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The evolution of the internet over the past 20 years has completely changed how we shop. Much of the time, we no longer go into a shop, look at or even hold an item and decide whether it is worth the money. Online it can be a minefield of sellers describing their work as 'high quality' and 'hand forged' when often neither is true. And with some decent photographs, it can be very difficult to tell whether something has been mass produced as cheaply as possible, or if it has genuinely been hand crafted with care.
So how do you tell the difference? Firstly, if the price seems too good to be true then it probably is. Secondly, it is well worth contacting the company you are thinking of buying from and asking them questions about the quality of finish, the thickness of materials used, and other details of the manufacturing process. If they can't or don't answer, it's probably because they don't make anything themselves and therefore have no idea!
Why do we electroplate weathervanes?
Electroplating is a way of adding rust protection to anything made from steel. The process was invented in the early 19th century, and these days because of various regulations around the chemicals used, finding a good electroplater is actually very difficult, so is a process that many manufactureres will be tempted to skip. However as experienced metalworkers, we know the quality and longevity it adds, and don't believe in cutting corners where the quality of our products is concerned. The advantage of electroplating over galvanising is that it's a much gentler process; the hot zinc from galvanising can form globules which is fine for large industrial works but for our unique laser cut designs this would not be appropriate. The heat can also warp even fairly chunky bits of steel!
What is electroplating?
Electroplating is an industrial process where a piece of metal, for example a weathervane, is connected up to a circuit in a tank of zinc solution. The Zinc is given a positive charge and the weathervane is given a negative charge, and a current is added to the circuit. This process causes the negatively charged zinc to deposit itself in a thin layer all over the positively charged weathervane.
So how long should a weathervane last?
This is an important qustion that we are quite rightly ask fairly often, but one that is genuinely difficult to answer as there are so many variables. For example, a weathervane in a sheltered garden in South Manchester we would expect to look good for decades, but the same weathervane in an exposed coastal location would definitely have a reduced lifespan due to the salt in the air. We set up Black Fox Metalcraft in 2012 and our earliest prototypes still look as good as new. The only way to get a longer lasting weathervane would be to choose one produced in grade 316 stainless steel, however this would most likely cost thousands rather than hundreds of pounds therefore is prohibitively expensive in most cases.