Ironart attends NHIG’s inaugural best practice seminar

Keeping up to date with best practice is a vital part of our ongoing training here at Ironart, so we were delighted to attend the NHIG’s first seminar on the Cleaning, Protection and Coating of Historic Ironwork at the Rural Crafts Centre in Hereford, a few weeks ago.

With around 50 delegates participating from as far afield as Scotland, London and the South Coast the seminar covered three key areas:

Current Cleaning Methods and their Effects, The Effects of Environment on Corrosion and Current Corrosion Control Methods and Historic and Contemporary coatings, their advantages and disadvantages /methods of application.

During the short presentations given, differing treatments were covered with each speaker outlining the relative pro’s and cons. Delegates were then given the opportunity to question, comment and debate on the subject areas covered during the day.

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Andy from Ironart who attended said:

“Getting together with fellow blacksmiths, specialist conservators, architects, the heritage trust and students in a forum like this provides a fantastic opportunity to listen to experts in the subject and then debate – quite vigorously as it turned out! –  the issues and methods involved in cleaning, protecting and coating heritage ironwork. Those who came along agreed that the seminar was a huge step forward in developing best practice advice and guidance for everyone in the field, including practitioners, specifiers and commissioners.”

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Notes were taken of the outcomes which will inform the content for future guidance and advice produced by the NHIG.

Andy said:

“As NHIG Secretary I’d like to thank Hereford & Ludlow College for hosting the event and to everyone who attended. Well done also to the NHIG team and speakers for making this such an informative and interesting inaugural event.”

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Over the next year or so the NHIG will be organising a series of seminars and master classes covering other areas of interest and concern regarding ironwork conservation. With the intention of promoting communication and understanding between  owners, specifiers and conservation professionals and also making available a resource base of information and technical advice on the care and preservation of our heritage ironwork. For updates and latest news, go to www.nhig.org.uk

Gateway to the Chateau D’Oiron…Final assembly

We recently blogged about the beautiful <<16th Century gates>> we’ve been working on for a private residence in Wiltshire. As promised, here’s the next instalment….

Clamping the gate

So having spent many weeks forging component parts for all aspects of the gates, it was time for final preparation and assembly. After all the components had been methodically adjusted to ensure a precise fit within the gate frame sections, the big moment had arrived…

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Clamped gate with tenon being forged

Having made all the intricate adjustments and ensuring that all the tenons fitted tightly, riveting of the outer frame could commence. To do this precisely and safely (bearing in mind each gate weighed approx. 450kg),  each gate was clamped in several places to ensure that there was no movement when the tenons were forged shut.

Once all the tenons and mechanical joints had been made good, each gate could be moved – no mean feat – requiring a block and tackle to lift each gate from the bench ahead of transportation…

 

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Tenon being heated prior to riveting

 

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Lifting 450+kg of gate

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RECLAIM magazine inaugural issue features Ironart’s Martin Smith

We were delighted to feature in RECLAIM magazine’s very first issue (March 2016), with an interview with Ironart’s very own Martin Smith!

In the interview, Martin talks about his background in restoration, his passion for the Short Stirling bomber restoration he is undertaking and talks in detail about the process of the recent restoration of a beautiful Coalbrookdale Nasturtium bench.

 

RECLAIM front page - March 2016

Ironart's Martin Smith talks about his background in restoration and recent Coalbrookdale bench restoration project

Ironart’s Martin Smith talks about his background in restoration and recent Coalbrookdale bench restoration project

Mary Reynolds on board with NADFAS grant

We are delighted to welcome Mary Reynolds to the team as our newest Apprentice Architectural Metalworker, thanks once again to the generosity of NADFAS.

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Mary originally comes from County Leitrim in Western Ireland and brings a valuable blend of skills essential to any aspiring artist blacksmith: strong practical ability combined with an artist’s eye.

She has already proved her commitment to the craft having recently completed a one year creative metalwork course at Plumpton College, West Sussex where she studied essential blacksmithing skills such as Forging and Welding.

Mary settling in the Ironart workshop

Mary has worked as an artist, graphic designer and photographer but was drawn to the possibilities of creating sculptural work in three dimensions. In 2014 Mary secured work experience with two metal sculptors: Giles Walker, contemporary scrap metal artist and kinetic and robotic sculptor and Alan Williams, metal artist and blacksmith, both of whom have given outstanding references of her work.

“I approached Ironart because of their expertise in both traditional metalworking techniques and restoration expertise, and also for the possibility to be involved in sculptural commissions. I’m really excited to be part of the Ironart team,” Mary said.

In her spare time, Mary enjoys staying busy; she plays the accordion, takes part in circus training and cycles.

Watch this space for updates on Mary’s progress!

Introducing Thomas Coffe

We’re delighted to introduce Thomas Coffe. Thomas is from Beaumont-sur-Leze in the South of France. He is a journeyman blacksmith apprenticed to the Compagnon-du-devoir, also know as the Compagnons du Tour de France. (NB Only follow that link if your French is up to scratch…. and it’s nothing to do with the famous cycle race!)

Thomas Coffe      Thomas Coffe at Ironart

The Compagnons du Tour de France is a French organization of craftsmen and artisans dating from the Middle Ages. The aim of the Compagnon guild is to train young men and women in traditional trades by acquiring experience trough travelling in various workshops throughout France and internationally too. Their traditional, technical education includes taking a tour doing apprenticeships with masters. A quick search on Wikipedia reveals this explanation

“The word compagnon (companion) is derived from the Old French compaignon, a person with whom one breaks bread. For a young man or young woman today, the compagnonnage is a traditional way to learn a trade while developing character by experiencing community life and travelling. Until recently, the compagnons were all male. Today, they can be found in 49 countries across five continents, practising many different trades.”

We are delighted that Thomas has been chosen to come and spend some time learning under the expert guidance of the Ironart team. He’ll be here in Bath for one year, and we’ll track his progress and projects here on the blog, so watch this space for more news!

 

 

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.”

 

 

Canopy restoration, Lansdown Bath

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.