1st July 2012
During the last couple of years, I’ve completed 3 projects where there has been a need for bespoke iron work. When I began searching for a blacksmith, it was surprising how few could actually do truly bespoke work to order. Many fabricate from pre-cut stock and some are reluctant to touch out-of-the-ordinary projects because of the perceived risk.
Handmade church gate in European Oak, with hinges and latch made by Pete Wilson at Bartington Forge.
However, I eventually found a guy called Pete Wilson from Bartington Forge and we’ve since become collaborators and friends. The latest piece we have combined on is a bespoke paper knife which sits in a handmade quarter-sawn oak box. It was made as a retirement present, and contained an inscription on the top and sides, as well as the special knife and tray inside.
The tray fits neatly onto a shelf in the oak box.
The box was constructed from beautiful quarter sawn oak stock which was rippled with medullary rays and freckled grain. The corners of the box were dovetailed and the top and bottom were grooved in the traditional way.
The inscription was first arranged and printed on the computer. This allows for a font to be selected which complements the piece and for sizing and spacing to be properly conceived. I chose a serif-font in varying sizes to accent the key text.
The top piece was selected because of its distincitvie medullary ray pattern.
Serif text was chosen to compliment the traditional style of the box.
Once the text was transferred onto the timber, I used a tiny 1.4mm bit in the router to remove the bulk of the waste, and then a Stanley blade to take out the serifs and detailed parts by hand. Hand inscribing
boxes and other items takes a long time, but I love doing fine work and it adds so much to the final piece when people know it was made just from them.
The last thing to make was the tray which holds the knife in place. After prototyping a frame and some other ideas, I eventually decided to recess the shape of the knife into a solid piece of oak. The bottom of the recess was lined with felt, along with the rest of the tray and the bottom of the box. As usual, I used my favourite red felt – a HM HandMade standard.
The knife holder is made from a single piece of wood, routered out to create a cradle. The holder is lined with felt.
The knife that sits in the box, and which was made by Pete, is a real piece of art. Im told by Pete that it’s made by heating and folding over layers of steel with different carbon contents. The blade is then acid etched, which eats very slightly into the softer layers. Apart from forming a strong, sharp blade, this process reveals the most exquisite pattern in the metal which looks like the grain in timber.
The pattern created by the layers of steel is like the grain in timber. It is brought out by the acid etching.
Previous to the paper knife and box, the first project Pete worked with me on was the XL Church Gate at St. Werburgh’s in Chester. The existing gate was constructed of black painted softwood, and was going rotten. I was commisioned to make a new one in European Oak, oil-finished so as to showcase the beauty of the wood. The existing hinges were rusting and utilitarian, and we’re in need of replacing.
Having surveyed the church gate I noticed that there was an interesting Celtic cross engraved into the lintel and I thought this might be a good source of inspiration for the hinges. I asked Pete to make them with this Celtic cross added to the end of each bracket. He also made a matching latch and, all as a piece, it looked fantastic.
The hinges were desinged to incorporate the celtic cross which is engreaved into the existing lintel above the gate.
The gate was made very traditionally with a huge diagonal rail to resist racking, and tough-and-groove boarding facing the street. If you’d like to see more photos of this project, click here. I also made a glazed presbytery door using the same huge cross brace, and you can see it here.
The other project that Pete has collaborated with me on is the crosses for the font and holy water vessel at St. Werburgh’s. I’ve written a blog post about this project previously (click here to see it), so I won’t go into too much detail now.
The wrough-iron crosses, made by Pete Wilson for the font and holy water tops
It’s a real pleasure to work with someone who has the same attitude to metal as I do to timber. I hope we can collaborate on many more project in the future. If you’d like to see more of the work that Pete does at Bartington Forge, his website is at www.bartingtonforge.com.
If you’d like to see more of the handmade furniture and bespoke fitted interiors I make at HM HandMade, check out the website at www.hmhandmade.co.uk
. Or contact me directly on 07789 768 302 or email firstname.lastname@example.org