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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!

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

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

 

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Wrought Iron Gate

Blacksmith, Hand forged, Design, Ironwork, Forge, Wrought Ironwork, Hot Forged, Blacksmithing, gate, wrought iron gate

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?

Blacksmith, Hand forged, Design, Ironwork, Forge, Wrought Ironwork, Hot Forged, Blacksmithing, wrought iron gate, gate, iron gate

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.

Blacksmith, Hand forged, Design, Ironwork, Forge, Wrought Ironwork, Hot Forged, Blacksmithing, gate, wrought iron gate, iron gate

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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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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Gallery!

Forged and painted flower, Middle Street, Shere.

In these pages I hope to show you what we’ve been up to over the last twenty or so years.

The pictures in Gallery pages are mostly my own designs and if they are not, the designer is accredited. Where the designs are solely Burrows Lea Forge’s they will carry an Artist copyright and cannot be copied or used without my permission. The work itself is entirely ours, I don’t show pictures of other peoples work! With that said I hope you like what you see and don’t forget to give me a click or call if you want more information.

We’ve done a lot of work for a small company and worked very hard to keep solvent and good humored. I’ve worked with many Smiths, Designers and Architects since 1992 and where possible (and justified) I’ve accredited those involved. Somewhere in the Web process I might have missed someone or another, it won’t be deliberate, so don’t sue me or anything. If you are missing and feel you deserve some credit please don’t hesitate to drop me a line or call and bend my ear.

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Bacchus Gate

In July 2008 the Bacchus gate came to life in a sketch, doodled in crayon (because that’s all I had), in front of the customer on a spiral pad (because that’s all I had).  Ever the professional, I had left my site bag in my other van. I was warned by a very well know Blacksmith friend of mine never to do this as it can look amateur and may commit you to something you might regret. I’m sure he’s right!

But I would disagree on one account, I often find sketching quite liberating and often catches the moment far better than memory ever can. Even a few lines can remind you later of what was happening at the time. I have to work very hard when it comes to sketching, I can technically draw very well and I can do formal drawing without to much trouble, but to do ‘off the cuff’ doodles I have to be careful. But this time it was like a dream, it flowed and as the client described what he was trying to achieve for his home.

Bacchus gate detail.

We discussed Bacchus, the god of indulgence, the Horn of Plenty, grapes, fruit and what too many good times can do to you. So a Horn of Plenty Gate adorned with vines, fruit and a bit wobbly was the result…… perfect as the gate was to be sited at the head of a narrow stair to a wine tasting cellar, against a rustic brick wall and to be seen from a French Provence inspired kitchen.
So I scaled the design up from the folded paper to full size and handed it over to the workshop. They did a brilliant job. It was one of those jobs that everyone enjoyed, the money was right, the design was perfect and there was plenty of scope for free form interpretation. The gate and a small panel were finished in a Slate grey finish that my Friend Andy Quirk showed me how to make up and apply.

I wish that so many other jobs went this way…… the client was also delighted!

Bacchus Gate and Panel

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Restoration of ‘Tijou’ Gates at Petworth House.

Acanthus Rosette

Acanthus Rosette on existing Gates in need of Conservation

September 2012 Burrows Lea Forge Ltd. won the tender commissioned by The National Trust to Restore the ‘Tijou’ Gates at Petworth House, West Sussex, England,

The Contract is signed and the Purchase Order complete. This is a dream job for us and probably most British Blacksmiths (the ones that actually hot forge their metalwork that is!). The Gates need Conserving and Restoring to their former glory.

Tender test piece 200 x 200mm x 12g, mild steel, Acanthus Rosette made by Nick Bates

Despite being known locally as the Tijou Gates, they are in fact Victorian opposed to early Georgian. That doesn’t mean they are any less in character or quality. In fact I believe Victorian Acanthus Work of this quality is in a league of its own, being almost perfect in charachter and execution, without the wasteful  excess of the Master Ironworker ,Jean Tijou.

The reason they are known as the ‘Tijou’ gates is that they are based upon his design, a design the man himself used on three occasions at Hampton Court Palace. The most notable is the last incarnation, commissioned by George I, known as the Lion Entrance Gates facing Bushy Park.

This a big job for us, at least 30 weeks. So my Blogs from now on will consist mainly of notable previous work, no less interesting though. There are still a few new things in the pipeline, namely our Conservation of The Durdan Gates at Epsom, UK and our latest Public Art commission for Guildford Borough Council. at Burpham, Surrey, UK.

I’m writing a separate Blog for the ‘Tijou’ Gates as it will take up so much of my time, please take a look though if you are interested Petworth Gates.

‘Tijou’ Gates Circa 1900

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Manor House Balustrade

The Manor House balustrade

We like a challenge… and with the largest one yet on the horizon (watch this space), I was thinking about some of the ones that have tested us over the years, well the ones I want to remember that is!

We just called it the Manor House balustrade, as I do now, as so not to reveal the site or the client, I had to sign a bit of paper you know! The job entailed making a new balustrade to replace and existing, but to reuse the Cuban Mahogany handrail. How difficult could that be! As it turned out, VERY. The warning signs were there, the previous contractor had walked off, the House

Manor House balustrade corner wreath

refurbishment was nearly complete and the commissioning agent jumped to accept what I thought was a slightly expensive quote, but we carried on regardless.

I’m not going into the surveying or manufacture process we employed because this is a Blog not a technical publication, but in short we had to admit to  learning lots of lessons. Blood, sweat and tears (a lot of tears, yes, blacksmiths are allowed to cry too), we worked though until spring 2004. The gilder had finished. The money had run out, patience and goodwill too! The last screws went in…. and finally it was installed and looked fantastic!

To any young crafts/business person reading, I’d like to reassure you that the saying ‘What doesn’t kill you… makes you stronger!” is true, however in my experience it’s best not to try it too often. I’ve found that no matter how bad it sometimes seems, or you wish you had never started a job…. all things come to an end and reward is often found in unexpected places.

With the latter in mind, the picture (at the top) has endorsed Burrows Lea Forge’s capability and skill to new clients greatly since 2004, so much so the losses of that project have been negated and that single picture still earns us prestigious commissions to the present day.

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The Batsman Gate and Railing, Guildford, UK.

The Batsman gate and railings was commissioned by the Radian Group in early 2012 and installed at the end of June 2012. The Public Artwork commission made up Radian’s S106 planning obligation linked a new housing development opposite Surrey’s Cricket Ground in Guildford, Surrey. Radian had the foresight and trust to offer us an open brief regards to design. Radian gave us a sensible completion date which we dutifully met with time to spare. I’d like to thank Radian’s senior project manager Rob Cummins for the opportunity to create this work and their builders Leadbitter Ltd. for their support enabling us to deliver the project on time and within budget.

I chose to tell a story with our Artwork. The Artwork imagery compromises of a Cricket Batsman caught in the act of hitting a ‘six’. The sculpture tells the story of an incoming fast ball, the skill of the batsman converts the fright of a  fast bowled ball into the delight of a hard hit ball that no-one can field to safety.

The hope was that children and inevitably adults will want to touch and try to ‘pluck’ the ball from it ‘final resting place’ buried in the ‘damaged’ the railing (they won’t be able to of course!) The intent was realized within minutes of the work finally installed, when a member of the public patting the ball ‘lodged’ in the railing as they passed by. The Batsman and stylized cricket balls have a lot of suggested movement in their forms, although I designed the structure to be totally rigid and tamperproof.

The contemporary styled sculpture is made from hot forged mild steel and is reasonably ‘heavy’ in appearance. Hot forging by its nature imparts life, and suggests an organic and natural feel to what is otherwise a dead metal. There’s a contrasting surface textures, smooth rivet heads, heavily mottled textured bars etc. The sinuous, twisting body of the Batsman is at the foreground of the gate, fixed to the front of the gate frame, behind him are (intact) cricket stumps and behind that is the outline of a giant, stitched seam cricket ball. The gate frame copies the twisting action of the Batsman. The layering does not add up much depth, perhaps only 100mm, but compared to an ordinary gate it will appear deep and rich.

Material density also varies, the ‘balls’ (which are hollow spheres) will sound hollow when rapped with knuckles, whereas the batsman and stumps, rigid and unyielding. The artwork is viewed mainly from passing traffic and pedestrians walking past on both sides of the road, so a substantial build is desirable.

The steelwork is hot dipped galvanized and treated with Phosphoric acid, the surface is then cut back with a light abrasive. We then sealed the resultant effect with a hard wax. This is not a permanent process, just one that speeds up the final effect.

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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