The second in the NHIG’s new line-up of seminars – ‘Lead Casting & Fixing to Stone Using Lead’ – included presentations and practical demonstrations with ample opportunities for group discussion. Delegates from North, East, South & West attended, representing conservationists, architects and practitioners.
The day was introduced by the Chairman of the NHIG David James who then proceeded to give us all an overview on how lead has historically been used in ironwork, in for example as a fixing method, filler, composite of coatings, cast decorative detailing or as a backing when doing repousse. Particular attention was paid to advising on the health and environmental considerations which is essential when working with this material and raised important issues.
Andy Thearle then did a presentation on lead casting and making lead moulds. He showed a series of slides of traditional ironwork 18th/19th centuries with lead cast details which are very commonly used in the city of Bath. The lead casting decorations were fascinating in that it is easy to mistake many of them for cast iron. Andy also brought a wide variety of different sample castings and moulds for the delegates to examine. The use of relatively cheap reproduction moulding techniques were discussed followed by a practical demonstration of casting a lead ball detail around a bar. It was particularly interesting to see how much detail could be achieved relatively quickly.
Brian Hall’s presentation on Lead sculpture was very interesting as it is a subject that many of us had little experience. Lead sculpture became popular late 17th early 18th century and Brian took us through some case studies including one of Charles 2nd on horseback and the major limb surgery carried out to give this magnificent beast a new lease of life. Just coping with the weight of these objects demands significant thought and preparation. Brian and David came together to discuss lead fixing and its removal from stonework – the clear message here being if you can avoid having to remove it then don’t do it.
Paul Ashmore gave a practical demonstration of removal and fixing of iron in stone with lead. This proved to be of great interest drawing the crowd of practitioners and advisors around with a wealth of advice, wisdom and laughter to help Paul cope with removing a really recalcitrant fixing (I’m sure Paul really appreciated the input!!). It amply demonstrated the significant effort and time it can take to remove existing fixings. This was followed by Paul’s practical demonstration of leading in.
At the end of the day, even those delegates who had a long drive home said it was well worth the journey. The glorious weather, some good food, the chance to meet new people and the opportunity to learn new stuff made it a great day for all concerned.
Last but not least … A big, big thank you to Herefordshire and Ludlow College for hosting us at the Rural Crafts Centre and allowing us to use their excellent facility, and thanks also to Supply UK hire shop for the loan of a diamond drill and core bits.