This pretty Georgian canopy was reclaimed and restored on behalf of a client who lives on Lansdown in Bath. Martin Smith carried out this restoration in the Ironart workshops in Larkhall. He started by stripping it apart, straightening all the sections and making moulds for the lead cast ball detailing. Martin had to make a new mould for the larger ball detail on the sides (which were new additions). We think it really enhances the back door to their garden.
Welcome to Stacey Hibberd who is spending two weeks with us here in the workshops at Ironart. Stacey’s ambition is to become a metal conservator, specialising in ironwork restoration. She already has a diploma in blacksmithing and metalwork under her belt, having studied at Warwickshire College under Michelle Parker. Stacey is currently in her second year of a foundation degree in Jewellery and Silversmithing at Truro and Penwith College (Plymouth University) and has been accepted to study the Graduate Diploma in Metal Conservation at West Dean College.
It’s only day two at Ironart for Stacey, who is currently making six hanging basket brackets – reproductions of an original we were asked to match. They are forged from 14mm round bar with a drawn out and twisted end, reminiscent of an auger bit. She is working under the supervision of Workshop Manager Jason Balchin who said that she’s approaching the job with “enthusiasm and attention to detail!”
Last Saturday Martin led a workshop of four people through some basic forging techniques. We had this really lovely feedback from Tom O’Driscoll who attended, which we wanted to share. The workshop had been a surprise Christmas present from Tom’s wife. If you are interested in booking onto one of our blacksmithing workshops there is limited availability at the moment due to their popularity – click here for a link to our website. Please sign up to the Ironart newsletter to be the first to hear about more dates as we announce them.
“I really, really enjoyed the day with Ironart. It was a hugely enjoyable and informative experience. With just 4 of us we were able to learn and practice in an intimate and constructive setting and develop some new acquaintances –without being lost in a crowd, as I have been on other activities. I thought your administrative arrangements, from joining instructions to bacon butties, were spot on and I have already highly recommended the day to friends and family. I particularly enjoyed freestyling it later on in the session, making a few pieces for the home. I admired the way we were not corralled into making something specific and that Martin was just keen to help us realise our ideas. Great day all round. VMT Tom O’D”
During January Martin Smith and Paul Ashmore worked on the restoration of an unusual kitchen garden gate from Cothelstone in the foothills of the Quantocks. The Ironart team was also commissioned to follow the original design and make up three new, replica gates to replace those that have long since gone missing from the walled garden, a challenge which we gratefully accepted.
The original gate is an impressive, heavy wrought iron example of complex, traditional construction, featuring tenon joints and curved punched rails and elegant forging. By Martin’s estimation the gate dates from c. 1820 and was without doubt specifically commissioned for the walled kitchen garden it graces. This was a really interesting and challenging project for the Ironart team who fully appreciated the craftsmanship and high level of precision with which it had been made.
Because the assembly of the original gate was so complex the team chose not to remove any of the component parts for cleaning. The extensive corrosion between joints had resulted in a great deal of rust jacking and failure of the tenon joints, all of which had to be meticulously cleaned by hand with brushes, chisels and scrapers. Any replacement parts were made by the team using wrought iron to retain the structural integrity of the gate. The original spring latch was reinstated as a working feature and a new stainless steel mortice lock was enclosed within a wrought iron box in sympathy with the original design. (For those that are interested, the main construction of this original gate was 1 1/4″ stiles, 3/4″ main bars and 2″ x 1/2″ rails – both straight and curved.)
The replica gates were tackled by one of our highly experienced blacksmith’s Jason Balchin, understudied by NADFAS intern Cecilie Robinson and Adrian Booth.
Jason’s first challenge was to scale down the dimensions of the original gate and create templates for the three new gates to fill the apertures in the wall. The new gates not only faithfully followed the design of the original, but were also traditionally made, with tenons, mechanical joints and firewelded features. The central diamond detail was made up of fire-welded joints and halving joins. All the ends of the rails had forged tenons which were heated up and riveted into countersunk holes on the stiles. It’s important to point out that these new gates were constructed using modern materials – ie: metric mild steel instead of imperial wrought iron.
Due to the complexity of this project the team had to assemble them three times during the making process to ensure that all dimensions and calculations had been accurately achieved.
Prior to assembly all the mating joints and tenons were flooded with a zinc rich primer before being sent to a local firm for shot blasting and hot zinc spraying and priming. Once this has been done they’ll be ready for their final paint application.
Jason Balchin says of this project: “It was really enjoyable making these complex, technical gates and a pleasure to work with Adrian on our first big project together – he did a really great job.”
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.
Ironart braziers and bonfire night – what better excuse to enjoy the great British outdoors before winter really sets in! These braziers and fire pits are available in two designs: go for the more upright Fluted brazier for those ‘standing-up’ chatting garden parties, or if you want a more laid back low-level fire to sit down and put the world to rights over some toasted marshmallows the Malvern Brazier is definitely the one to go for.
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 of Ironart of Bath. Photo credit Clare Green, Western Daily Press
Garden antiques expert James Rylands writes in detail about Coalbrookdale garden furniture in the July/August issue of Antique Collecting magazine – an interesting article that’s well worth a read if you can lay your hands on a copy. The magazine is published by the Antique Collector’s Club www.antique-collecting.co.uk 01394 389 950 We were approached by the magazine to offer advice on the restoration of Coalbrookdale furniture and Ironart’s Martin Smith is quoted in the article. James Rylands been involved in antiques from 1979 when he joined Sotheby’s. In 1986 he set up the Garden Statuary department in Sothebys Sussex. He is the co-author of a book on garden ornaments and the founder of Summers Place Auctions in West Sussex, which specialises in garden statuary.
For more information on the restoration of antique cast iron furniture, please take a look at the Restoration area on our website, where you’ll find a portfolio of commissions. If you have any questions or want some advice about restoration, please get in touch.
We have just received images from a client near Glastonbury who commissioned this lovely circular barn-style chandelier in a rusted finish. I’ve also included some images of the piece on the bench in the workshop while it was being assembled. The design was based on a previous project here at Ironart, but in this instance the chandelier was wired by the client’s electrician to accommodate candle stems and electric bulbs. These are bespoke items and can be made to any size, please contact us if you’d like some more info.
On Thursday the entire team downed tools and headed off on a sunny day trip to Wolverhampton! Andy wanted to introduce the Ironart team to some of our suppliers, to give everyone an insight into different aspects of the architectural metalwork “supply chain” and how it all works.
First we visited Legg Brothers steel rolling mill and soaked up the atmosphere inside their vast workshop. An awe-inspiring series of complex industrial machinery and some seriously heavy-duty manpower in full rhythmical production. It was an impressive sight.
Next we headed over to the fascinating Aladdin’s cave that is Barr and Grosvenor casting foundry on Jenner Street, where we met with Dominic and Lynn Grosvenor and their team for a full tour of their casting workshop. Dominic is a passionate advocate of traditional casting techniques and it was an absolute pleasure to meet him and a real treat to see his team of craftsmen at work in this unique environment. They kindly topped off our visit with a delicious lunch for which we were really grateful.
Finally our day ended with a whistle-stop tour of Edward Howell Galvanizing plant in Wolverhampton courtesy of Jim Lindsay and Kevin Addiss, where we all gazed in wonder at their enormous warehouses full of acid dip-baths and vats of hot moulten zinc. They were hard at work dipping rack upon rack of metal palisade fence posts…we’ll never look at palisade fencing again without remembering this experience!
Thank you so much to our generous hosts for giving up their time and energy to enlighten us, we absolutely loved it!