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Wikipedia article

This article is about an older version of DF.

Iron is an important resource for a fortress, as an often-plentiful1 material that can be used to make just about anything necessary, from weapons to furniture to trade goods. Iron is also a necessary ingredient in the production of steel, the best non-spoiler metal in the game for weapons and armor. If you are unable to produce enough steel in your fort, then the next best metal for military purposes is iron.

The three ores of iron, which are Hematite, Magnetite, and Limonite, can only be found in sedimentary layers, with the exception of hematite, which can occasionally be found in igneous extrusive layers.

Iron may be combined with other materials at a smelter.

Note that fuel is used as a part of the reaction: even magma smelters need fuel in reactions that use iron. This conforms with the process of carbonization of iron and pig iron in ferrous metallurgy in real life.