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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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‘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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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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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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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.

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Arts & Crafts Gate.

Hurst Lea Gate

Hurst Lea Arts & Crafts Gate

To follow on from the last blog, I picked out of our archive a very fine gate  that we designed and made in 2008. Needless to say it is hand forged in the way as I mentioned in ‘Making Gates”

It was inspired by the striking Arts & Crafts house it belongs to. The arched top of the gate appears frequently throughout the building’s architecture. The adjoining garden needed some sort of entrance/frame/pointer so it was a natural choice to include it in the design. The in-fill was an open brief so I used a few signature shapes and scrolls, bearing in mind all the time the Arts & Crafts style. I left the middle of the gate fairly open to allow a clear view through and to frame the garden vista.

The gate is mounted on a pair of solid 40mm square posts. The ironwork was hot zinc sprayed to provide cathodic protection and the finished in a conventional manner. The last coat of paint applied was graphite loaded, so the ironwork could be polished to add a graphite  patina lustre.

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Making Gates.

Forging a gate.

Hot riveting the dog bars on a traditionally made gate.

You can get a gate made pretty much anywhere that work with metal.

Burrows Lea Forge is not a general workshop, we’re Blacksmiths and we hot forge our work, there is a big difference! When you forge iron and steel, you improve the quality of metal. When a blacksmith makes a product such as a gate its assembled from many individual bespoke components, each one tailored to fit not only into the design, but interacts physically to its jointed companions.

The crafted assembly acts as one complete unit and if done well, is far superior aesthetically and mechanically to one made by other methods such as arc welding. The end product very different, even if its function is the same, there is of course a difference in price,  it takes time to make all those components fit perfectly, not to mention the individuality that goes with that process. To arc weld a gate together takes no time at all and doesn’t demand much skill or resource apart from having a steady hand, something to cut metal with and an Arc welding unit.

Here’s the link to the video we’ve made to partly explain the difference in the way our gates are made, as time goes on and the opportunity arises we’ll add more to this site and youTube.

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Swaines Hill Gates, Hampshire.

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The gates installed in Hampshire

This one half of a pair of gates we designed and made last year (2011) and are worth a revisit. The gates are made from very large, solid sections of mild steel and are fully hammer textured. There is extensive hot riveting throughout the construction. Unfortunately the picture shows how difficult it is sometimes to photograph ironwork satisfactorily.

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Media collage of the gates in Hampshire.

So much to say about this project and I promised there would be a specific article, but it never materialised; its on my to do list now so something will happen shortly! Keep checking the Instagram, Facebook and Twitter feeds for more info on this one and others. There are widgets at the side of the article to save you logging on if you just want to see what’s going on today.

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Swainshill Gates, Hampshire, photo taken by Chris Potts, Sienna Earth