Burrows Lea Forge - Hand Forged Ironwork

Photos and Thoughts of 21st Century Blacksmith.

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Films, Movies and TV.

The problem with being good at what you do is that people seek you out for that reason.

We been making Set Decoration and Props for Feature Films since 1998 and TV some time before that.

Following on from my Blog post ‘Man from U.N.C.L.E.’ in 2014, Burrows Lea Forge has a reputation for doing tricky work to a high standard but in timescales far quicker than most can dream of. Obviously this niche market costs a little more and relies a lot on what the client provides… namely quality information, style and mood interpretations, drawings, schedules and prompt payment. In return we advise, plan and produce what they need, when they need it, sometimes even the same day!

This is why we do so much work for the Movies; however this brings it own unforeseen problems. The majority of producers like Disney, Spielberg, Lucas are very protective over their product and production… rightly so, there’s a mind boggling investment in these Features. Resulting in Confidentially Agreements and Manufacture surrender rights documentation, meaning that as a supply company we can’t publicly show (let alone reproduce) what we’ve made for them, particularly when it comes to Social Media…. So nearly all the movie work we’ve done over the last 15+ years you’ll never see here or on our feeds, which is a bit frustrating from our point of view.

A minority of Movies production companies take a different approach and embrace the media storm, hoping it will whip up some free publicity one such film being released this week is ‘The Man from U.N.C.L.E’ a Guy Ritchie (Lock, Stock and Sherlock Holmes) directed movie for Warner Bros. A Re-imagined 1960’s Cult classic, where CIA agent Napoleon Solo (Henry Cavill) and KGB operative Illya Kuryakin (Armie Hammer) participate in a joint mission against a mysterious criminal organization T.H.R.U.S.H.

So I can show a pictures of what we made (without being taken to court), but out of loyalty to our employers I’m not saying what they are or what scene they are used in. All I’ll say is its great from a crafts persons perspective, that Blockbusting Production Companies still see the worth of employing us old fashioned types alongside the cutting edge technology of CGI and Motion Capture. Long may it continue………… and keep me employed by going to see the film this month!

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The Man from U.N.C.L.E. ironwork for the film.

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Petworthgates.co.uk +1 year!

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The fully restored ‘Tijou Gates’ at Petworth House, West Sussex. Photo by Julian Smith

Back to Petworth House to check over the gates we finished restoring this time last year. Looking good! Never ceases to amaze me how difficult it can be to photograph large ironwork installations….. Hence a picture from last winter. I have to thank the very talented Julian Smith for capturing the gates in thier true glory. #blacksmith

For more information about the project www.petworthgates.co.uk

Or check out previous posts about Restoration of ‘Tijou’ Gates at Petworth House. and ‘Tijou’ gates.

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‘Tijou Gates’ at Petworth House, West Sussex. Photo by Julian Smith

 

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Masterpiece

Blacksmith, Hand forged, Design, Ironwork, Forge, Wrought Ironwork, Hot Forged, Blacksmithing

Burrows Lea Forge Sign in the firelight.

This is my Company signature piece I reckon. Its pretty good generally, as its sums up what I do in a glance.
The back story is rather different…. I made this sign when I was leaving my apprenticeship in1995 (I was 26 years old at the time) and was to be my ‘masterpiece’.

I had been using a drawing for my company logo and thought it a good idea to realise it into a physical example of what I could do as a qualified Blacksmith. As usual I left it to the last minute to make it, so much so, my Master Smith threatened to refuse me my qualification if I was late in submitting it.

That manic week in 1995 making it has stayed with me all these years and every time i look at this piece I’m reminded of working like a demon to complete it on time….. I guess that’s also sums up what I do! #blacksmith #blacksmithing #repousse #masterpiece

 

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‘Robin Hood’ film 2009

Blacksmith, Hand forged, Design, Ironwork, Forge, Wrought Ironwork, Hot Forged, Blacksmithing, Robin Hood, Ridley Scott, Film props, Set Decoration

Robin Hood 2009 montage

What were you doing 5 years ago this week?

Well, we were making a last minute batch of Cauldrons for the Ridley Scott Film ‘Robin Hood’, starring Russell Crowe, Cate Blanchett, Mark Strong and others. The production company had been let down by a ‘Blacksmith’ manufacturer at the last minute, we were already busy with their earlier orders. Desperate, the purchaser approached us, working on the basis ‘if you want something done ask a busy man…..” So we made 13 of these fiendish Cauldrons comprising of nine individual steel metal pieces, which then had to be riveted together. Anyone with any experience of this process will realise this is not straightforward….. Oh, and did I mention we had only five days to do it!

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Cauldrons made in 2009 for Ridley Scott’s film ‘Robin Hood’

 

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Wrought Iron Gate

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Wrought Iron Gate

Tis’ the season to make gates.

Coming into the gate season once again, the enquiries are coming in thick and fast. Regretfully I had to turn away quite a few in 2013 as we we’re fully occupied  and at capacity with an enormous pair at called the ‘Tijou’ gates at Petworth House. This year we are fully open for designing and making some, big and small. I love making gates!

Gates are pretty useful, they do the obvious! But have you thought a bit more about it? They can be used as focal point to draw your attention to or away from an area, they can extend a view or foreshorten, block and frame. They add texture and colour perhaps. They can definitely make a statement; but be careful with that one, because if you buy one from us the gate will last a very long time. Ultimately if you buy a designed, hand made one they add value and quality!

Its so important to have it designed for you, don’t just buy it because you like the one you see on a website from a bloke 100 miles away, it is unlikely to turn up as it looks on the webpage and it doubtful you’ll get much recourse when things don’t go you way. Make the blacksmith earn his money, because unfortunately they aren’t cheap. Compared to the tinpot ones at the garden centre they are very expensive, but so is a Christmas Turkey compared with a can of chopped tomatoes. Like the analogy, its a treat for a special occasion. You could afford to buy tomatoes most weeks, but they are just……. I’m going away from my point here, I hope you get my drift?

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Wrought Iron gate detail, showing construction and alternative finish

Get your chosen Blacksmith to come out, measure up and talk to you, discussing the possibilities and your options. Remember gates don’t have to have scrolls and spearheads (god help me), some of the nicest and timeless designs are just rails and stiles. Detail is everything, textured bars, mortise and tenon joints, punched bars so that one passes through the next, half lap joints, rivets and sets, curves and corners, perhaps variants on twists (not that old barley twist you have on your fire poker), forged balls, changes of section and good old fire welded detail, mixed media looks good too, try adding in wood, glass or whatever. If your Blacksmith doesn’t mention any of these simple things, please don’t use him. Definitely don’t use him if he doesn’t show you some of his own designs, you know the ones, they are called ‘drawings’…… if he can’t draw, getting across his plans and intentions, its unlikely you’ll end up with what you want or deserve.

The design(s) that arrives with your quotation (why should he/she give an estimate, its a gate?) should reflect your meeting and discussion, taking account of the site situation, house design and all the personal factors that a bespoke service delivers. If you don’t like what you see or the price, just say, most designers and artists have a back up plan for such eventualities, well, I do! And if you do like it but want it tweaked, don’t be afraid to to mention it either.

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Finishing touches to installation of wrought iron gate.

Did you talk about finishing and installation? Well your Blacksmith should have mentioned it, finishing is so important. Your gate is likely to be made form forged Mild Steel, it rusts I’m afraid, and once it starts you are unlikely to stop it. So included in the quote should be a zinc application of some sort Galvanizing is the toughest or Hot zinc spraying gives the best finish, both will protect your investment, don’t confuse zinc powder spray with hot zinc spaying, its not the same.

Then after that it needs painting professionally with a quality paint system. You shouldn’t need to worry about that because the Blacksmith will have included that? Well, I do. There are options of finish, once its protected against rust you can do what you like within reason, graphite loaded paints, phosphated zinc, you name it.

Installation, if the Blacksmith doesn’t include that you should be suspicious; they have gone to all that trouble to design it, make it, finish it…. they not going to let it out of their sight until its up and safe… are they? If they don’t care how its installed they probably didn’t care in the first place. Nuff said!Having the gate installed (and working) by the Blacksmith who made it should be the indicator that the job is done and it time to pay the balance of the bill (you would have paid a deposit to start). That’s it? Well ask about aftercare, quality gates don’t need painting to often, once every 6 or 7 years maybe, they can be washed off in between, maintaining the finish by cleaning off algea etc. don’t use caustic soaps though, Washing up liquid is the worst, car shampoo is OK, or just water!

Any problems, get them back to fix it. Remember you have paid a good price and deserve proper service, a reputable Blacksmith will want you quiet as soon as possible, commending him/her for their speedy attention to the problem.

Blacksmith, Hand forged, Design, Ironwork, Forge, Wrought Ironwork, Hot Forged, Blacksmithing, gates, entrance gates, Iron gates

Contemporary entrance gates

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Sir Edwin Lutyens

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Sir Edwin Lutyens classic D handle forged ironwork reproduction

Well, Sir Edwin Lutyens has made it onto Time Team!

I have to write something about that, from a Blacksmiths point of view of course….. we make and re-work many of his designs and participate in restoring and developing many of his buildings, its almost a specialty, we must have made more than any Designer Blacksmith , one order was over 500kg I seem to remember.

Lutyens used ironwork quite a bit on, or rather in his buildings, but not in the way you may think. It was always ironmongery and ordinary utility objects. Not grand Gates, Railings, Iron staircases, Lanterns, Signs etc. just all the little things that make life work, such as latches, hinges something to keep the door open. Like his buildings they got the job done…. looking familiar and homely.

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Lutyens cupboard handles

Large Ironwork projects weren’t his thing, I can only recall two sets of Iron gates, one in India and his Remembrance Gates, the latter is good, but a Baroque pastiche, not what you’d expect from an Arts & Crafts designer. There were some lanterns I think on Hampton Court bridge, Baroque again, but with all that Jean Tijou stuff next door I guess he felt obliged to show it some love. There are a few designs for garden gates floating about, I’ve seen a few in real life, I very much doubt they are Edwin Lutyens designed, despite the owners claims.

He didn’t do outrageous, challenging or I dare say thought provoking work, I’m not sure if that was ever the Edwardian way? He was a safe pair of hands, in a brave new world,  late nineteenth, early twentieth century was an exciting place for Great Britain, at that time everything was on the up and Britain was on top of the world. That is until WW1 (have you checked out our Warhorse article?), then the depression etc. but Lutyens soldiered on cutting his cloth to his starched suits. And he was prolific throughout. His success I believe was not  far sighted artistic vision or an ego as big as a giant,  gerkin (phallic, with nowhere to put your book shelf?). I think he genuinely wanted to embrace what we once had and still have, but make it better. Don’t throw out the baby with the bath water mentality…….. and that’s one that I live by!

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Lutyens hinges, Folly Farm, Berkshire.

Being a local man (he was born in Thursley, Surrey, you know!), Lutyens worked a lot in Surrey, Hampshire and Berkshire and there’s a lot of residences that have his name on (and Gertrude Jeykll too). We have worked on and made Ironwork for many of them, either in our own name or for others. Folly Farm (Sulhamstead, Berks), Hascombe Court (Hascombe, Surrey), Goddards (Abinger, Surrey), Orchards (Bramley, Surrey), Sullingstead (Godalming, Surrey), Chinthurst Hill (Wonersh, Surrey) to name a few.

As a Blacksmith its great to reproduce Lutyens designs; they are honest and true, no tricks, just looking back to a time when things worked….. there was no space in the home, if they didn’t. I’m glad that Sir Edwin is getting some air time, because he was a great architect and designer, working hard for the client and giving the customer what they asked for, without burdening them with the nonsense that so often pools and boils about some of today’s Designer/Architectural types (some not all!)

There’s a smaller article on this site regarding Sir Edwin Lutyens Here’s the link! Enjoy.

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Lutyens hinges and locking bar, BLF re-worked.

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The Man from U.N.C.L.E

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The Man from U.N.C.L.E. ironwork for the film.

Remember ‘The Man from U.N.C.L.E.’ films? I loved them! Well there’s a remake directed by Guy Ritchie coming very soon and we’ve made some bits for it!

All the bits you see in the photo are made out re-forged ‘scrap’ billets, the texture, colour and extra working gives the perfect character for primitive cell door ironmongery….. which its for! We knew this was what the designers wanted…. because the drawing showed us.

We made them for our usual designers; Julie makes our life really easy with her beautiful drawings, hand drawn and full size as they should be! The reason it makes it easy is because drawing by hand conveys texture, weight and character that CAD can’t…. long may they continue to do so.

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Bread and Butter, Nuts and Bolts.

Hand forged Nuts & Bolts

Hand forged Nuts & Bolts

Writing on the last day of January it’s hard to believe Spring 2014 is seven weeks away!

Its been a very soggy start to the new year and nearly all our current work involves extensive site work (exterior), so we’re a bit behind as you can imagine. On the flip side the unplanned, ‘forced’ time in the Forge has been used productively to clean up, getting all those little repairs and ‘favour’ based work out of the way.

Fitting wagon axle staples.

Fitting wagon axle staples.

So, I spent Friday morning at the hearth, forging repair links to fix chains, making swivels for Heavy Horse harness and re-forging breaker points. As an apprentice and learning my trade this sort of work was tricky, but fun. In my middle years, with refined skills this was bread & butter work, reserved for Saturday mornings and was a tedious necessity, while I dreamed of artistic opportunities and great works. These days when a MacBook is my most useful business tool, the opportunity to do straightforward, old-fashioned Smiths work is to be relished and like riding a bike or playing a musical instrument (so I’m told), it all comes easily and is a total pleasure to revisit.

And so onward into the New Year and this year publicity is my goal; I realized a few years back that all the publicity and advertising I had undertaken in earlier years had paid off, having reliable, long term work to look forward to and a healthy client base. But traditional advertising and promotion has been overtaken by web based campaigns. To ignore this change is business suicide and I’ve been increasingly frustrated to witness less capable companies are getting opportunities purely on the basis they are shouting loader than the rest of us; now is the time to do something about it. I guess that’s a life lesson in general isn’t it, we all know of ‘loud’ companies/people and perhaps think of them first. However in most instances, there’s a far better, more reliable (quiet) businesses/person at the end of the road. Its a shame that its no one’s fault really except those quiet businesses if we don’t recall them; but if we do remember them and don’t give the chance for patronage, there’s a good chance (without a high street position) they might not be around for long. It’s sad that the term ‘use it or lose it’ is being repeated so often now!

With that philosophy & warning I advise  myself and others to shout as loud (or at least quite loud) as the loud ones via keyboard and Smart phone. Here, there, Twitter, everywhere, Instagram, Facebook and all the other emerging markets too. I personally have lots to show and tell. So starting as I mean to carry on, please check out the sidebars on this page and take a look at my Twitter and Instagram feeds and ‘Like’ me on Facebook, if you dare. ‘Follow too’ on any of these and the this website if the fancy takes you. It all adds up these days!

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‘Tijou’ gates

'Tijou' gates circa 1900

‘Tijou’ gates circa 1900

Our latest commission is drawing to an end.

Burrows Lea Forge Ltd has been working on the conservation and restoration of the ‘Tijou’ gates at Petworth House since December 2012. The picture above shows the gates as they were in 1900. Since mid 20th century the gates fell in to a state of disrepair. Despite efforts by the National Trust to conserve elements in the mid 90’s it was only a temporary fix. In 2012 funding was finally secured for their restoration.

This job is a massive undertaking by Burrows Lea Forge Ltd and the largest in the company’s 22 years of trading. At the end of August 2013 the work will be complete and the gates are renovated to their former glory and very impressive they are too. All the work has been carried out by qualified, time served Blacksmiths using traditional skills, materials and techniques. Sound conservation practice has been employed throughout.

Not a job for the faint hearted; at the last count we have made over 570 new leaf based components and made over 1000 repairs and new fixings. There will be more of a write up on this Blog in September, but in the meantime have a look at Petworthgates.co.uk for more information and pictures

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Kingpost Public Artwork

SONY DSC

August 2012, Burrows Lea Forge won a design competition for Public Art installation at Kingpost, Burpham, Surrey commissioned by Guildford Borough Council.

The site is confined and the Artwork had several jobs to do. It had to incorporate signage, a ‘nod’ to the heritage of the site, the usual public interaction criteria as well as having very low maintenance  requirements.

Burrows lea Forge rose to the challenge (as usual) and designed it tall and proud with a small footprint. One amendment to the design and the order is placed. We were very busy at the point of order and a long turnaround time had to given, with a promise and guarantee the work would be in place by the end of February 2013.

Extracts from my Design and Access Statement describe the work better than I can write here and now: “The proposed Kingpost & London Road parades Public Artwork takes the form of a Signpost, set into the centre of the existing, circular communal area. The Public Artwork is essentially a sign and a post; it has generic iconography on the upper portion of the post that is surmounted by a large two-sided insignia/logo/sign. It has integral signboards stating Kingpost Parade on one face and London Road Parade on the other.

Public Art at Kingpost

Public Art at Kingpost

The sign depicts a stylised ‘meld’ of a Crown (Kingpost) and a Cartwheel (London Road). The wheel sits/rolls on a ‘road’ obstructed by large pebbles (actually the steel ball nuts that hold the post and sign parts together). The design is visually balanced, giving neither the crown nor the wheel dominance; as with the two actual shopping parades. The framing effect of the wheel rim is truncated in the design to offer the signboards more space and get the message across.

For me this is a natural choice and application of imagery for this Public Artwork. I didn’t want to rely totally on the area’s history for a theme nor did I want to create abstract art that may stand against the environment. I consider this area of the Guildford district as a dynamic and changing scene, with plenty of scope for growth. There are many young families and small businesses in the area, so a simple, instantly recognisable form is respectful to them.”

I consider the site of the Artwork to be ‘walk by’ and ‘seen from a far’, so it has to be tall, over 4 metres in fact, if it were shorter it would just disappear into the shop signs and many road signs that ‘litter’ the proposed site. The post is quite large too, but it needs to be to resist flex caused by gusts of wind and/or revellers who decide to test their climbing skills.

The Artwork was installed on a substantial foundation, on time and on budget in February as promised.

Thanks to Guildford Borough Council for the commission, to S.R.Newman Ltd. for preparing the foundations/making good and to JPS Ltd for transport and lifting services.