Sad Irons 

The forebears to modern electric irons, flat irons or smoothing irons, later modified into what is more commonly known as ‘sad irons,’ were constructed by blacksmiths in the Middle Ages.

Sad Irons With Metal Handles

‘Sad’ is an Old English word for “solid,” and the term “sad iron” is used to distinguish heavy flat irons, usually weighing 5 to 9 pounds. The heft of a sad iron would proportionally effect the amount of heat held in the iron, and consequently how well the fabric would be pressed flat. The base of a sad iron is triangular shaped with a pointed tip to make it is easy to iron around buttons. They were heated on an open fire or a stove, and their metal handles had to be gripped with a thick potholder, rag, or gloves while ironing.

Detachable wooden handles were added later to sad irons in place of the soldered metal handles. Wooden handles would stay cool while the metal bases were heated. Sad irons, circa 1900, featured an asbestos lining, under a removable hood that fitted over the heated “core,” and prevented heat from traveling up into the handle and burning the hand of the user.

Canadian Sad Iron From Taylor and Forbes Company Limited (Guelph, Canada) #2 Model with Detached Wooden Handled
Sad Irons With Detachable Wooden Handles

17 thoughts on “Sad Irons

  1. I have a Sad Iron from Taylor-Forbes, Guelph Canada with the number 1 on both sides…unfortunately the handle is missing…
    what is this worth?

    • Hi Cathy. After doing some research, I have found that irons of that kind sell anywhere from $10.00-$40.00 Canadian. It does appear that Sad Irons with detachable handles and trivets sell closer to the $40.00 range than those ones without. The shear number of the Sad Irons produced by Taylor-Forbes gives their irons a rather low value and are often purchased as antique door stoppers rather than rare collectables.

  2. Hi I just bought my first antique sad iron yesterday. It’s a Taylor and Forbes out of Canada Mine has the wooden handle and the Number 3. The wooden handle still works great I’m trying to find out what year this iron was made? Plus I am wondering if I was to sandblast the cast iron and repaint it. If it would ruin the value of it for my Grandkids? What would be many years from now lol as I don’t even have any. Grandkids. Any information would be greatful and much appreciate. Thank You So Very Much Nancy Hellman

    • Thanks for your inquiry. None of the sad irons that we have are painted, the original iron as it would have come from the store was unpainted. The value of these irons varies with the manufacture, but if you look on eBay you may find that their value is low. If you want to make it as authentic as possible than getting all of the old paint off and restoring it to the original look would be the way to go. If you want to use it as a decorative piece, than repaint it to the colour of your choice and enjoy its beauty and all of the people who would have used this iron before you.

  3. I have an old Taylor Forbes Sad Iron in good condition, with handle. I have had this since we bought the old farm house in 1966. It was in the crawl space of the basement. It was my husband’s great-grandmother’s or earlier. When you remove the handle, there is a number 2 on either side of the opening. Is this worth anything..?
    Thank you

    • For a current pricing we usually check eBay. I see that the old irons are now selling for around $45.00, but I am sure that the sentimental value is worth well more that that. Enjoy your sad iron.

  4. I have an old iron with a detachable handle around 3.5 long and a 1″ 3/4 wide looks like a taylor and forbes has no markings on it.

  5. My husbands mother had a set of “ 1 Set No. 50 SAD IRONS TAYLOR-FORBES LTD GUELPH CANADA”. This is written on the box the
    Number 1 is on the small base; # 2 on the medium base; # 3 on the large base. The diamond shape trivet and the wooden removable handle is also with the set. We were very surprised to find this complete set with the original box.
    Would you please be able to offer a value for this set?

    • To get a value we usually look on eBay to see what various items are selling for. The majority of sad irons are around $45.00, however since you have the complete set in the original boxes it would be worth while to the right person. If I had to guess I would say $150.-$200. Take a look at eBay though and it will give you a better idea of pricing.

  6. I am restoring my husband’s great grandmother’s sad to its original finish. It was painted silver. Once I have removed the paint how should I finish it so it doesn’t rust. I’d like to have it on display, but I assume that oil would attract dust. Thank you!

    • You’ve asked a good question that I don’t have an answer for. If you have all the paint off and down to the original cast iron, even though it may attract a bit of dust, I would give it a light coat of oil. There are several YouTube videos on restoring Sad Irons, you may want to check them out.

      • I’m not an expert by any means but I read that they kept them from rusting during period with bees wax. Very lightly coated.

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