When it comes to balustrades, Handrail Creations have worked with almost every possible combination – glass, steel, timber, stone and even carbon fibre. For period properties, cast iron spindles remain a firm favourite. We’ve worked with British Spirals & Castings products on a number of these types of projects.
To explain how these are manufactured, and what to look for when choosing them, we’ve asked Antonia Harding, Director at British Spirals & Castings, to answer a few questions:
What type of cast products are best for balustrades?
We get this question quite frequently and the simple answer is that it depends on the environment! Most original metal spindles on Georgian, Victorian and Edwardian properties are cast iron and in many of the cases, especially when we are working with Handrail Creations, we are either matching in with existing balustrade or recreating a certain period look. However, as we have our own non-ferrous foundry which casts in aluminium, we are able to offer this as an alternative which comes with some great benefits. Iron was traditionally used for castings as it was readily available and relatively cheap. In contrast, up until the mid-19th Century aluminium was actually more expensive than gold! Since an industrial method of aluminium production was found in 1854, the price of the material has decreased significantly.
Ultimately, in the case of balustrades, both will function perfectly well and it’s primarily an issue of personal preference.
How are the spindles cast?
The process begins at around midnight when our furnace is scheduled to activate and begin melting the aluminium ingots placed inside it. This means everything is ready to go when our skilled foundry staff arrive in the early hours. The patterns (moulds) for the day are picked out, laid in a box of red sand, cores are put in place and then once all the ramming has been completed and all the boxes prepared, only at that point can the aluminium or iron be poured in. Once the items have set, the moulds are tipped, and our team of fettlers get to work taking off any rough edges and, where necessary, filing any filigree designs. It sounds easy, but it is a lengthy and skilled process. Once the fettling is complete, the orders are then sent on to our main workshop in Derbyshire. Here we complete all of the final work on the products including drilling and tapping all balusters, welding stairs and balconies and, if selected, powder coating.
How much design choice is there?
Cast metals have been widely used for balustrades for over three centuries, so there’s a rich pattern history to choose from. We hold hundreds of moulds at our foundry and also offer a wide variety of balustrade and ornamental panel designs.
If you have any queries, get in touch with the team at Handrail Creations or British Spirals and we’ll happily advise you.