This time last year we undertook an epic journey, driving our 93 Fiat Panda (which had previously been off the road for some time) from Manchester to Saint Petersburg and back. Along the way it was great to see the changes in architectural styles, going up through Sweden and Finland, in to Russia, then back through the Baltics and Northern Europe.
Obviously we have a special interest in decorative metalwork (for which Saint Petersburg certainly did not disappoint), especially weathervanes. Though there were some great examples on the whole trip (some of which I may get round to posting on here one day), especially on the Russian Orthodox churches, one place really stood out for weathervanes and that was Gdansk.
We only spent 2 nights in Gdansk but it is definitely on the list of places we would love to revisit and spend more time. Its historic centre was virtually levelled during the Second World War and faced with the choice of recreating the original town or starting afresh the decision was made to rebuild, based on historic photos, documents and plans. They did make some changes to make the buildings more practical, indeed the roads now have bigger public garden spaces between them. By drawing rooms level in neighbouring buildings more practical flats were created and on top of all of these reconstructions are dated weathervanes!
Weathervane fitted to medieval crane in Gdansk
On the docks one of the most recognisable landmarks of Gdansk is the medieval crane, and it has this iconic weathervane on top. It is unusual in Gdansk as most of the weathervanes are the more traditional banner types, seen in the image below.
Traditional banner style weathervanes in Gdansk
I think this is a great way to recognise the dates that the buildings were completed, a weathervane is in my opinion the perfect way to top off a new building in style.
An interesting project we’ve been working on recently is this sign for a cottage in Cornwall. It is written into the deeds of the house that this sign must remain on the front of the property above the door, and given that it has been up for many years in a coastal location, many parts of the house sign had given in to rust, and the multiple layers of paint had taken away the sharpness of the design. The image below shows a close up of the old sign.Initially the customer had asked us to restore it, but given the fragility of the sign we felt we would be unable to do it justice, so decided it would be best all round to make an exact replica. So the first job was to photograph the sign, upload it onto the computer and trace the design. This was a lot more complex than it sounds, firstly because of the level of detail in the design, and secondly because of how the layers of paint had built up over the decades, some of this detail had been lost and as a result there was a little bit of guesswork involved. But after some minor alterations pointed out by the customer, we were ready to laser cut the house sign design. We’ve used 3mm steel, which is thicker than what was used originally so this should give it a longer lifespan.
The next stage was to fabricate the wavy scrolled border. We’ve used 13x3mm flat bar, which as far as I can tell is what was used initially. Though there was nothing difficult about the shapes we needed to forge, it took a lot of trial and error getting the full length of each piece to be the exact right size to all meet in the corners. I really enjoyed this process as it involved using the oxy propane torch which we don’t often have a reason to play with! We have then drilled holes in the troughs for the rivets to fit through, plus corresponding holes in the hidden square bar frame, before welding all the pieces together and fixing the rivets in place.
Though parts of this job were fiddly and time consuming, we feel we’ve been sucessful in producing a replica that’s as close to the original as is possible. Here is the house sign all welded up and ready to be electroplated and powder coated.And the finished piece, ready for collection!