Ironart at Ypres 2016

Ypres in Flanders saw a fantastic turnout for its week long International Blacksmithing event last week. Bringing together blacksmiths and farriers from around the world to create a stunning new World War 1 Cenotaph for the 21st Century, the cenotaph will stand as a beacon of hope for future generations, commemorating all those who died, survived and were affected by the conflict 100 years ago.

Represented by Andy, Alan, Alan’s wife Helen and James, Ironart was proud to attend and take part in this unique event, travelling the return trip of 580 miles by camper van and bicycle, via the Channel Tunnel.

Andy told us:

“The set up at Ypres was incredibly impressive – over 20 nationalities were represented across the 170+ blacksmiths attending. Split into 25 teams under Master Blacksmiths, the forging stations ran really well with Alan, James and I joining different masters to produce the individually designed railing panels which will flank the 12-tonne centrepiece of the Cenotaph – a 7m high slab of steel featuring a single Flanders Field poppy surrounded by a field of 2,016 steel poppies – all handcrafted by blacksmiths and farriers from all over the world.”

Over the six day event, the town saw parades and events to commemorate the Great War and all those who suffered, including the laying of a wreath of poppies forged by children. Alongside the forging spectacle, ‘Transition’, an exhibition of contemporary forged metal design, was also on display. The international exhibition will tour the UK and mainland Europe finishing in London as part of the centenary Armistice celebrations in 2018.

“As always it was great to meet up with old friends and make new acquaintances; working in international teams really does inspire. It was also a great opportunity for us to spread the word about BathIRON 2017 a celebration of our nation’s heritage ironwork, which the NHIG (National Heritage Ironwork Group) is staging in June next year. A rare and exciting event, Bath’s Parade Gardens will host a Festival of Ironwork that will see the live creation of a brand new balustrade for the park’s bandstand. Alongside this, a two-day Historic Ironwork Conference at the Guildhall will focus on conservation and restoration of our nation’s heritage ironwork.”

“We thoroughly enjoyed Ypres 2016 – huge thanks and congratulations to BABA and the Belgian Guild of Blacksmiths (ASG) for organising. For the Ironart contingent, it gave James and myself a great opportunity to get our cycling gear on and take in some beautiful countryside on our 120-mile return leg from Calais to Ypres. Many thanks to Alan and Helen for driving…a road trip to remember!”

Alan checks over the precious cargo!

Alan checks over the precious cargo!

Ypres, here we come!

Ypres, here we come!

Andy working on his team's panel

Andy working on his team’s panel

James and his teammates working on their tool-themed panel

James and his teammates working on their tool-themed panel

Andy with his team and finished panel

Andy with his team and finished panel

Alan with this forging team in French Catalan hats!

Alan with this forging team in French Catalan hats – supplied by members of the Association de Ferronnerie Catalane (http://www.association-ferronnerie-catalane.com)

The lads at the Cenotaph Poppy

The lads at the Cenotaph Poppy

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James and Martin scale the heights

More pics from our work on the Evesham Abbey weathervanes – follow this link to our recent post about this interesting restoration project.

Martin Smith and James Cuthbertson went to Evesham  last week to dismantle the first of the four weathervanes. Working high on the scaffolding, they started with hand tools – thankfully the first one came apart easily, apart from the bottom section of the spindle which was very well secured and had possibly been cast into bronze assembly.  James and Martin unbolted the cardinal points and the crown from the top of the spindle, which then allowed them to remove the griffon detail. 65 years of weather had corroded and sealed this firmly on, so the two men winched up a gas set and heated the socket at the base to loosen it up. This was a bit nervewracking because the base of spindle also forms the clamps around the delicate stone pinnacles (see pictures on our previous blog post).Thankfully they eventually came free without damage to any part of the weathervane or pinnacle. The vanes were then winched down on two ‘gin wheel’ hand pulleys.

Having studied the weathervanes in detail, James is of the view that the vanes were made at the same time as the clamp assemblies.  Although the iron has weathered and looks old, the bronze has weathered better. Looking at the flames on the forged griffon they appear to have been flame cut from sheet – identifiable by the distinctive edge quality. James comes from Evesham and was contacted by several people who apparently know the provenance and history of the weathervanes, we’ll update you when we know more.

James said of this project: “It’s good to be involved in a restoration project that has a connection with the place I grew up, and it’s satisfying to know that once the restoration is complete these weathervanes will  be here for another long period of time.”
The four vanes are now here in our workshop in Larkhall, Bath. They will now be flame cleaned and minor repairs will be carried out by our restoration team before they are re-gilded and returned to Evesham.

Evesham Abbey weathervane restoration

We’ve been commissioned by Sally Strachey Conservation to carry out the restoration of four weathervanes on Evesham Abbey Bell Tower. This beautiful structure is all that remains of a large Abbey complex which was demolished by townsfolk when it was surrendered to the King in 1590 during the Dissolution of the Monasteries.

The gilded crown weather vanes are generally in good condition although there is surface corrosion to the frame, and the gilding and paintwork need to be renewed. Our brief is also to redesign the bearing system which has corroded to the point where the weather vanes no longer rotate in the wind. Our solution will need to ensure that minimal maintenance is required in future, as you can see from the pictures the weathervanes are extremely tricky to access! The last restoration was carried out in the 1950’s, and the restorers mark was helpfully stamped into the bronze.

Ironart’s Martin Smith and James Cuthbertson will be travelling up to Evesham later this week to dismantle the weathervanes and bring them back to the Ironart workshops in Larkhall. We’ll post more pics and update you as this project evolves.

 

 

 

 

 

Sweeping handrail for Watson, Bertram & Fell

Posting some pictures of a lovely curved handrail that we made for a farmhouse near Swainswick for Bath Architects Watson, Bertram & Fell and builders Donovan Construction.  A simple, elegant design made by James and Jason here in the Ironart workshops in Larkhall earlier in the year and fitted on site in several visits by Andy, Martin and Jason.

The bespoke timber for the handrail was supplied by Staffordshire based timber specialists Clive Durose. The finished stair rail has a really satisfying, intrinsic beauty, and the feedback we received from them put a big smile on our faces too… “We were very impressed with the quality of the metalwork, as was our fitter”

If you have a similar staircase project in mind and would like some advice, please give us a call because we’d love to help.

 

Road trip to the BABA AGM

Andy and James took some time out of the busy Ironart schedule, packed up one of the vans and headed north to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park in Wakefield for the annual AGM and conference of the British Artist Blacksmith Association last weekend.  Sounds like they had a great time. James took some pics and talked to me about his experience:

“It was really good to put faces to the names I read about in the BABA magazine and blacksmiths I’d heard about during my days at Hereford College.  The AGM gave me the opportunity to meet some of the people who have written books that I’ve read, and whose work has inspired me.  I got to chat to other UK blacksmiths who are in a similar stage of their career as me, we discussed ideas and future plans; and I talked to a French compagnons-du-devoir journeyman who shared his experience of this well-established infrastructure and learning model, which seems much more integrated than ours. BABA had organised some really interesting debates and discussions about the future of blacksmithing in general. Peter Parkinson’s drawing lecture was a particular highlight, along with meeting Alan Dawson, founder of Adaptahaus and the collaborative artist blacksmith Henry Pomfret. I’d definitely go again and recommend it to others – there were so many ways you can get something out of an experience like this.”

 

 

It’s garden furniture season here at Ironart…

After a beautiful weekend of sunshine here in the West Country it’s no surprise that orders for our hand made wrought  iron garden furniture and structures are starting to flood in. The Ironart team have been beavering away in the workshop these past few weeks making garden benches, chairs, tables, rose arches, pergolas, braziers and fruit cages galore.

We have been making garden furniture and structures for many years now, and have developed a collection of best-selling classic designs with timeless appeal. All our garden furniture and structures are galvanized to give them years and years of enjoyment. They are then painted here in our workshop in the colour of your choice. As ever the Ironart Lansdown benches are proving a real hit with clients and magazine editors – they are super comfortable with a laid-back seating style.

We don’t have a showroom but we usually have a small selection of our furniture here in the yard in Larkhall on the edge of Bath. If you’d like to come and take a look please get in touch before you set off to come and visit.

 

James Cuthbertson’s Nadfas apprenticeship

Nadfas

We can hardly believe it but James, who joined us as an apprentice architectural ironworker, has now been at Ironart for three full years. The apprenticeship became available thanks to a generous NADFAS grant. James is a hugely valued member of the Ironart team and throughout the last 12 months he has been working with increasing autonomy.  “I’m now being tasked with interpreting individual projects from a hand drawn sketch. It’s down to me to choose the materials, make the piece from scratch and resolve details in a way that looks good”.

As well as project-managing bespoke ironwork commissions, James has been furniture-making and involved in several ironwork restoration projects. He has also been using his knowledge of CAD software to assist Andy with design. James says of his experiences:“This third year has been a positive experience. I’m happy that I made this decision, it was the right journey for the right reasons. The apprenticeship has opened more avenues and curiosities than I could have envisaged – the people I’ve met and places I’ve worked. I’ve gained a valuable insight into the processes around our craft. I’ve enjoyed the extra-curricular stuff we’ve done too, the day trip we went on in 2014 to Wolverhampton (to visit Legg Brothers steel mill, Barr & Grosvenor Foundry and a huge galvanising plant) helped to improve my breadth of knowledge.”

Jason Balchin, one of Ironart’s workshop managers writes…“James’ confidence and  competence is at a very good level. He is able to work under his own instruction and complete jobs from start to fruition. He has come on in leaps and bounds. He has a consistent, high level of finish and attention to detail. He has a good technical mind, he is the main machinist, as an example he is our go to-man for any lathe work. James is a real asset to the company.”

If you are also interested in becoming a blacksmith there are various routes to get into the craft, read through our ‘Guide to getting into metalworking’ which we hope will give you a starting point. Don’t forget we run one-day blacksmithing workshops here at Ironart, follow this link for more information.

PDF: Guide to getting into metalworking