and, therefore, the illustrations of working drawings used herein to elucidate the text are reproductions of drawings which have actually been used in the preparation of ironwork for some of the most important buildings.
The first part of the paper will consider cast-iron work, while the manufacture of wrought iron and the combination of cast and wrought iron will follow consecutively.