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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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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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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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Ironmongery for ‘Malificent’ film.

A selection of Ironmongery for ‘Malificent’

Late spring 2012 we were approached by Briar Rose Productions to make some set decorations and props for a Walt Disney Productions film titled Malificent (the wicked witch/Queen in Snow White) played by Angelina Joli, the film was directed by Robert Stromberg.
As usual we were approached because the production company wanted accurate, quality reproductions and interpretations of their designs, hand forged by Artisans and delivered in the time restraint that film production demands. Its a credit to Disney and Briar Rose that our traditional craftsman skills and authentic product we offer  are valued over fake or CGI decorations.
The picture above shows a small example of what we made hopefully you might see our small contribution in context when the film comes out in March 2012. Just in case you wish to commission copies of this ironwork…. you can’t, I’m afraid. We made these items exclusively for Disney, so you’ll have to talk to them first!
If you’re interested in this type of work, take a look in the ‘The Movies’ section of this website for more examples.

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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

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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.

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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.