Friday, 10 October 2014

The other nail shop

          Nails Bite Back

hand made nails Garrick,s Villa Hampton

While I working at Garrick's Villa (1770/80s) in Hampton recently I came across these hand made nails under the floor.I have often taken out the old "Rose heads" used to fix lathwork but these large nails got me thinking.Each one hammered out individually it must have been so difficult to make them ,transport them and I am sure they would not have been dropped all over the floor like we do today, you could not waste these.

I was aware that the Midlands or Black Country was a major  centre of nail making in Britain and I knew that it was a tough way of life but I found an article which described the lives of the nail makers.They treated people like shit and go on about the Empire. I for one wont be throwing these around after knowing what went in to making them. 

Little pieces of people's history

A typical nail shop was usually about ten or twelve feet square with one door and one or two unglazed windows. The nail shop had a central hearth or fire ( this differed from a chain shop which had the hearths around the walls ) so that all the family could work independently of each other but using just one fire thus saving on fuel. There could be as many as six working round one fire. Nailers usually either rented or owned their own shop but a nailer who for some reason had no shop of his own, could rent a "standing" from a fellow nailer and share the fire to carry on making nails. Nailers provided their own tools, These were not numerous or expensive. The bellows, a small block or anvil, sharpening tools and for nailers making large nails, "the Oliver". The Midland Mining Commission report of 1843 includes this description:- "The best forges are little brick shops of about 15 feet by 12 feet in which seven or eight individuals constantly work together with no ventilation except the door and two slits, a loop-hole in the wall. The majority of these workplaces are very much smaller and filthy dirty and on looking in upon one of them when the fire is not lighted presents the appearance of a dilapidated coal-hole. In the dirty den there are commonly at work, a man and his wife and daughter, with a boy or girl hired by the year. Sometimes the wife carries on the forge with the aid of the children. The filthiness of the ground, the half-ragged, half-naked, unwashed persons at work, and the hot smoke, ashes, water and clouds of dust are really dreadful".

Rose head nails for fixing lathwork

The nailer placed three or four rods into the fire, when a rod was sufficiently heated the nailer began forging the end into a point on the small nailer's block. The pointed end was then cut off to the required length ( measured by a gauge ) by being placed upon a fixed chisel called a hardy. It was then inserted into the bore, point down. The bore was made to fit the thicker part of the nail and was countersunk to form a mould for the nail head. A few blows with the hammer formed the head and a spring called a "whimsey" was touched with the hammer to release the finished nail. A girl could make over four nails a minute or over 250 an hour. Time also had to be allowed for fetching and carrying the iron and taking the finished nails to the warehouse.

"The Black Country Nail Trade" by Arthur Willets.

laths fixed with Rose Heads

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Garrick's Villa

Garrick's Villa

Over the last few weeks we have been working at the Grade 1 Listed building in Hampton South West London.The plasterwork in at least one of the rooms is likely to have been designed by Robert Adam and carried out by the Joseph Rose Plastering company in the 1770s. After investigating the plaster moldings in the imaginatively named Adams room it looks like a mixture of hand modelled stucco and cast elements .I am not at the moment down to repair the moulding but I did some cleaning and casting out of interest in case too much is lost.

We are however doing all the flat work lath work lime plastering and finishing and you can see the results so far below  

Typical Rose Company Stucco and plaster casts

Earth aggregate found in pricking up coat of original Limework

Samples of existing Lime plaster and proposed mix

On investigation and consulting a real expert this is likely hand modelled

sample of lime plaster prepared

New lathwork

applying pricking up coat

New lathwork to "Adams" room ceiling

Float coat applied to lathwork

Pricking up coat to ceiling

Adding hair

Pricking up coat scratched

Collapse of existing ceiling  

Original lath work Circa 1770

Original sample of Lime plaster 

Float coat applied to Adams ceiling

Finish coat Lime plaster

Finished lime plaster

Small ceiling finished lime plaster

Adams ceiling floated and left to carbonate 

Plaques in Adams Room I think they are hand modelled stucco but others think they are cast  I cant tell at this stage but I bet I am right

Dont Know Whats occurring here

Drunk again

London Stucco

London Stucco

Roman cement repairs to 19th century building in a London Square

This is work on the rear of an early 19th century  building in Sutherland Square just off Walworth road in South East London.The stucco  was originally completed in a Roman cement mix but over the years repairs in Portland Cement have caused problems with the substrate, notably damp and decay of the soft stock brickwork.There has been the complete loss of the typical run string course at the top of the render/Stucco.

I hacked off the existing cement render and look what I found.We rendered the brickwork with a Roman cement mix and re ran the string course moulding and here are the results

I am becoming convinced that this type of mix was used extensively in London during thelate 18th and 19th century. Its ability to breath and less hard, dense surface benefits the substrate.It is also very useful for running and casting mouldings

Typical London Stucco

  Contrast the brickwork previosly covered 

with render and the bare brickwork 

Note the state of the soft 19th century stock brick

 brickwork previously covered with portland cement mix

fragment of render taking face of brickwork with it

scratch coat in Roman cement

Float coat 

floated surface

top coat and run string curse

Finished work with Roman Cement top coat

Note the reddish colour of the  Roman Cement moulding