If you prefer to begin with THE STORY OF FURNITURE, click on:
ARTISAN METAL FURNITURE:
Iron, first smelted in 1000 B.C.,
brought boundless benefits to mankind;
historians labeled it THE IRON AGE.
Since antiquity, wrought iron, cast iron and brass have been used to make head and foot boards for beds and other furniture.
Wrought iron furniture (hand-forged), traced to the Romans, became popular in the 17th Century as garden and cemetery furniture.
Hand-forged iron requires painstaking craftsmanship. Iron must be heated (annealed) frequently so it can be hammered into shape without splitting – before all components are soldered together.
Cast iron was used commonly for out-door furniture in the 1840’s. Skills for casting iron include making intricate plaster molds, melting and purifying the iron so it’s devoid of impurities, pouring molten metal into molds, grinding away mold marks —and soldering metal components together.
After the Industrial Revolution, machine technology enabled
mass-production of metal furniture and by the 1870’s, brass beds
were popular in England—not for their beauty—but because
“they didn’t harbor bed bugs“.
Since the 1920’s, global acceptance of metal furniture for kitchens, formal living spaces and gardens keeps growing.
A factory/showroom in a 16th Century villa in the outskirts of
Firenzé was a perfect setting to showcase artisan-made brass
candlesticks, 3′ tall brass vases, brass cymbals for symphony
orchestras—and cast brass and hand-forged iron furniture—
made to specification for international architects and interior
The clarity and amazing tone of the brass cymbals
— made for international symphony orchestras—
is attributed to the exceptional purity of the brass.
In the foundry, skilled craftsmen create intricate
plaster molds and make sure the molten brass is
devoid of pits and impurities before being poured
into the molds.
Great care is taken when removing hardened brass components from the intricate molds.
Before soldering brass components together, mold marks from each section must be ground away. Finished table bases are polished and topped with glass.
In another building, an artisan hand-forges tables, chairs and chaise lounges for the Villa San Michele in Fiésole. Each strip of iron is annealed before being hammered into shape and soldered together.
One month later, my visit to Villa San Michele proved it a perfect setting for this furniture. Matching tables and chairs graced the veranda cocktail lounge—now with fresh white cushions.
Small hand-wrought iron tables and chairs nestled in the gardens— and lawns were filled with matching chaise lounges and umbrella tables.
At another Italian metal factory, artisans hand-forged iron
and hand-hammered brass and pewter for home accessories:
cutting, bending and soldering hollow iron pipes to become
small tables, sconces, candelabra and chandeliers.
A tub of acid in the middle of the factory was for pickling small
hand-forged iron shapes to remove oxidation and residue before
painting. Hand-forged iron products are painted white; prior to
hand-painted poly-chrome finishes.
My respect for metal artisans is limitless because of the meticulous
craftsmanship I observed in diverse international factories.
Pat Breen: EYEWITNESS TO QUALITY
My next post: MASS-PRODUCED METAL FURNITURE