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What Makes Metals Malleable?

When it comes to creating our bespoke wrought iron gates and railings, we need metals that are malleable and easy to work with.

Using traditional techniques, we take materials like iron and turn them into beautifully hand-crafted railings and gates that enhance the appearance and value of your home. 

But which metals are malleable, and how can we use them to create bespoke designs? We’ve taken a look at the fascinating science behind malleability to find the best materials for your bespoke gates. 

What is malleability? 

Did you know that without malleability, there’d be no Eiffel Tower? This physical property of iron was discovered by Frenchman Henri Édouard Tresca in 1814, and Eiffel credited his work as critical to the construction of his mighty iron tower. 

Malleability is the property of a metal that allows it to be hammered, rolled or otherwise shaped without breaking. It’s all down to a metal’s molecular structure and the electrons that orbit around the nucleus of an atom. 

Malleable metals have shared valence electrons. These are particles that sit around the perimeter of the atom and can easily form chemical bonds. Even when subjected to compression stress, those bonds aren’t broken. 

Instead, when heated, the atoms roll or slide over each other into new configurations. So, when the metal is struck with a hammer, for example, the bonds don’t shatter. And this atomic structure is the reason why man has been manipulating metal to create jewellery, weapons, and other fine ironwork since the Bronze Age over 5,000 years ago. 

Which metals are malleable?

Iron

At Blake & Bull, we use wrought iron to create stunning and original gates and railings. It’s the most common element on our planet, existing in the earth’s inner and outer core and one of the most durable metals around. 

The wrought iron that we use to create our bespoke designs is an alloy with a relatively low carbon content and high ductility. It’s highly resistant to corrosion, making it ideal for the long periods spent outdoors.

When you think of the traditional blacksmith hammering on the anvil, they’re working with wrought iron and it’s these traditional methods and techniques that we use to create your bespoke ironwork. 

78% of elements in the periodic table are metals, but not all of them are malleable. The most common malleable metals include gold and silver, copper, tin and lithium. 

Gold

The most malleable metal known to man is gold, which can be stretched into wires with the thickness of a single atom, and beaten into sheets that are almost transparent - just one gram of gold can create a one metre square sheet. 

Copper

Copper is another highly malleable metal that’s the third most used metal in the world after aluminium and copper. It’s also the first metal worked by humans, when it was used to create copper tips for arrows and heads for axes. Nowadays, we use copper for coins, electrical wiring, and building materials. 

Aluminium

Aluminium makes up about 8% of the earth’s crust and has an incredible strength to weight ratio plus resistance to corrosion making it ideal for outdoor use.

As well as being highly malleable, aluminium is also ductile and can stretch up to 70% of its length without breaking. Not all metals are ductile as well as malleable, but the ability to stretch a metal without breaking increases its versatility. 

Bespoke gates and railing from Blake & Bull

If you’re looking for the finest bespoke gates and railings, our craftsmen will be proud to deliver a unique design custom-made for your home with a lifetime fabrication warranty for peace of mind. Contact us today to find out more.

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