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Rusting of Forged Iron vs. Modern Steel

by: Cushman & Gardner, 1910

Moreover, the tonnage-craze, from which the quality of product in so many industries is to-day suffering, is causing to be placed on the market a great mass of material, only a small proportion of which is properly inspected, which is not in proper condition to do its work: rails and axles which fail in service and steel skeletons for high buildings which may carry in them the germs of destruction and death. With this summing up the authors are in complete accord and no further space in this work will be given to the discussion of the comparative merits of iron versus steel in the resistance to corrosion.(reference)

That the old, largely hand-worked metal of about thirty years ago is superior in rust-resisting quality to the usual modern steel and iron is attested by the recorded evidence of a large number of observers. Many citations could be given to prove this and the examination of the discussions of numerous papers before engineering and technical societies seldom fail to bring out evidence of the very general belief in the superiority of the older product. The following picture showing a contrast between two nails is interesting though not unusual. the sample on the right is a forged nail that was used in the old Masonic Hall in Richmond, Va., and was probably driven in 1807. It was in service about one hundred years and for a large portion of that time was freely exposed to the weather, as the old clapboarding rotted away. The illustration shows that even the thin edges of the forged head are still sharp and uncorroded. The sample on the left is an ordinary modern nail after six months' exposure in a wooden gutter on a roof at Washington, D. C.

The relative corrosion of a modern steel nail (left) and an old forged nail (right)

No thoughtful person supposes that it would be practically possible to return to the earlier laborious methods of iron manufacture, in order to produce metal highly resistant to corrosion. The modern problem must be solved by modern economic methods, and there is no reason to suppose that great improvement will not be made in the quality of both iron and steel, as soon as the principles governing the rate and kind of corrosion which takes place on different types and kinds of iron are thoroughly established.