Happy 50th Ironart!

June 1967Sgt Pepper had just been released, Aretha Franklin’s Respect was at number one, protests against the Vietnam War were at their height … and as the first cash machine appeared on the streets of London, over in Bath a metal workshop called Ironart opened its doors for business.

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Sam Chantry, the original owner, made some of the classic Bath ironwork that you see around you today, including railings, gates and balconies at the likes of the Royal Crescent, the Theatre Royal and further afield at Bowood House.  Our very own Luke worked for Chantry as a teenager and sometimes finds himself revisiting the ironwork he helped to install all those years ago.

 

And 50 years later in June 2017 here will still are, on the same site in Larkhall, doing what we do best – making beautiful bespoke ironwork that will adorn your homes and gardens for another 50 years – at least…

sunflowerMeadow gate 26T5A2624Bespoke latches by Ironart of Bath

Lansdown bench

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Lansdown Bench on BBC Gardeners’ World Friday 11th September

BBC Gardeners’ World were in Bath last week filming the Bath WI garden in Victoria Park as part of a WI Centenary feature. The WI community garden is in the beautiful Botantical Gardens in Royal Victoria Park, Bath. The garden is entirely made up of edible plants and flowers. Happily for us the garden also features an Ironart Lansdown bench. Our benches are all handmade here in our workshops in Larkhall, and this one was handpainted by Nichola Thearle in a subtle Union Jack design.

Pictured sitting on the bench here are BBC’s Rachel De Thame with Kitty, Head Gardener at Bath’s WI. You can catch the epsiode this on BBC iplayer from Friday 11th September at 8.30pm on BBC 2.

BBC gardeners world (1) BBC gardeners world (2) Union Jack Lansdown Bench

Bath Abbey Lectern repair

Not a big project, but great to have the chance to work inside Bath’s beautiful Abbey repairing the foot of their historic lectern – here are some pics of Luke fitting new heavy-duty casters to the base. The inscription on the lectern reads…“Presented to the Bath Abbey Church on its restoration by Ann G Bligh as a memorial to her late beloved husband Richard Bligh who died Aug 19, 1869”

 

Afternoon tea anyone?

These highly unusual cake stands were made for Ian Taylor at The Abbey Hotel in the centre of Bath by talented blacksmith Cecilie Robinson.

They were made to Ian’s design and incorporate delicate glass fruit by Adam Aaronson of contemporary glass studio Aaronson Noon. The organic ‘branch and leaf’ design created a series of challenges for Cecilie, not least trying to ensure that they were all exactly the same. These pictures tell a step-by-step story of the cake stands as they took shape in the Ironart workshop, at times giving the illusion of an enchanted forged steel forest! This was a really fun project to work on, and the bespoke cake stands look fantastic inside the Abbey Hotel. (ps. Apparently they also double up as very useful hat and coat stands….who knew?)

Martin Smith & his Short Stirling bomber

Ironart’s restoration specialist Martin Smith is  a wearer of many hats. One of his chosen specialised subjects is the history of the Short Stirling bomber of which no complete examples exist today. The Short Stirling was the first four-engine heavy bomber to enter RAF service in the Second World War. It was at the forefront of the night bombing offensive against Germany before high losses forced its relegation to second-line duties. In its modified form as the Mk IV and Mk V, the Stirling fulfilled vital roles with the RAF as a paratrooper transport and glider tug and as a long-range passenger transport.

Martin has spent years collecting memorabilia and parts to recreate the instrument panel and sections of the fuselage  – his project has real historic value. We’ve blogged about this in the past (Click here to read all about it).A few weeks ago Martin was tracked down via this blog by a fellow enthusiast and author Jonathan Falconer who needed his expertise and input for a new Haynes, Short Stirling Owner’s Workshop Manual – which has just gone to print.  Believe it or not, these photographs were taken just a few weeks ago for the manual, they feature Martin dressed in vintage pilots uniform in front of the instrument panel he has painstakingly recreated, how cool is that!

Churchill and Short Stirling

Archive photograph of Churchill with a Short Stirling bomber

Martin Short Stirling  Martin Short Stirling 2

 

Martin Short Stirling - Haynes Manual

Coalbrookdale bench restoration

We have been commissioned to restore a number of lovely Coalbrookdale cast iron benches over the last few months. These items are becoming extremely sought after and are fetching high sums at auction so are well worth restoring. Here are two separate restoration commissions as an illustration of the kind of challenges the restoration team here at Ironart are tasked with.

The 1864 Lily of the Valley bench came in to us in  July 2014. It had already been blast cleaned and previously very poorly repaired. Martin and Cecilie took the old ‘bodged’ welds off and replaced with fresh welds and brackets where they were missing. They added bits of missing leaf work  which were carved from scratch out of cast plate. The bench was then reassembled (reusing the slats it had been sent with) and supplied to our client with a red oxide paint finish.

The second bench is a lovely Fern Coalbrookdale which came in to us in June. We took paint samples as it looked to us as if the original Coalbrookdale green paint was still in situ underneath the new layers. We had it cleaned  which revealed pinholes in the original casting (shown). The centre mount on the back of the bench was broken and there was a lug missing. All fixings had corroded so Martin had to drill and tap and make new bolts. There was a missing front slat mount, and another on the back. The bench was supplied painted and the client replaced the slats themselves.

If you have cast iron garden furniture that could do with some TLC and would like a quote to have it restored, please get in touch.

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!

 

Cecilie’s visit to Sheffield Forgemasters

NadfasNadfas Grant recipient Cecilie Robinson has just returned from a five day visit to Sheffield Forgemasters International, which is a massive industrial metalworking business and the biggest foundry in the UK. Sheffield Forgemasters make vast component parts for things like offshore oil rigs, submarines, ships and nuclear power stations. They have a whopping 800 strong team of people working a 24 hour operation with three rotating shifts.

Cecilie spent time in the pattern shop, where the scaled up drawings are turned into vast wood and filler patterns, then in the foundry where the team make sand moulds on a huge industrial scale. Cecilie had a go at welding with their team too, where she experimented with various rods – and modestly admitted she did “pretty well!”

Cecilie also visited the meltshop where recycled steel is melted down and elements are added to it. The day she was there they were making stainless steel components for a nuclear project. Pouring from a furnace into two 104 tonne ladles. The team at Forgemasters use computer programmes to simulate these pour processes, and their technicians can predict where issues will occur, such as problematic differences in cooling rates, air bubbles etc.
Then 12 hours later (late at night) these molten ladles were poured into the mould. This was apparently then going to take up to twelve weeks to cool and set! Ultrasound is used to indentify impurities in the casting which are then gouged out and rebuilt where necessary.
Amazingly the Forgemasters foundry is on a different site to the melt shop so the molten steel has to be transported on a flat bed lorry prior to the pour which is huge feat of logistics in its own right. Sometimes they pour up to six ladles per project. The whole experience was a real eye-opener and really worthwhile. Our thanks to the team at Forgemasters International for showing Cecilie around their impressive set up and making her feel so welcome.

 

 

Congratulations Jason Balchin AWCB

We are really chuffed to report that Ironart’s Jason Balchin has been awarded a Dipoloma of Merit by the Worshipful Company of Blacksmiths. Jason is a highly experienced and valuable member of the Ironart team and is highly deserving of this new and shiny feather in his cap.

Jason attended a ceremony in London on 16th October 2014 to receive his award from the Blacksmiths company. Heartfelt congratulations to you Jase, from everyone at Ironart.

Jason Balchin - Award Oct 2014 - web

Jason Balchin of Ironart of Bath. Photo credit Clare Green, Western Daily Press

Jason Balchin of Ironart of Bath. Photo credit Clare Green, Western Daily Press

Tour of Britain Sun Flower

On Friday the sixth stage of the Tour of Britain bike race kicked off in Bath. As many of you will know (the Wiggo sideburns are a dead giveaway) cycling is something that is very close to Andy’s heart – so no prizes for guessing who took full advantage of this wonderful photo opportunity!

Ironart’s Sun Flower was perfectly positioned as a backdrop as the peloton raced along Great Pulteney Street, zoomed past the sculpture on the Bathwick Hill roundabout, then headed off along Pulteney Road and out of Bath towards Bradford on Avon and Trowbridge. It was over in a flash, but it was a very beautiful moment.