Because of the rarity of its prerequisite, namely having both iron and coal within a city radius, the Iron Works Small Wonder is unlikely to present itself as an option for you. However, if you are given the option to build, its 100% increase in shields production is, in all but the most desperate of instances, a no-brainer.
As mankind’s dependence on metals increased through the ages, it became very important to cheaply and effectively separate the base metal from impurities. The process of smelting, through the use of a structure called a blast furnace, achieved just that. Using carbon dioxide created from oxidized coke to absorb the oxygen from the molten iron, it leaves the metal ‘slag’ to sink to the bottom of the furnace. This separation allows for a pure iron to be derived, which is then used for numerous purposes, including the creation of steel.