I’m so pleased I had the foresight to commission our weatherproof shelter from SCA, it has definitely paid its way so far in this project, not one day lost to bad weather! Its been such a miserably long winter. Spring officially began last week and the clocks go forward this evening, Oh! and its Easter holiday as I’m writing. To think this week a year ago, BLF was basking in the sun at Cliveden House, Berkshire fitting garden architecture and Thames Water were warning that we needed two years worth of rain in the next 9 months to avert a serious water shortage… we should have been careful what we wished for.
The Acanthus leaves pictured above have autumnal feel, but they are in fact flame cleaned, resulting in this beautiful russet, purple appearance. All the paint, muck and corrosion is burnt away, leaving the leaves ‘clean’. They will be lightly brushed and wiped clean before they are brush primed ready for further coats of paint. The rear of each leaf will receive pretty much all the coats they need before they’re fixed to the gates; the backs will always be difficult to access for redecoration.
The gates and main structure, like the leaves, are clean and primed, awaiting the new and original elements to be fixed back on. Its been a long haul and the blacksmiths have worked really hard, maintaining good spirits despite the dirty and boring nature of this part of the project. Having to put up with the cold too?….. I suppose there is one good thing about flame cleaning, but only one!
The new work is well underway, near on 150 new leaves and rosettes have already been forged and are ready for installation on the gates, this is in addition to the samples and tooling test pieces we’ve made already. The latter were made in Mild Steel. However the new work is made from Reprocessed Charcoal Wrought Iron (as per schedule) or Pure Iron depending on how it is to fitted into the structure. The original Acanthus leaves above are Original Victorian Puddled Iron for the record.
Burrows Lea Forge takes a balanced and sustainable view regards to materials used in Heritage Reproduction. Reprocessed Charcoal Wrought Iron is expensive and finite resource; I believe it should be used, sensibly and with good judgment. Burrows Lea Forge’s Conservation and Reproduction policy recommends new components or patch repairs destined to be fixed in homogenous way (i.e.fire welded, modern welded*), the repair should be on ‘like for like’ basis, using Wrought Iron (Reprocessed charcoal, puddled or other) and where possible authentic component manufacture and fixing techniques too. However, where a new component or scroll work element is fixed via reversible technique such as screws, rivets, tenon fitted or collars we treat it as a stand alone item and it does not warrant the use of valuable Wrought Iron and a next best material choice is acceptable, namely Pure Iron (I advocate use of Mild Steel in specific scenarios, but none arise in this project). No matter the repair or replacement it is important to identify the work or repair through recording and direct identification. I’m confident this is a rational, accountable approach and most importantly, sustainable.
In Heritage Wrought Ironwork, there is (while its available) heated discussion regards to the extent Wrought Iron (Puddled or Charcoal) should be used. Conservation and Restoration of Wrought Ironwork is complicated enough, let alone when to use traditional Blacksmith verses modern techniques and the minefield of finishing… so add in a sustainable materials argument… it even makes my head swim trying to explain it.
So what is the simplest approach, my trick toward making the right decision is always to take a step back, remember the structure I’m being paid to save and be true to it (and myself).
*Re. Modern welding – sometimes and with the best of intentions, a Blacksmiths Ego to do repairs traditionally can in-effect destroy the Historic integrity of a structure i.e. you don’t pull a gate apart to repair two tenons, by undoing nine perfectly good ones, that’s common sense… isn’t it? Well you’d think so, but it happens all the time and I could go into the mire of welding, welding types and respective filler rods, but I haven’t the mental endurance to do it here