The studio has extensive experience in the conservation and repair of all forms of ironwork and architectural metalwork, including:
The preservation of historic paint finishes and leaf gilding is an important aspect of the conservation of most ironwork and so we also undertake the sampling and analysis of remaining original paint schemes. This enables us to then match the original paint for retouching or repainting in the correct paint types and colours. Advice can also be provided in the form of specifications for repairs and decoration on projects to be undertaken by traditional blacksmiths where a conservation input is a requirement.
The leaf gilding of both interior and exterior metalwork is a common form of decoration. The studio is well practiced in oil gilding, using both loose and transfer leaf.
Iron was frequently used for functional objects such as garden benches, gates and urns, or for utility objects like boot scrapers and hand pumps. Iron cannot be given an artificial patinated surface to protect it outdoors, and thus it was almost always painted with lead-rich oil-based paints, for both corrosion protection and decoration. Paint finishes could be monochrome, polychrome or a combination of techniques to resemble stone, bronze or other natural surfaces.
Cast iron is prone to a number of types of deterioration particular to itself. Because of its brittleness, it can easily break if it is dropped. With fireplaces, the rapid change in temperature caused when a fire is lit in a grate can cause the cast iron to fracture. Repeated heating over a long period also ‘burns’ the cast iron - the iron becomes oxidised, leaving a brittle, porous surface, which can flake off.
Our experience has shown that most damage to cast iron, like wrought iron, is caused by lack of maintenance of the protective coating of paint, allowing the metal to rust. If not corrected, the condition of the object will deteriorate rapidly.
The importance of historic ornate ironwork has in many instances been overlooked. Undocumented and poorly executed restoration in the past may have resulted in the loss of important information concerning its manufacture and the paint type and colour. Colour has always played a key role in ironwork design - before the late 1900’s virtually no decorative ironwork was painted black. The recent common use of black paint is as a result of a change in fashion leading people to now assume that black is the correct colour to use when repainting. This fact highlights the need to ensure paint samples are taken to allow analysis of the paint layers and the consequent ability to redecorate ironwork in the colours of the period, if desired, or at the very least to attempt to retrieve this information while it still exists. Today, as with all the objects we treat, the conservation approach adopted is one of minimal intervention, concentrating in the first instance on ensuring that structural integrity is maintained and only repairing or remaking decorative details when their loss impairs the object visually. Also, see the Specifications page for details of how we can help with the production of tender documents and the overseeing of restoration projects.
Fireplaces, door and window furniture, picture and tapestry rails, curtain poles, stair and banister rails and light switches are just a few of the objects which fall into this category. Such objects can be made from almost any metal or combination of metals and surface finishes.
For example, a weathervane may be largely formed from wrought iron but also have copper elements, and the whole object will probably have a selection of surface finishes such as paint, natural patina or leaf gilding. A whole host of combinations may present themselves, but the breadth of our specialty allows us to confidently advise on and carry out work required when these important elements of a building show signs of their vulnerability.
Many fine ironwork objects can be repaired by a proficient blacksmith, but a conservation input is often required in order to specify correct treatment in terms of conservation ethics and to satisfy the requirements of grant funding bodies and English Heritage.
We can assist you in this process by carrying out a condition survey of the ironwork followed by a budget estimate for the work required, which enables you to apply for grant funding. We can then supply detailed specifications and other information necessary for tender documents, and we can assist in identifying suitable blacksmiths. This can be followed up, if desired, by our monitoring the progress of the successful contractor and generally giving ongoing advice to both client and contractor.
We can also provide you with advice on historic surface coatings, paint analysis and a detailed specification for suitable paint systems for any painted metal object, followed by information on the correct maintenance regime.