Articles

A collection of ironwork related articles for conservators and heritage ironworkers.
New articles added as we find them. If you have any proposals for additions to this page please contact us.


Student View of Cast Iron seminar


As a student of Hereford and Ludlow College studying blacksmithing, I was invited to go along to the NHIG’s Pigs, Puddlers and Patterns seminar at the wonderful location of Coalbrookdale. I am still unsure of the path I wish to take and I knew this seminar might give me an insight into the world of conservation and restoration.

So on Friday the 21st a group of us from the college along went along to the Museum of Iron, an ideal setting for the topic of the day.  First, Jackie Heath and Russ Turner talked about conservation work on the world-renowned Iron Bridge, the first bridge made of iron. The talk looked at modern methods that were used to prevent more damage to the bridge due to the movement of the gorge it was built in, for example the use of laser scanners to calculate the loads it can withstand. It was very interesting to learn that the bridge has had continual maintenance throughout its life, with parts added and removed and when they came to restore the bridge, they decided to keep them as they form part of its history.

Next on was Paul Ashmore, a lecturer at my college, explaining the history of iron making.  It was very interesting to learn that ironmaking in this country escalated very quickly during the 18-19th century when beforehand methods had not changed much since the Roman period. He discussed the process of making wrought iron and how that changed into making cast iron allowing foundry men the ability to pour the iron into whichever shape they choose but also how the carbon can be burnt away to make wrought iron on a larger scale.

After a decent brew we then sat back down for a lecture on repair techniques to cast iron by Geoff Wallis. There certainly was a lot learnt in his short talk, about prevention of corrosion and cast iron repairs, with examples of work he has repaired throughout the UK and beyond.  I won’t give too much away but let’s say some of the simplest ideas work the best.

Diana Heath then spoke about the conservation of the Eagle Slayer statue which was originally created on the site of the talk, amazing to find the piece had had over 20 layers of paint over its life, with parts missing and moved to various sites. She explained the process of the restoration and its relocation to its home in Coalbrookdale where its stands in pride of place by the gift-shop.

We now came to the patterns part of the talk where John Reynolds described the reproduction of original castings to aid the restoration of old railings, how he goes about replicating original pieces and considering certain tolerances in the casting environment.

After a good lunch which was included in the cost of the event, the senior curator of the museum Georgina Grant told us all about the vast history of the site that was around us. I could not believe the amount that was created and shipped around the world, really making Ironbridge the home of casting for a small time. It was great to learn that they are still finding new pieces that were made all the time even pieces in Australia. She then proceeded to give us a tour of the Museum of Iron which includes parts off the very first railway locomotive designed by Richard Trevithick of Cornwall, showing the massive influence of cast iron in the industrial revolution. There are also many examples of the many things created in the casting foundries of Coalbrookdale, the detail of which are exquisite.

Sadly the final speaker could not make it but the day was topped off by Geoff Wallis giving an extra talk about load testing and modern ways of recreating casting, like three dimensional printing, asking whether we all agree that we should evolve and use more modern methods or if traditional is the best way to keep it.

Overall, I found the day very interesting all the speakers spoke well and some coming from a working background I can imagine it was difficult to talk in front of all of us. There was definitely enough tea and coffee to go around. It was a great setting to hold the talks, very relevant and I would certainly try to attend other talks if I can. Even if you aren’t in the restoration game  there is a lot to be learnt, and from a student’s perspective it is a great way to meet other blacksmiths to improve you skill and knowledge base.

Alex Rowe, Level 3 Student at Hereford and Ludlow College

‘Architectural Ironwork – Coatings & Colour’ by Patrick Baty


Patrick Baty delivered this presentation at our seminar on ‘Colour and Finish’ in London on 15th November 2018

Architectural Ironwork - Coatings & Colour by Patrick Baty (.pdf)

Ruined or Restored?


A practical ‘crib-sheet’ to point you in the right direction when dealing with heritage ironwork.  Where do you start? What should you look for? What are the issues?

Download this helpful snapshot overview here: Ruined or Restored? (.pdf)

Forged v Fabricated


Proctor Taylor

Forged-vs-fabricated.pdf
Forged-vs-fabricated.pdf - Version 1 (1 MB)

A guide to identifying traditionally forged ironwork.

Corrosion Rates


Nicola Emmerson has co-published a scientific paper on corrosion rates of various wrought iron samples when coated with 5 different preparations.

We cannot publish anything but the abstract, but she has made her email address available and if you want to question her about her findings, you can. Please contact us for more information.

The abstract, which raises some of the issues NHIG was founded to solve, is below:

Reference
Emmerson, N. J. and Watkinson, D. E. 2016. Surface preparation of historic wrought iron: evidencing the requirement for standardisation Materials and Corrosion 67 (2), 176 – 189

Abstract
The conservation of heritage wrought iron relies on corrosion prevention by preparation of surfaces and application of protective coatings. In contrast to industrial and engineering treatment of modern steel, conservation practice is not regulated by accepted national and international standards or underpinned by empirical evidence. This paper presents the results of oxygen consumption rate testing (as proxy corrosion rate) of historic wrought iron samples prepared by five commonly applied surface preparation methods and subjected to high humidity environments, with outcomes assessed by use of international standards employed in industrial contexts. Results indicate that choice of surface preparation method has a direct influence on corrosion rate of the uncoated wrought iron, which impacts on performance of the protective coatings that may ultimately determine survival or loss of our rich wrought iron heritage. By implication, more extensive empirical evidence is required to underpin and develop heritage standards for treatment of wrought iron which encompass specifics of the historic material, heritage context and the ethics of conservation practice. The introduction of such standards is called for in order to bring treatment of historic ironwork in line with highly regulated engineering and industrial practices.

Surface preparation of historic wrought iron: evidencing the requirement for standardisation


Reference

Emmerson, N. J. and Watkinson, D. E. 2016. Surface preparation of historic wrought iron: evidencing the requirement for standardisation Materials and Corrosion 67 (2), 176 – 189

Abstract

The conservation of heritage wrought iron relies on corrosion prevention by preparation of surfaces and application of protective coatings. In contrast to industrial and engineering treatment of modern steel, conservation practice is not regulated by accepted national and international standards or underpinned by empirical evidence. This paper presents the results of oxygen consumption rate testing (as proxy corrosion rate) of historic wrought iron samples prepared by five commonly applied surface preparation methods and subjected to high humidity environments, with outcomes assessed by use of international standards employed in industrial contexts. Results indicate that choice of surface preparation method has a direct influence on corrosion rate of the uncoated wrought iron, which impacts on performance of the protective coatings that may ultimately determine survival or loss of our rich wrought iron heritage. By implication, more extensive empirical evidence is required to underpin and develop heritage standards for treatment of wrought iron which encompass specifics of the historic material, heritage context and the ethics of conservation practice. The introduction of such standards is called for in order to bring treatment of historic ironwork in line with highly regulated engineering and industrial practices.

Keywords

coatings; corrosion; heritage; iron; protection; standards; surface preparation

For a copy of the paper please email Nicola Emmerson
EmmersonNJ@Cardiff.ac.uk

Paint Colors for Iron Gates and Fences


 by Kendra Wilson

Are railings always black?

Before the middle of the 20th century, ironwork was not black. It was much more likely to be green, gray, or red-brown.

Gardenista has a very interesting article on the development of paint colours used on ironwork that dispels the popular myth that Queen Victoria is responsible for all the black ironwork we see today.

The Rise of the Metal Window during the Early Industrial Period in Britain, c.1750-1830


Author: H.J. Louw

The Rise of the Metal Window during the Early Industrial Period in Britain, c.1750-1830
UniversityOfCambridge_article3.pdf (27 MB)

Taken from the 1987 publication by the Journal of Construction History Society and made available by the University of Cambridge this article by H.J. Louw investigates the metal window as an architectural feature of English building work.

From the University of Cambridge – Department of Architecture’s downloadable archive of the Journal of Construction History (CHS).

Lead and You


By Matthew Boultwood and Jo Adkins

Lead and You
Lead_and_You-generalversion-16-Jul-2013.pdf (1 MB)

Lead is a very useful and versatile material, in traditional metalwork it is often used for fixings, decorative details and in some coatings.  Lead paints for example give an outstanding and durable finish but its removal is a noxious process

The Use of Colour on Architectural Ironwork


By Patrick Baty

The Use of Colour on Architectural Ironwork
TheUseOfColourOnArchitectualIronwork_by_PatrickBaty.pdf - Version 1 (48 KB)

This paper is based on the text of a lecture given by Patrick Baty at "From Foundry and Forge", an International Ironwork Symposium held at the Victoria and Albert Museum on 28th October 1994.