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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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Masterpiece

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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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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?

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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.

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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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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.

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Not a gate?

Original Arts & Crafts, conserved and displayed.

When is a gate not a gate?

When its a piece of Art?

These lovely gates date from the late 19th Century (that’s Victorian if your British). We conserved these gates for a private client. Luckily for the gates the client is an Art professional, who realized their value culturally and financially. They we’re rescued from a salvage/reclamation yard a few years ago purchased with no provenance. The client wanted to use them as a feature somewhere in the house or gardens of her beautiful Edwin Luytens/Gertrude Jeykell designed Arts & Crafts House.

In consultation with Burrows Lea Forge Ltd. she was only to aware that the first rule of conservation had been broken; moving a piece from its original location. Nothing could be done about that now, but there was an opportunity to embrace another Conservation rule, namely if a piece is in danger in its location, it should be moved to a more suitable (preferably permanent) site.

Detail of Arts & Crafts gate.

These gates are very special, they are in an Arts & Crafts style, expertly balanced  and we suspect they were originally commissioned for a civic building, church or public office. There is an enormous level of detail, demanding top level forging skills. Interestingly and in the spirit of Arts & Crafts, the Artisan was only too aware of his excellent work and deliberately allowed ‘schoolboy’ errors in the setting the piece. As a craftsman I can easily identify what’s going on, the technical execution is so expert, it makes a joke of the deliberate errors, I suspect the Blacksmith responsible, might have hoped a Peer will see through his fakery, as I would in his situation. Well, I have!

Its amazing the time-shift a skill or craft can breach; you can get inside the head and empathize with someone long gone. Conservation and restoration does this, as you look closely, respecting the work of others, you can truely see inside their minds and feel what they must felt as they ‘turned’ a scroll or ‘pinched’ a collar or made a small mistake! Its a marvelous thing.
Back to the job! The client thought about the best use of the gates for quite a while and eventually with our guidance decided for us to install them in the covered arch way to the old coach-house of her property. The bare wall of the inner arch was crying out for some sort of ‘interest’. So we installed the gates on the wall. We were conscious to install them high enough to be aesthetically acceptable and safe from the prevailing weather. We used the original hinge mounts fixing them with stainless steel fixings into the Bargate stone wall. Mindful all the time of reversibility of of our actions.
So the gate went up, they looked great and as you can see there is  as much on show today, no less than there was 100 years ago, with any luck, 100 years from the view will be the same.

THAT”S CONSERVATION! sorry  I meant ART.

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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.