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Traditional ironwork repair job


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Hi folks,
I have been invited to quote for a large-ish project based around improving a war memorial gardens. The style of work involved in the job really isn't my taste, but it's grabbed my interest nonetheless. Not too long ago there was a time when I would have run a million miles from a job like this as I am not experienced at forging this kind of sheet/repousse ironwork, but I am not at the point where I feel confident enough that I can figure it out and do the job right, though needless to say any input that can make my efforts more efficient will be greatly appreciated as I don't want to massively under quote and end up working for free.

I would never let the job go out sub-par and would work my skin to the bones to make sure of that, especially because of it's historical and sentimental importance to the families of the fallen, though as I'm sure you can understand, I have to earn so efficiency is of the essence.

This thread mainly centres around the restoration and duplication of this gate. The other ironwork involved in this project isn't so demanding. The main part of the project requires this gate to be restored and a mirror image to be made for it to become one of a pair. For now please ignore the horrible weld mesh in the background.

My questions are 3 fold:

1) If this proves to be made wrought iron, can anyone give me any tips of welding the mild steel repair components to wrought iron existing gate? I have heard it's not easy. I have a stick and MIG welder, no TIG. A mirror image duplicate would be made of mild steel.

2) There is no original picture of the gate. Can anyone hazard a guess at what some of the random holes were for? That's just more of a curiosity than anything, the project doesn't require me to add in parts to where the holes are, we're all just scratching our heads a bit as to what they're for.

3) Any tips for cutting and forging the large leaf shapes? I don't think it's Tijou levels of repousse, but any pointers that help steer the boat down the river to a faster resolution are welcome. E.g my inexperienced thought process would be: precisely mark up the positioning of one leaf on the master gate, cut it off, draw around it on a sheet of equivalent thickness mild steel, add on 10% to all dimension in every direction to allow for reduction in proportions during sinking, offer up my copy to the original till it's right, then re-weld the master leaf to the master gate. If you think this sort of sheet work should only be tackled by someone experienced then I'll do what's right for the job and get a 3rd party involved. I do make the occassional bowl so I understand the essential techniques of sinking and raising.

For your background info I have indicated to the project manager that I'd need to have the existing gate taken away and cleaned to reveal the levels of corrosion, work needed to repair and also detail required in the duplicate gate before I can even begin to hazarding some figures.

Any extra info you feel is beneficial would be greatly appreciated. Cheers.
(Apologies @John B forcing your hand to join in, but you know your trad English irownwork)

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 After you determine that the steel is wrought iron.

Can you source old wrought iron scrap. It would save the headache of welding wrought iron to mild steel. One source, for wrought iron, is remains of bridge demolition. Wrought iron held up much better to salt water and salt air than steel does. Come to think of it, many seaside structures may have preferentially been made of it. (piers? bridge abutments? etc.)

Would steel powder loaded outdoor epoxy resin work for small repairs?

Could you inveigle the owners into letting you a small contract for a portion of the work in order to determine that you can do the work? But that would be unlikely if there are other repair competitors.

Just thinking outside the box, on the off chance that it may be applicable.

Regards,

SLAG.

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As to it's original design; do you know when it was installed? (War Memorial doesn't narrow it down much unfortunately)  Looking at it it looks to me to be not a unique piece but perhaps one of the "pattern book" types from that period and so you might be able to research it by looking at what was being offered at that time.

As for the repousse; do you have a pneumatic hammer/air hammer/air impact hammer? I know a smith who had a lot of such work to do and was telling us that the large leaves needed 2000 blows to have "life"  so he used an air impact gun to work them into shape.

(I was looking through English Decorative Ironwork 1610-1836, John Harris; but I think your gate post dates those examples; hmmm have you searched for cemetery ironwork?  I ran across http://www.chicora.org/cemetery-fences.html  which is probably not exactly what you want but may have some tips for further searching...

Unfortunately most of my research books are earlier...at least to my guess.

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2 hours ago, Joel OF said:

This thread mainly centres around the restoration and duplication of this gate. The main part of the project requires this gate to be restored and a mirror image to be made for it to become one of a pair.

My questions are 3 fold:

1) If this proves to be made wrought iron, can anyone give me any tips of welding the mild steel repair components to wrought iron existing gate? I have heard it's not easy. I have a stick and MIG welder, no TIG. A mirror image duplicate would be made of mild steel.

2) There is no original picture of the gate. Can anyone hazard a guess at what some of the random holes were for? That's just more of a curiosity than anything, the project doesn't require me to add in parts to where the holes are, we're all just scratching our heads a bit as to what they're for.

3) Any tips for cutting and forging the large leaf shapes? I don't think it's Tijou levels of repousse, but any pointers that help steer the boat down the river to a faster resolution are welcome. E.g my inexperienced thought process would be: precisely mark up the positioning of one leaf on the master gate, cut it off, draw around it on a sheet of equivalent thickness mild steel, add on 10% to all dimension in every direction to allow for reduction in proportions during sinking, offer up my copy to the original till it's right, then re-weld the master leaf to the master gate. If you think this sort of sheet work should only be tackled by someone experienced then I'll do what's right for the job and get a 3rd party involved. I do make the occassional bowl so I understand the essential techniques of sinking and raising.

For your background info I have indicated to the project manager that I'd need to have the existing gate taken away and cleaned to reveal the levels of corrosion, work needed to repair and also detail required in the duplicate gate before I can even begin to hazarding some figures.

Any extra info you feel is beneficial would be greatly appreciated. Cheers.
(Apologies @John B forcing your hand to join in, but you know your trad English irownwork)

Thanks Joel, there are others far more experienced than I in this area, but for what it is worth, here goes.

The key thing with this job is as you indicated,

the existing gate taken away and cleaned to reveal the levels of corrosion, work needed to repair and also detail required in the duplicate gate before I can even begin to hazarding some figures.

My first response would be to have the original sand blasted and a light primer coat put on it, this is a must, as all sorts of problems and solutions will be forthcoming. Pictures and on site examination are very subjective, and can be timewasters.

The basic structure seems to look sound, so once it is done, (and the owners can have that done directly to save costs if they are that concerned about the overall expense, and they may be able to claim back VAT which you may or may not be registered for, but the professionals probably will be)

This will reveal problem areas, and where bits are missing from, The holes you can see on the top and lower scrolls are probably attachment points for other bits, could be leafs rivetted non, ball screw and nuts fittings, screw fittings, or for spacers like the ones at the base. There is also something going on with the delamination on the top scrolls to frame area. This may mean recoverable, or complete/partial replacement. You won't know until it is clean.

1) If this proves to be made wrought iron, can anyone give me any tips of welding the mild steel repair components to wrought iron existing gate? 

Should not be a problem with Mig or MMA

2) There is no original picture of the gate. Can anyone hazard a guess at what some of the random holes were for?

Pictures, try old newspaper archives as if its a war memorial site, then there should be pictures from Rememberance Sundays etc that were published, as for the holes, that has been covered previously in problem areas.

3) Any tips for cutting and forging the large leaf shapes? I don't think it's Tijou levels of repousse, but any pointers that help steer the boat down the river to a faster resolution are welcome. E.g my inexperienced thought process would be: precisely mark up the positioning of one leaf on the master gate, cut it off, draw around it on a sheet of equivalent thickness mild steel, add on 10% to all dimension in every direction to allow for reduction in proportions during sinking, offer up my copy to the original till it's right, then re-weld the master leaf to the master gate. If you think this sort of sheet work should only be tackled by someone experienced then I'll do what's right for the job and get a 3rd party involved. I do make the occassional bowl so I understand the essential techniques of sinking and raising.

Leafs should not be a problem, they look to be straightforward enough. a look from the rear here may also help, and more will be forthcoming when in a cleaned condition.they lokk to some welded on and some rivetted on, cleaning should reveal this, they may even be brazed on. I wouldn't take any off the original, try using cling film if you need a pattern. Ady with anyone who makes leafs should give you more than enough insight into what tools and techniques are required, we used to have courses on leafmaking, but they are very rarely requested now, but can be revived for anyone if needed.

I would be more concerned with reproducing the pods, florets and missing bits, 

The key thing on projects like this is to try anticipate for most evantualities and quote accordingly, based on what you are sure of. The duplicate will not be a problem, as it is just a copy but in steel. so price accordingly.

Do not be afraid of being honest. Going in with a high price that YOU can live with is the best policy. It could be the difference between paying bills and giving away money to the client you need. Accept it is a learning opportunity, but how much is that worth to you?

Remember others will be quoting with the same information you have. Do not let it become a competition on who is cheapest, others may not be as scrupulous or competent and may just resort to welding bits bought off the shelf in that may look similar.

It is "Who is confident and competent to do the job" that the client is looking for, so explain your reasons, invite them to view your facilites and show any samples you may have, and advise them to do the same with the opposition. Then sit back and wait, be prepared to answer any more questions they may have, but don't do anything drastic.

When asked why my quote is higher than anyone elses, (maybe 2 or more times) My response is because I am aware of what is needed, and that the item will be made as to look like what it is supposed to look like, (a lot of restoration work just brings it back to life and doesn't necessarily look like a brand new item, but fits in as it should, this would be particularly so with a second mirrored item to be made,

I am sure you can fulfill the clients requirements, so don't be afraid to have a go, help is available, just don't sell yourself short. Good luck with the project.

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Greetings Joel, 

Just a thought, Repairing older iron and adding new iron into the mix is going to be a problem expecially when you are going to build a match right next to it from newer iron.   I would suggest using the gate as a pattern and just build a matching pair. I have done a lot of conservative work and always brought to the table with the customer what will the project look like 50 years from now.. Just this ol boys 2c.

Forge on and make beautiful things 

Jim

 

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Hi folks, thanks for the input.

I didn't make the point in my original post that the clients stipulated that the existing gate should be repaired and re-used as it was donated to the memorial gardens many years ago. I'm pretty sure that unless it turns out that it's vastly cheaper to just use it as a template and make 2 new ones, (then possibly salvage parts from it to decorate the garden elsewhere) that the answer's always going to be, repair it.

The combination of decorative elements bemuses me a little. You'd think that if you're going to put realistic floral features in they'd all be of a theme and true to a particular plant, but to my mind there's a real mish-mash in there. There's the humourless huge leaves (oak leaves?) in conjunction with the playful seed pod things. I've had a flick through my copy of the CoSIRA Catalogue of Drawings for Wrought Ironwork which has a lot of designs of traditional English ironwork and it seems this pod detail was common.

Thanks for all the technical and financial advice.
Re: the finances I've definitely learned the hard way about under quoting and underestimating how long things take. I've been down to my last £5 several times. Luckily I'm starting to develop small queues of commission work or at least have other avenues of income (lessons mainly) to keep me afloat, so if it starts looking like I've got to work for a figure I don't feel comfortable with, I've got enough on to be able to walk away and say to the client and myself it's not for me.

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16 hours ago, Joel OF said:

The combination of decorative elements bemuses me a little. You'd think that if you're going to put realistic floral features in they'd all be of a theme and true to a particular plant, but to my mind there's a real mish-mash in there. There's the humourless huge leaves (oak leaves?) in conjunction with the playful seed pod things. I've had a flick through my copy of the CoSIRA Catalogue of Drawings for Wrought Ironwork which has a lot of designs of traditional English ironwork and it seems this pod detail was common.
 

Hi Joel, The gate may not be as old as you think, difficult to tell from the pics but evidence of electric welds being possibly used, and the style and amount of workmanship on the leafs etc may place it somewhere around the 1950's or later.

The CoSIRA book is what is says it is, A catalogue of drawings and drawn up for individual commissions in specific places and to stated dimensions. The full scale drawings were available to purchase from CoSIRA and times for producing the items were also included . They also offered a drawing office service, and this is where a lot of the designs came from, hence the specific sizes. 

A view(s) from the rear of the item may also be as useful as the ones from the front, and reveal a little more about its provenance.

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