A cast iron jigsaw puzzle

One of the most satisfying projects we’ve undertaken recently was the restoration of this beautiful cast iron Coalbrookdale Nasturtium bench.

Cast iron is a durable metal and was (and still is) used frequently to make garden furniture, because it can withstand the elements while allowing the designer to introduce a high level of detail and decoration. The drawback of using cast iron is that it is susceptible to cracking if it’s dropped, which is exactly what happened to this particular bench.

Coalbrookdale benches are very sought after these days, it’s possible to date a bench by looking closely at the diamond stamp which were imprinted onto all manner of products. See attached image.

“From 1842 to 1893 products registered with the British Patents Office were given a distinctive diamond mark bearing a code which summarised the material (class 1 for metals), the day, the month and year of registration and the bundle of documents at the Public Record Office where the patent is to be found.”

Cast iron date marks

 

If you are lucky enough to own one of these historic benches, and would like to know more about our restoration service and what it’s likely to cost, please follow this link.

Martin painstakingly recreated this original bench using the myriad of pieces supplied. The pictures below tell the story of the restoration. We’re delighted to say this particular story has a happy ending!

 

Coalbrookdale umbrella stand restoration

Martin has just put the finishing touches to this elaborate Coalbrookdale cast iron umbrella stand.  This piece came to us for restoration from an enthusiast who has a collection of Coalbrookdale items and catalogues.

The umbrella stand was thoroughly cleaned of all the old layers of paint, and inspected for cracks and damage. There was a section of decorative cast iron missing and Martin formed a replica piece out of a reclaimed cast iron railing bar. This cast iron umbrella stand dates back to the mid 1860’s and Martin thinks it’s one of the crispest, cleanest examples of cast iron we have worked on to date here at Ironart.

The pale colour finish shown here in these pictures is just a primer as the final paint finish will be applied by the customer himself. If you are lucky enough to own an historic cast iron umbrella stand and would like to talk to us about restoration options, we’re really happy to help.

 

Claverton Pumping Station range restoration

The restoration team here at Ironart have just reinstated a lovely cast iron range inside the Claverton Pumping Station for the Canal & River Trust. The range is a ‘Galdac Gem’ and was classed as a ‘portable’ freestanding stove, even though it takes a great deal of manpower to shift it! Ironart’s Martin Smith – who heads up our restoration team here – estimates that the range was made in the 1830’s as it pre-dates the registration mark system of of 1842.

Claverton Pumping Station was built in 1813 and is a fascinating example of local engineering history and well worth a visit if you are ever in the Bath area. The pump was in working order until two years ago and is currently undergoing a major restoration of it’s own. The Trust aim to have it up and running again by the end of 2015. The pump uses the power of the River Avon to lift water up 48ft into the Kennet and Avon Canal above. As their website states: “Burning no fuel and making no waste it is the ultimate in environmentally friendly technology”.  WATCH a Youtube video of the Pumping Station here.

The Trust believe that this cast iron range was located over the road in a cottage which was built at a slightly later date to accommodate the pumping station operators. We think that the range predates the cottage, and we’re assuming that it originally came from the pumping station workshop or kitchen. The Ironart team had to disassemble over 80 individual parts to repair. The Canal and River Trust acquired it and then obtained a grant to fully restore it.  Martin Smith, Paul Ashmore and NADFAS Restoration Bursary Intern Cecilie Robinson all worked on this restoration project which took the best part of two weeks to complete. The only part of the range that was missing was the ashpan which the team made new, faithfully following the design of a similar range we had seen. The Canal and River Trust now hope to have the range in full working order. Once the the flue, registration plate and bespoke firebricks are installed and connected they fully intend to use it!

 

Cast iron furniture restoration service

We are frequently contacted by people who own an antique cast iron bench or item of furniture and are interested in having it restored. These pieces are becoming increasingly collectable and can fetch very high sums at auction,* so even though it can be costly commissioning specialist repairs, it’s often well worth making the investment.

To clarify from the outset, our definition of ‘restoration’ is refurbishment not conservation. Our objective with each project we undertake is to bring the item back to as near original condition as possible. We aim to make invisible repairs which give the item the integral strength required to ensure it is useable. (Please note that ‘true conservation’ principles are at odds with this. A true conservationist would simply aim to halt any further decay.)

Cast iron bench repairs (2) Cast iron bench repairs (3) Cast iron bench repairs (7) Cast iron bench repairs (8)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Unfortunately due to the bespoke nature of restoration work it’s very difficult to give an estimate to repair your item without actually seeing it because there is a huge variation in the scope of each project. Having said that, experience has taught us that there are some commonalities which can give you a guide. We thought it would be useful to explain our restoration process and a breakdown of the costs involved. Please note that all prices are subject to VAT.

1) Photograph the item
In order to ascertain the scope of your project we ask you to send photographs of the furniture with close-ups of any obvious damage. From these we are able to give an estimated cost for the repair work required. This is on the understanding that until we are able to see the item first-hand here in the workshop we are unable to give a fixed cost.
Should you decide to proceed with the estimate for repairs/restoration the following costs need to be attributed as applicable:

2) Transportation
Transportation to and from the Ironart workshops with Martin Bros (specialist fine art carrier) to include goods in transit insurance with our insurers costs c. £100 per trip, to cover most of England and Wales. POA for benches from elsewhere.

3) Condition reports
On arrival at our workshops the item is fully assessed and a condition report is recorded with dating where possible.  We carry out a second condition evaluation after your item has been cleaned because it is very common to reveal small fractures in the ironwork which had been hidden by old paint. Only at this stage are we able to contact you with a fixed price for the repair work. Cost for these two evaluations will be £80.00

4) Dismantling
In dismantling the benches it is very common that threads will require replacement. Until we dismantle the bench we will not know how many threads will need to be renewed. Cost per thread replacement is £20 per item.

5) Paint stripping & cleaning
It’s common practice to shotblast cast iron to remove paint. Here at Ironart we use copper oxide as the blasting medium and take a great deal of care when doing so! Copper oxide is a less aggressive medium than other materials offered by shot blasting companies (many of whom may have little idea of the intrinsic value of the piece). Depending on the previous paint types used the blasting time can vary enormously. As a consequence we can only give an estimate of the blasting cost here. Typically for a cast iron bench with cast iron back allow: £200 (2 seat); £300 (3 seat); £100 (bench ends only).

Once the item has been stripped back to the bare casting it is given one coat of primer to inhibit rust forming on the surface of the metal. The primer used will depend on the final paint system to be used so it is necessary to consider the finish at an early stage.

6) Workshop repairs
Workshop repairs are charged at £36 p/h and are carried out by our team of highly skilled historic ironwork specialists. Materials used during the repairs, such as cast iron welding rods are charged in addition.

7) Painting
Typically we decorate the benches with a Dacrylate Vinadac paint system, however we can paint in any conventional paint system. (Please note we do not have the facilities to paint two-pack systems). We keep a variety of stock colours which can be found on our website. The cost to decorate a typical three seat bench will be £320.00. Non-stock colours can be supplied in any colours from the RAL or BS4800/BS381C ranges. Allow an additional £40-50 for this depending on colour.
It is also possible to offer an historic paint analysis and colour matching service if you are interested in seeing your item finished in it’s original colour. Where items have been covered in multiple layers of paint we send a sample off for analysis to specialist paint historian (assuming the original paint is still on the bench). The cost for the historic paint analysis service is: £200.

8) Replacement Oak Slats
We are happy to supply new wooden slats, and to oil and fit them. These are supplied in European oak with a slight rounding to the top edge of the slats. The cost varies depending on length and number but allow c.£170 – £200 for replacement slats.

Depending on the bench style slats are either cut square at the each end or have to be shaped to fit within the cast iron moulding. If the slats are cut square then allow an additional £40 for stainless steel fixings and 3 coats of Osmo UV oil. If the ends are to be shaped then this can be a very time-consuming process depending on the casting allow 4-8 hours @ £36 p/h to include oiling.

9) Final Assembly
Final assembly can vary enormously due to the nature of construction allow 4-8 hours per bench @ £36.00 p/h.

*Please be aware there are many modern copies of original cast iron furniture patterns around. The only way to make an educated guess is to look at the quality of the casting and check your item for a pattern number which will help to date when it was made. Please find an explanation of pattern marks and how they can be read here:

Cast iron date marks

 

 

 

Cast iron bench restoration

We’ve just restored this beautiful bench for a private customer in Tenterden, Kent. This bench had been in their family for some time and was much loved and in need of repair. Martin Smith and Cecilie Robinson (Nadfas intern) made a full assessment of the repairs needed once the bench had been stripped of it’s paint. Incidentally this bench was the focus of a blog article I wrote a few weeks ago, because we found what we believe were the remnants of the original Coalbrookdale green colour right next to the cast metal. The bench was finished in Mid-Brunswick Green paint and looks very handsome back in situ.

Cast iron hearth plate restoration

Martin did a really neat job of repairing this broken cast iron hearth plate. The rest of the team were mightily impressed with the results. Just a note to add to these images… this method of repair was chosen because the client didn’t want to use this hearth plate near a fire, it’s purely for decorative purposes. There are other, more suitable methods of repairing cast iron that is to be used in or near a heat source. If you have any questions about repairing cast iron items, please get in touch because we’d love to help.