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Answers to 3 Key Questions about Angle Iron

Answers to 3 Key Questions about Angle Iron

Angle iron forms a 90-degree angle "L" — a fundamental geometric shape central to all architecture, design and engineering. Most of your angle iron needs can be solved with the answers to these three key questions.

#1 - What's it all about?

Angle iron forms a sharp angle with equal or unequal sides in a wide range of widths. For example, you might find it in 20' or 40' lengths and angles of .5" X .5" X .125" through incremental increases to 8" X 8" X 1". Those sides may be solid or punctuated by holes, slots or other cutouts for assembly. You can rivet it, weld it and bolt it. The material can include a number of chemical elements to assure durability, flexibility, rigidity, strength, weight and cost-efficiency. The American Institute of Steel Construction, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) and the American Iron and Steel Technology (AIST) all have published extensive data on the properties of interest to engineers concerned with applications.

The "iron" in angle iron actually refers to any number of combinations of iron and steel mixed in the interest of strength, shaping potential and structural application. Iron, for example, is prone to rust despite its legendary strength.

  • Electric Arc Furnaces (EAF) recycles old scrap steel. As the furnaces liquefy the steel scrap, impurities are filtered and chemicals are added. The process casts the molten steel into a beam that is cooled, reheated and rolled into its angular shape. "The recycled content of structural steel produced using the EAF process averages near 90%."
  • Basic Oxygen Furnace (BOF) processes iron ore and coke in a blast furnace, improving processes that are centuries old. Once melted in a coal-blasted furnace, the iron ore mixes with chemical additives before being transferred to the BOF where it blends with steel scrap. The fluid mass is infused with oxygen before rolling into forms. "The recycled content of steel produced using the BOF process averages near 25%."

You may also find the iron mixed with aluminum to reduce the weight and rust potential, brass for appearance sake, or materials like chromium or nickel. And, you can finish it with textures for design purposes.

#2 - What's the purpose?

The benefits of angle iron correspond to its material, length, thickness, width and purpose. But, you also need to consider the force applied, the weight carried and the torsion resisted.

The Internet is filled with calculators and charts to determine the ability to support weight, capacity and deflection in various angle iron lengths, widths and materials. It’s important to start with a clear understanding of the engineering demands, mechanics specifications and tensile conditions that apply. For example, try to picture an angle at work amidst forces:

  • Combined forces press simultaneously against the whole piece from the inside, and those forces vary along the width of the side.
  • Weight distributes its force along and down the angle's length.
  • External pressures push against the angle as a concerted force that varies in strength across the angle.
  • Multiple forces test the angle for twist and torque.

So, the resilience, reliability and resourcefulness are all a function of the interplay of composition, manufacturing process, width, length and thickness.

#3 - What's the price?

You can buy some angle iron or products in any "big box" hardware store. However, if you’re looking for specialty or structural products, you need to be familiar with the pricing.

  • The more steel involved in the length, width and thickness, the more you will pay.
  • Cost reflects the quality or nature of the steel involved.
  • Finishes like textures or coatings add expense.
  • Shipping and delivery can be a real and significant cost.

Now, you can complete some applications — the simpler the better — with store-bought or online purchases. Light-weight projects like book shelves or furniture don’t call for heavy duty quality. For anything involving structure, support and sustainability, you need to shop smartly.

  • Be certain about your needs. Suppliers cannot customize their product or select a choice product unless you’re clear about your specifications. However, the same logic says that you should look for the provider who will customize to your exact specifications.
  • Demand quality. Quality lies largely in the reputation of the manufacturer and supplier. You want to remain open to advice on quality options in terms of material, process and testing. "Quality" should mean that it serves your needs best.
  • Build a relationship. In most cases, you need more than the piece. You need related materials such as channels, flange beams or flat bar. And, you will be served best by a single provider with whom you’ve built a partnership on needs, affordability and expertise.
  • Do not be afraid to discuss your needs. It’s up to you to drive the deal that’s best for you. That best may not be the lowest cost, but you want a supplier you can trust to fulfill your needs. And maybe, just maybe, your solution lies in surplus products or discounted specials.
  • Specify on-time delivery. Delivery is your call, on-site and on-time. If you are local, visit the supplier’s location and browse for material you can pick up. Look for same-day or next-day delivery if that’s the deal-breaker, or negotiate delivery of customized materials where and when you want it.

Whether installing shelving in your garage, building a high-rise or constructing an agricultural out-building, consider the wealth of resources and support available from suppliers like Texas Iron and Metal. Local products, deep knowledge and pricing rule customer relationships that last as long as the product itself.



Iron Properties of Structure-Steel Shapes. Accessed August 10, 2015 from

Steel Construction Manual Shapes Database. Accessed August 10, 2015 from