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In a story I'm writing, I'm going to need iron to ward off magical creatures, faeries to be exact.

This iron should not be used in an alloy with other metals or coated with something like paint, tin, zinc or something like that. It should be relatively quick and easy to obtain from the enviroment. The iron would be used to ward off faeries since it would burn them on contact. Traditionally horseshoes and iron nails help against those creatures but try finding those lying around on the street.

What would be good sources to get things of just iron in today's world if you were dropped in an average English village? You have 15 minutes to get it in any way possible (including illegal activities, such as theft and vandalism) as your life is in danger.

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A Victorian wrought iron gate.

gate

https://www.lassco.co.uk/a-victorian-wrought-iron-garden-gate-48543 Wrought iron

..is a highly refined iron with a small amount of slag forged out into fibres. The chemical analysis of the metal shows as much as 99 percent of iron. The slag characteristic of wrought iron is useful in black smithing operations and gives the material its peculiar fibrous structure. The non-corrosive slag constituent causes wrought iron to be resistant to progressive corrosion.

So - as close to pure iron as you are likely to find, and used in abundance in England for gates, fences and other outdoor metalworks. There is stuff made more recently out of aluminum or alloys - look for the rust. Plus you might turn up something in an abandoned garden, where people might not catch you with your hacksaw.

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    $\begingroup$ Pefect. They are also basically spears in making which is even more perfect. Awesome find. $\endgroup$ – Tschallacka Feb 4 at 13:16
  • $\begingroup$ Sorry. I'm pretty sure most Victorian "wrought iron" is probably not actually wrought iron but steel. In fact, I suspect all those arrow-heads and rosettes are probably cast iron (very high carbon content). $\endgroup$ – Martin Bonner supports Monica Feb 4 at 14:40
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    $\begingroup$ Modern blacksmiths however prefer pure iron, it is easier to work with, is stronger, and doesn't rust as readily. More importantly it doesn't fall apart when it rusts (no crevice rusting). so go for the newer fencing not the older. $\endgroup$ – John Feb 4 at 14:43
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    $\begingroup$ You'll have a pretty hard time finding any such fences from before the war, since they were almost universally cut down and carted off for making tanks and ships and such. Though it's an open question how much all the scrapped fences actually ended up helping the war effort. $\endgroup$ – Dewi Morgan Feb 4 at 16:27
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    $\begingroup$ A lot of old wrought-iron fences are literally iron spikes placed into holes in a pair of metal strips that are then held in place with hot lead. It does need to be old ones, as more recent replacements are alloys that are less prone to rusting away. But, the great likelihood is that in an average English village, if you head to the churchyard, you'll find exactly this kind of railing - probably missing a few and showing the method of attachment. $\endgroup$ – UselessInfoMine Feb 4 at 17:04
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You'll need to check percentages of impurities to find what will work.

Wrought iron would have up to 0.3% impurities, although very little of that is carbon. Let's consider that the standard we need to achieve, because otherwise your plot can't go forwards.

Steel is not necessarily out. High-carbon steel at up to 2% is probably no good, but mild steel will only have up to 0.25% carbon, and (with modern control over manufacturing) probably little or no other elements. That means you're probably good with cheaper nails, rebar, and various other sources.

By contrast, cast iron with around 5% impurities (including carbon) is a complete non-starter, in spite of calling it "iron". So don't bother breaking into kitchens in search of Le Creuset pots, or using a poker from the fireplace.

The problem then is where to get this stuff. As Martin Bonner points out, most exterior metalwork is steel, and has been since mid/late Victorian times. It certainly isn't safe to assume that old metalwork will be wrought iron unless you know for sure. I think the best bet has to be mild steel, all the way. Which basically means a trip down to a builder's merchant to buy some lengths of rebar.

You may also want to try galvanised nails. For sure they've got a zinc coating, but underneath they're mild steel. So the plot would need to know whether the coating is significant when the bulk of the thing is iron. If you're in doubt, buy galvanised mild steel and a linisher, and sand the zinc coating off.

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  • $\begingroup$ I wouldn't count on rebar -- mostly it's made the cheapest way possible, which usually means eliminating careful checking for impurities. If it'll go through the forming process without cracking, ship it! $\endgroup$ – Zeiss Ikon Feb 5 at 12:48
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    $\begingroup$ @ZeissIkon Sure, it's not exactly high grade stuff! But if you need to track down something in 15 minutes, it might be your best shot. Most other mild steel items are likely to have some kind of coating (typically galvanised in some way) but rebar won't be coated. $\endgroup$ – Graham Feb 5 at 14:28
  • $\begingroup$ The mild steel bar, rod, angle, and plate stock in home improvment stores (3 foot/1 m lengths in a bin) generally aren't coated, though the threaded rod is. $\endgroup$ – Zeiss Ikon Feb 5 at 15:10
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Literally, NAIL your monsters!

How picky are your monsters about the purity of the iron? Cast iron and wrought iron contain more carbon than mild (soft) steels. Nails are cheap, widely available and a nice, mild steel. Convenient shape, if you can get up close/personal and/or shoot them. The concrete nails typically used in nailguns/ramsets are hardened steel, so higher carbon content than mild steel, but less than in wrought or cast iron (few percent.)

If you need fairly chemically pure iron, grade R https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carbonyl_iron should do the trick!

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    $\begingroup$ Often galvanized (zinc coated) or otherwise treated to prevent rusting... $\endgroup$ – ivanivan Feb 4 at 20:03
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Average english village? My first thought was to locate a house with a chimney and look for a good old poker. And by good old, I mostly mean old, as it's more than often made of iron and would make for a good bashing weapon.

Of course, that includes to break into a house and steal something, but if iron is the only way to go, I'd feel a lot safer.

It's my first thought without reading other answers. After reading them, it offers a few plus: it's available, you don't have to pry it from something existing like a fenced gate (unless you're the Hulk and can rip apart iron). It's shaped like a stick and make for a ready-to-go weapon. No prep time. You can reuse it: you won't be out of ammo.

On the plus side, in a story, it would be extremely cinematic.

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    $\begingroup$ "Miss, this is a case of life and death. Get out of the door." he said as he shoved the elderly lady outside and entered the house. $\endgroup$ – Tschallacka Feb 5 at 9:23
  • $\begingroup$ Note that if you're referring to "cold-iron" is the sense of "iron that has never been put to the flame for magical reason", then a poker is out. But if you're just looking for a good chunk of mostly pure iron, knock yourself (or rather the fae) out. $\endgroup$ – Nyakouai Feb 5 at 9:31
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    $\begingroup$ In fact, the poker is Susan Sto Helit's preferred weapon of choice when dealing with bogey men and off-of-the-Disc insane Assassins. $\endgroup$ – ivanivan Feb 5 at 20:11
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    $\begingroup$ @Peteris We're talking fantasy here, never said it made sense. In some myths and stories, faeries are only harmed by cold iron, a term that means either unworked iron or meteoritic iron. I saw once or twice this definition being applied to iron never worked with a flame, and they somehow made a sword out of it. I know... So cold iron can mean "folkloric unobtainium" and a poker doesn't qualify for this precise case. $\endgroup$ – Nyakouai Feb 5 at 22:56
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    $\begingroup$ @Nyakouai there are only two sources of iron in a non-ore form (i.e. not requiring smelting) on Earth: meteoric and telluric iron. Meteoric iron is potentially viable, but has very significant (anywhere from 10-50% nickel content) impurities; it may also not be thematically right as it's a "sky metal" and thus not "grounded" the way iron is perceived to be. Telluric iron is extremely rare (only significantly found in Greenland) but Type 2 telluric iron is soft enough to be worked cold and quite pure. It comes in grains that must be hammered together; lots of effort, but cool. $\endgroup$ – Elia Feb 5 at 23:53
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I would run to the hardware store or a construction site for rebar. There should be handy lengths of it lying about.

Another good option (and I'm ripping off Terry Pratchett here) is a machinist shop. Hoover up any and all chaff you can find as well as larger chunks. The chaff could get into their eyes or clothing.

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    $\begingroup$ I don't know about British hardware stores, but most of the US stores I'm familiar with have a selection of bar stock in various sizes. $\endgroup$ – WhatRoughBeast Feb 4 at 23:36
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Railroad Rails and Fasteners

Just like an iron gate, fasteners are actually made of steel, but are around 99% iron. In the USA, railroad spikes are common, and can be pried out. In many other countries, screws are used, and may be easier to remove than a spike if you have a long wrench.

Rails themselves are also made out of steel, with more carbon and manganese, but they are both still less than 1% content each, and low impurity requirements, meaning 98% or more iron. Most rail is welded now, so you cant just unbolt some and be on your way, but if you happen to be by a switching station or rail yard, you can dismantle sections that are light and short enough (1 meter) enough to be dragged away by a healthy fit individual, between 40 and 60kg/m for most rail in Europe. If you carry plasma torches or thermite weapons, you can just cut the rail.

Neither the rails nor the fasteners are coated.

The freight rail system itself does transport iron products in the cars themselves, including construction material, iron ore, and metal destined for scrapyards. Britain has a large number of rail lines, and over 20000 miles of track, about 10000 miles in current use.

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If I had 15 minutes prep time, I'd head to an engineering workshop. With the grinding, cutting and welding done, there is literally a coating of iron dust on everything.

For a fae to follow you, it would be like you following someone into Fukushima. The very air would be lethal to them from the dust

Normal mild steel has arouna 0.25% carbon as where cast iron is 2.5% to 4% carbon (hence it's brittleness). Ultra high carbon steel is 2.5% carbon

Mild steel is easily found and a purer form of iron than old horseshoes and forged nails.

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Hematite

Hematite, also spelled as haematite, is the mineral form of iron(III) oxide (Fe2O3), one of several iron oxides. It is the oldest known iron oxide mineral that has ever formed on earth, and is widespread in rocks and soils.

Huge deposits of hematite are found in banded iron formations. Gray hematite is typically found in places that can have still standing water or mineral hot springs, such as those in Yellowstone National Park in North America. The mineral can precipitate out of water and collect in layers at the bottom of a lake, spring, or other standing water.

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    $\begingroup$ Any 'rock' found in Australia, +1 $\endgroup$ – Mazura Feb 4 at 18:44
  • $\begingroup$ If an alloy doesn't work, I doubt a compound would. $\endgroup$ – Tomáš Zato Feb 6 at 9:58

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