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Tree Seat.

Tree Seat

Tree Seat looking out onto the Surrey Hills

Timber and Iron always compliment each other well.

Furniture is the obvious choice for mixed media items, although it works well in gates and fencing too. The Tree seat featured in this article is one we designed , made  and eventually fitted in June 2011. The brief was to design a light looking seat (‘As if floating!’ I think the client said) but to use wood as the seating material, that’s not an easy trick to pull off, timber alway adds visual weight, so you have to offset that with good detailing and light colouring. The Ironwork is fairly simple as is the timber slats that make up the seat and back rest. The seat slats are tapered to match the radial development of the circular bench. The timber was selected and machined perfectly by my good friend James Steer, from Oram Joinery.

As with the Sime Memorial Bench we installed last month, the timber we chose is a tropical hardwood called Iroko, which is a bit like teak. It is very stable and looks great when it is oiled. We use a horribly expensive product called Osmo oil which is organic, so its impact on the environment is minimal.The oil does the job well, although it does take 4 -5 days to dry properly when you first apply it. The metalwork was galvanised and phosphate washed, as a lot of our outside work is, giving a maintenance free finish. The timber will have to be cared for and recoated in the Osmo oil from time to time but thats the difference between wood and galvanised metal!

Tree seats always offer great photo opportunities as you can see, despite being in the shadow of the tree and on an overcast, showery day,  the beautiful coloured timber sets it off a treat. Here’s a photo of the whole thing.

Full view of Tree Seat

Full view of Tree Seat

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Fire Dogs & Baskets

Norman Shaw Repro Fire Dogs

Reproduction Fire Dogs – Richard Norman Shaw

We design and make a lot of Fire related Ironwork.

Straight away we need to discern the difference between Wrought Ironwork and Cast Ironwork in this article. We at Burrows Lea Forge work in the medium of Wrought Iron/Mild Steel, which can be forged, bent and generally manipulated by heat in a Blacksmiths Hearth, it is ideally suited to ‘limited batch’ production and ‘one off’ bespoke items. Cast Iron like the name implies, is cast. In a Foundry molten Iron is poured into a pre-formed sand or ceramic mould this process lends itself to be ‘batch/semi mass’ market. Confusingly hot forged Mild Steel is often referred to as ‘Wrought Ironwork’ even though it is Wrought Iron-less…… its very confusing I know, I have to explain it all the time, sorry for that!

Fire dog & basket

Hand forged fire dog and basket.

With that over, back to my Blog, the most obvious Wrought Ironwork fireside items are Fire Baskets and Dogs. The ‘Dogs’ are traditionally separate to the Basket and can be used to support/position large logs while they are burning in the fire, but they can be used in conjunction with the Basket to burn a more wide variety of combustibles. Quite often we have orders for ‘statement’ Fire Dogs, just to create a fire place setting even when there is no intention of using a Basket or ever lighting a fire in the hearth. Fire Dogs and Baskets need to be heavily made; they have to withstand the rigours of heat, weight and the caustic conditions the fire’s ashes create.

We like to design specifically for each Hearth; every fireplace has an individual character and it’s a shame to just put in any old grate you find. Good quality Fire Baskets don’t come cheap and should be seen as an investment. A well designed, solidly made Fire basket will last a lifetime and should have an heirloom appeal. At Burrows Lea Forge we always design in serviceability to our work, so you can be sure no matter the use/abuse your Ironwork suffers we can always fix it.

Period Wrought Ironwork Fire Dogs & Baskets are now in great demand as authentic items are scarce on the open market. Period styles fetch high prices, Gothic Revival, Arts & Crafts, Art Deco and Art Nouveau in particular. We like to replicate these styles as they are interesting from a historical point of view, they were designed to look good first…. And fulfil their function second. Before these historic period styles, Fire Basket and Dogs tended to be more functional units as they tended to be used in working (cooking, cottage industry etc.) environments where looks came a poor second place to getting a job done.

The other classic and distinct styles are Medieval Gothic, Tudor, Stuart, Baroque and Rocco (There is of course as everything before and in between, but that’s quite subjective). We have never been restricted to period styles and are quite happy to design and make contemporary fire furniture and in the spirit of 19th/ 20th century styles, looks are the priority.

Contemporary designed free standing Fire Basket

Contemporary designed free standing Fire Basket

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A ‘Finished’ Gate

A finished Gate

A finished Wrought Ironwork Gate

This article follows the completed journey of the gate that we were riveting up in the last but one blog ‘Making gates’.

After that video clip was taken, the gate was completely hot riveted up. The locks and fittings were checked for correct alignment and operation and all the ground markers and set up indicators chiselled in.

During the time between that and this article, the gates had been delivered to specialist finishers. The finishers shot basted the metal to clean and create a ‘key’ for molten zinc to be sprayed manually on to the surface to create a cathodic protective layer (Hot zinc spraying). This layer provides electro/chemical protection of the mild steel gate frame….. I’m conscious not to be too technical here.… meaning most of  the zinc has to be corroded away before the mild steel gets attacked by rust.

The gate is then primed, undercoated and top coated in the conventional way, we use synthetic based vinyl paints, but with the cathodic protection in place, you could specify any suitable coloured exterior finish. Whatever the finish, as long as the zinc coating is not exposed too much to the elements by way of a sensible maintenance schedule the Ironwork should unlimited service and exceptionally longer than a painted finish alone.

Time to install the Ironwork, with the paint finish cured and safe to handle, we fitted the gate into its final position as seen it the photo above, in this case we dug holes and concreted the hanging panel and closing post in to the ground. We use a product known as PostCrete, to which we add large aggregate and water, having already spaced and levelled the ironwork ‘tails’ in the holes we hard pack the dryish mix in; within 30 minutes the ironwork structures are ready to accept light/controlled loads. We always ask the client to limit  use during the first 48 hours, so the foundations have a chance to cure properly.

So, why hot zinc spray? We want our work to last as long as economically possible (as do our customers), Hot Zinc Spraying offers delicate or detailed mild steel structures the best balance between protection against rusting and retention of hot forged detail. The last thing we want is our beautiful work covered in a thick coating of ‘whatever’; this may be ‘very’ desirable for lesser craftsmen, but not us! So in short, painted, quality exterior Ironwork where detail and textures are important, always specify Hot Zinc Spraying prior to a paint system being used.

An Important note to Professionals and Specifiers!  Hot dipped Galvanising or Electroplating should not be specified as an acceptable alternative to Hot Zinc Spraying. It should be specified for the reasons in ‘Why hot zinc spray?’ (previous paragraph). Hot zinc spraying is sometimes  referred to as Metalizing and is related to a thermal process known as Sherardizing. Electroplating is a cold process and uses a surface application of zinc to inhibit corrosion on iron and mild steel, but due to the very thin coating of zinc applied it is not suitable for long term exterior applications. There is a limit to  the size and shape that can be treated in Plating and Sherardizing processes and to a greater degree the Hot dipped Galvanizing process,; there is no size  limit to Hot zinc spraying, as the treatment (and its prep-process, shot blasting) is brought to the metalwork opposed to the metalwork being presented to the treatment.