Antique set (original pair) of sand cast smoothing irons with hand wrought iron loop handles from the 1600s or 1700s (see all photos). These smoothing irons predate the much more common and heavier cast iron sad irons of the 19th century that most antique collectors are familiar with today. And unlike sad irons from the 1800s, these two smoothing irons have a simpler, thinner and narrower form with a shorter pointed bow or front that changes abruptly into a longer and narrower rectangular main body before terminating in a perfectly squared back end. They also weigh less than the typical 5 lb 1850s sad iron and weigh 4 lbs or less (the thinner handled one weighs about 3 3/4 pounds). The last two photos show the differences between the older shape of smoothing irons as demonstrated in the two for sale here and the post 1800 sad irons commonly collected today. You are only purchasing the pair of sand cast smoothing irons shown in the first seven photos and the post 1850 sad iron shown in the last two photos is not for sale at this time.
From the late 1500s to the late 1800s, there were basically just three types of smoothing irons available for use: a box iron that contained a replaceable solid slug that would be heated, a solid sad iron like the three shown in the photos, and the oriental pan iron that held burning coals or charcoal. Self-heating smoothing irons running on gas or other fuels were invented in the late 1700s but were never very common due to fire hazards, fuel costs, etc. One of the better overviews of the evolution of heated smoothing irons is given by Doreen Yarwood in her book `The British Kitchen: Housewifery since Roman Times (published by Morrison and Gibb, Ltd., see pages 154 to 163). Prior to the 1500s and going all the way back to Roman times, various stone, glass, wood and metal materials were polished and then used cold for smoothing fabrics. New textiles (more abundant silks, etc.) and new customs focused on ruffles and smooth-looking or shiny garments created the need to perfect better ways to `smooth and iron' clothes.
The thinner more rectangular shape of the two irons listed here reminds one of certain fancy brass box irons of the 1600s and 1700s which held similarly shaped iron slugs (see Doreen Yarwood's The British Kitchen: Housewifery since Roman Times, published by Morrison and Gibb, Ltd., page 156, Figure 383 for the common shape of a late 1700s brass box iron (aka gate iron) that held an iron slug). There is a continental Europe box iron from the c1700 to 1750 period shown in Donald L. Fennimore's `MetalWork in Early America: Copper and its Alloys from the Winterthur Collection (see page 367 Item #254; published by the Henry Francis Du Pont Winterthur Museum, Inc., in 1996) that has an identical overall body shape and proportions (different handle style, of course) as the two iron examples listed here, but the continental example is far fancier with cast brass handle supports, engraved and pierced brass decorated box top and a turned wood-sheathed handle.
An important aside from researching the hand wrought handled sand cast smoothing irons for sale here is that all solid sad irons were sold in pairs (more if the buyer needed more) because one sad iron would be heating up while the other sad iron was in active use. The user would then switch irons thereby making the ironing more manageable and continuing without delays. In the past 50 years, this aspect of the antique solid sad iron has been overlooked while few dealers seem to offer original pairs. In the last 100 years, many original pairs of heavy solid sad irons have been broken up as the irons became simple primitive accents or door stops. To find a pair of sand cast solid iron smoothing irons with blacksmith hand wrought handles is both important and makes the pair much more valuable than the value afforded to a single example. In fact, the pair listed here could fetch two to three times as much when offered by a major auction house focused on hand wrought primitive antiques.
The pair listed for sale here may be American, English or Continental and were made using sand cast main bodies and hand wrought iron handles. Both irons are perfectly balanced when held by one finger precisely centered under the middle of the top of the looped handle. Even the post 1850 sad iron shown in the last two photos is perfectly balanced so that the ironing and smoothing of clothes would not unduly tax the worker beyond the weight alone. An improperly balanced sad iron (or box iron) would stress the hand and arm of the launderer as she/he would have to counterbalance the bias as the smoothing iron was used.
One of the two sand cast smoothing irons listed for sale here has a simple geometric design of lines forming Xs and a crude lattice scratched into the sand mold by the cast iron worker (see Photos #1 right example, #4, #5 and #9). After some thought, the lines may have been one way to keep track of changing out the irons as one cooled and the other was waiting fireside. Both have the same body design with a thicker raised pointed end, two sprue holes along which molten iron flowed into the mold and air escaped. The sixth photo shows the two sprue scars left behind by the casting methods with orange pencils pointed to each sprue scar. The handles are attached by seating them into holes that may be modified by drilling the hole larger as one handle seems to show. Attaching the handle in the center of the main body of the sad iron rather than at two location along the back of the iron may be a way to keep the handle from heating up so quickly since the heat needs to flow up and then out along each side of the loop. Late sad irons have taller handles to help compensate for creating hot handles until detachable wooden handles were perfected. Mrs. Potts of Iowa developed one example of a widely successful detachable wood handle with metal clips that attached to a simple double bow shaped sad iron. This iron was patented in 1870 and was known as Mrs. Pott's Patent Cold Handle Sad Iron. According to Doreen Yarwood's `The British Kitchen: Housewifery since Roman Times' (published by Morrison and Gibb, Ltd., see page 157-159, and also Figure 393).
In summary, the two smoothing irons for sale here are an original antique pair that represent an older, primitive form produced by a local blacksmith for less affluent households or possibly for use by slaves on a plantation (speculation rather than confirmed fact). More wealthy households used fancy box irons made of brass with the best possibly decorated with silver applications for the most prestigious. Other box smoothing irons were made of hand wrought iron or sand cast bronze or brass. Box irons held irons slugs that were heated by a fireside and then placed inside the box iron shell so that the slug itself never touched the cloth or garment being smoothed. Irons like the pair listed here more easily picked up soot, grime and would oxidize and rust over time requiring scouring and cleaning before use on light colored fabrics when left unused for a time. Both box irons and one piece solid sad irons required heating and this aspect of smoothing fabrics did not become fashionable until the end of the 1500s (late 16th century) due to changes in fabric types that could be smoothed by heated objects. Prior to that time, English and Continental upper class families used cold smoothed metal or stone objects to smooth some fabrics to meet fashion.
Finally, the bottom of the two irons listed here is very slightly curved upward for just the initial 1/4 to 1/2 inch of the smoothing face when starting at the very tip of the each irons. The standard post 1850 sad iron has a tug-boat like shape that consists of a long curving bow ending in a shorter broader squared back with parallel sides making up only about one-third of the total length of the smoothing iron. These later sad irons also have more convex bottoms with their entire perimeter ground smooth to allow easier ironing and smoothing of fabric. Handles were added to these post 1840 sad irons by inserting cast iron handles separately into spree holes along the top of cast body when it was still semi-molten and malleable. So if you are looking for an original antique pair of black smith-made solid sad irons from the 1600s or 1700s, then make sure you seriously consider this pair while they are still available. And as always, this pair of sand cast & hand wrought smoothing irons also comes with my Docs Antiques 100% satisfaction guarantee or you may return it using my return policy for a refund (see full Return Policy details farther below).
SIZE & WEIGHT: One iron weights about 1/4 lbs more than the other iron (the iron with lines scratched into the mold weighs about 3 3/4 lbs whereas the plain iron lacking any lines weighs about 4 lbs). Each iron is about 6 1/2 inches long and about 3 inches wide with hand wrought iron handles of slightly different diameter hand wrought iron stock. That is, one handle is made of slightly larger diameter wrought iron stock and also is slightly larger in size and height than the other handle. This larger handle is found on the heavier iron. Specifically, the heavier iron is about 3 3/4 inches tall when placed with its smoothing face straight down (the lighter iron is about 3 1/2 inches tall). Both irons are designed to sit up right when they were placed in the hearth area to heat.
CONDITION: Both irons for sale here are in very good condition with minimal rust and no deep decay. They have no repairs and no damage or cracks (see all photos). The handles are secure and strong and the smoothing surfaces display older polish with some oxidation and many older scratches from use and cleaning centuries ago. A better pair of matching original black smith-made solid sand-cast sad irons with hand wrought handles may not come along again for private purchase in many years. And unlike most private auctions, if the buyer is not completely satisfied, then she/he may return these sad irons for a refund (please see our full refund policy noted below for details).
SHIPPING: All US mainland buyers pay $18.60 for well packed and insured USPS Standard Post (this is an estimated savings of about $2 to $7 since insurance and tracking are also INCLUDED in the above quoted amount for all mainland US addresses). A faster shipping option is also available (see Shipping Menu). No handling or packing fees are ever charged and heavier items like these sad irons will be double packed for maximum protection. All international buyers will pay only the exact shipping costs for all verifiable locations outside the continental US mainland (estimated at $50 to $75 with signed shipping). We only use the USPS for International shipping to reduce broker fees and some Custom's charges when an item is over 100 years old. We always encourage the International buyer to select an International shipping option that also provides insurance against loss or damage, and ask the International customer to send us their address for an email quote covering all insured International shipping options to your location. To date, we have shipped items to 27 countries around the globe and have not had any items lost or broken, however this fact does not guarantee that no postal mishandling will ever occur in the future. Also, please note that International import duties, taxes and other charges are not included in the item price or shipping costs and these additional charges are the Buyer's responsibility. We do offer a petition for VAT relief on the behalf of the buyer which may help reduce certain import taxes should your country allow such petitions for items over 100 years old. Please check with your country's customs office to determine what these additional costs will be prior to purchasing this item -- thanks.
RETURN POLICY: Satisfaction and peace of mind are guaranteed for all Docs Antiques Ruby Lane listings -- please refer directly to our Service Pledge and our Return Policy for full details. And this means that if the buyer is unhappy with the purchase, then she/he may return it by sending the item back undamaged and post marked within ten days of original receipt for a refund (certain shipping costs are non-refundable). Items damaged by shipping in the US are covered by insurance and while this rarely happens because we double pack, we will gladly help you file your insurance claim should it ever be necessary (we have not had any claims for damage or loss in over six years). Of course, never send an item back that has been damaged by shipping since that will void the original insurance. Instead, contact us for help and we will gladly assist.
PAYMENT OPTIONS: We accept checks on US Banks (no temporary checks, all checks must have 9 digit routing code; item ships after check fully clears), USPS money orders, PayPal, or contact us with your verified address for more options. If you wish to use a credit card by way of PayPal, that option becomes available after you submit a Ruby Lane purchase order (see Terms of Sale for additional information). Once submitted, a PayPal icon will appear at the bottom of this listing and then you may proceed from there if you wish to pay via PayPal. Thanks for looking and do come back and visit again when you have the time.
Docs Inv. # RL657.a1662
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