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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!

Blacksmith, Hand forged, Design, Ironwork, Forge, Wrought Ironwork, Hot Forged, Blacksmithing, the Man from U.N.C.L.E. ironwork, Warner Bros

The Man from U.N.C.L.E. ironwork for the film.

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Petworthgates.co.uk +1 year!

Blacksmith, Hand forged, Design, Ironwork, Forge, Wrought Ironwork, Hot Forged, Blacksmithing, Tijou, Petworth, Petworth House, Jean Tijou, Petworth Gates, Brawn and Downing

The fully restored ‘Tijou Gates’ at Petworth House, West Sussex. Photo by Julian Smith

Back to Petworth House to check over the gates we finished restoring this time last year. Looking good! Never ceases to amaze me how difficult it can be to photograph large ironwork installations….. Hence a picture from last winter. I have to thank the very talented Julian Smith for capturing the gates in thier true glory. #blacksmith

For more information about the project www.petworthgates.co.uk

Or check out previous posts about Restoration of ‘Tijou’ Gates at Petworth House. and ‘Tijou’ gates.

Blacksmith, Hand forged, Design, Ironwork, Forge, Wrought Ironwork, Hot Forged, Blacksmithing, Tijou, Petworth, Petworth House, Jean Tijou, Petworth Gates, Brawn and Downing

‘Tijou Gates’ at Petworth House, West Sussex. Photo by Julian Smith

 

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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.

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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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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.