Author Topic: Is cast iron weldable?  (Read 1021 times)

Basil

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Is cast iron weldable?
« on: July 21, 2020, 04:08:04 pm »
Bugger.  The top balcony at the front of the house is rotten.  Badly rotten.  It supports a huge cast iron railing affair which would have to be removed to do the repairs.  It is one piece stretching the width of the house and must weigh several tons.  The only way to remove it would be to cut it up.

So.  Could it be welded back together again?

20200721_140752 by Basil W, on Flickr
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Re: Is cast iron weldable?
« Reply #1 on: July 21, 2020, 04:22:47 pm »
Not easily, because a) it's a bugger to weld and b) doing it in situ adds to the complexity.

How about one of the local farmers with a telehandler lifting it off for you?

If you do decide to get it cut into sections, get a blacksmith to look at it first - they may well be able to recommend where to cut / add brackets for reassembly with bolts.
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Cudzoziemiec

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Re: Is cast iron weldable?
« Reply #2 on: July 21, 2020, 04:44:06 pm »
Are you sure it's all one piece? As it's several identical sections, might they not have been made separately and bolted (or something) together? Not that I know anything about cast iron but that would just strike me as a much easier way of having made it back in 18-whatsit (or even now).
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Re: Is cast iron weldable?
« Reply #3 on: July 21, 2020, 04:45:47 pm »
It's not a single piece. I'd be surprised if there weren't sockets in the uprights, but they may be rusted in place. Heat is your friend, possibly. GABI. (Blacksmith)

robgul

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Re: Is cast iron weldable?
« Reply #4 on: July 21, 2020, 05:54:05 pm »
There's no way that's one piece - I have an ancient (and I mean ancient) building supplies catalogue that shows that sort of stuff being sold like fence panels.  As suggested - get advice to cut into pieces, telehandler to take the bits down (and put them back)

Rob

Re: Is cast iron weldable?
« Reply #5 on: July 21, 2020, 06:02:20 pm »
Again - There is no way that is one piece - it may've corroded and fused together as such, but there's no way that it was installed as one bit.

Basil

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Re: Is cast iron weldable?
« Reply #6 on: July 21, 2020, 06:15:34 pm »
Again - There is no way that is one piece - it may've corroded and fused together as such, but there's no way that it was installed as one bit.

Yes. This.  But 125+ years of corrosion and paint have rendered it into a solid lump.
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Re: Is cast iron weldable?
« Reply #7 on: July 21, 2020, 06:19:18 pm »
Heat is your friend, possibly. GABI. (Blacksmith)

Re: Is cast iron weldable?
« Reply #8 on: July 21, 2020, 06:30:03 pm »
Heat is your friend, possibly. GABI. (Blacksmith)
TBH, I'm not convinced.
I think Basil's best buddy might be a 2mm thick cutting wheel in an angle grinder.
Followed by welding to make good.
Doubtless, Basil will want this job completed well before he leaves this mortal coil....

Mrs Pingu

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Re: Is cast iron weldable?
« Reply #9 on: July 21, 2020, 06:37:45 pm »
Do not clench. It only makes it worse.

Basil

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Re: Is cast iron weldable?
« Reply #10 on: July 21, 2020, 06:41:56 pm »
Gosh.  Bet they're not cheap.
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Re: Is cast iron weldable?
« Reply #11 on: July 21, 2020, 07:11:46 pm »
Sometimes the joints between the sections are not at the newels, as you might expect, but halfway between newels. If so, the sections can be easier to take apart. Perhaps not likely with that design, but worth checking.

If the joints are in the newels, there will be a way to get them apart, but it will be a filthy job to do in situ if it’s all corroded in and everything will need freed up from the base to allow a bit of movement.

Sometimes lead was used in the joints, particularly if the balusters were set into a bottom rail.

Re: Is cast iron weldable?
« Reply #12 on: July 22, 2020, 02:37:57 am »
As you will certainly need scaffolding why don't you consider how to getting it overbuilt to support lifting aids eg electric hoists? Also it could save hassle if you can store the balustrade parts at height. Looks like a complex job. You don't have much room so  streetworks permissions for a start. Is the building listed? It's a lovely delicate tracery of iornwork below the balcony plus the front fence and I would not trust mates with telehandlers  Similar but bigger job was lifting bells in and out of a church tower in Durham through the louvres. Scaffolding certified for the heaviest bell. On return from foundry crane driver just lifted  them all up. Fortunately the scaffolding had been  over built...but an example of bad planning and no proper site management.

andytheflyer

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Re: Is cast iron weldable?
« Reply #13 on: July 22, 2020, 08:43:34 am »
Thinking a bit laterally - or maybe vertically, that balustrade will be heavy, and brittle, and as others have said, fused together by corrosion.

It's a gorgeous feature though.  I think that any attempt to take it down to repair the balcony is going to end in tears as it'll be difficult to get apart without damage and repairing cast-iron is a workshop and specialist job.

How about getting it scaffolded with a long lattice beam (a standard scaffolding item) over the top of the balustrade and then having it lifted in one piece up off the balcony, just enough to give you working room to remove and replace the balcony timbers.  Lifting it could be done with ratchet straps at numerous points but in a coordinated manner to avoid lifting one part of the balustrade more than others. It must be lifted evenly or it will crack.  Probably needs a strongback strapping to the balustrade at the top and then lifting the strongback to reduce the potential for deflection.

It'll need a builder with a bit more thinking capacity than some, but looks do-able to me with the right-minded team.  And lifting it will be cheaper than cutting it up and repairing it once the balcony is done.

Cracking project though!


Re: Is cast iron weldable?
« Reply #14 on: July 22, 2020, 11:11:50 am »
Prop it up, rebuild the balcony below, drop back into place.
Sic transit and all that..

Re: Is cast iron weldable?
« Reply #15 on: July 22, 2020, 11:21:02 am »
Propping something up:



80cm wall with clay pointing,  window frame added underneath.
Sic transit and all that..

SoreTween

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Re: Is cast iron weldable?
« Reply #16 on: July 22, 2020, 11:30:44 am »
Looking on Streetview may help for those that know what they are looking at.  It shows the property before Basil gave it a fresh lick of paint and there are more rust marks visible particularly on the wall sections.

No link provided obviously.
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Re: Is cast iron weldable?
« Reply #17 on: July 22, 2020, 01:01:15 pm »
Perhaps contact SPAB ( https://www.spab.org.uk/advice/technical-advice-line) or The Victorian Society (https://www.victoriansociety.org.uk/) for advice?

Cudzoziemiec

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Re: Is cast iron weldable?
« Reply #18 on: July 22, 2020, 01:05:34 pm »
This is a complex job with a need for more than one pint of milk.  :)
Days become simply the spaces between dreams, spaces between the shifting floors of time...

Tim Hall

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Re: Is cast iron weldable?
« Reply #19 on: July 23, 2020, 09:27:18 am »
This is a complex job with a need for more than one pint of milk.  :)
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Re: Is cast iron weldable?
« Reply #20 on: July 23, 2020, 09:48:27 am »
This lot near you? https://fineiron.co.uk/ironwork_restoration_conservation
Gosh.  Bet they're not cheap.

If you look at the last photo on the left on that web site it looks similar to your railing. Perhaps the company could at least help you ascertain where the joins are likely to be. That should be cheaper, or free.

Re: Is cast iron weldable?
« Reply #21 on: July 23, 2020, 01:04:15 pm »
Local blacksmith (If you have one these days)  may be able to advise on jointing. What is the construction of the balcony Basil?
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Basil

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Re: Is cast iron weldable?
« Reply #22 on: July 23, 2020, 01:45:22 pm »
Local blacksmith (If you have one these days)  may be able to advise on jointing. What is the construction of the Balcony Basil?

Wooden joists to the wall, wooden planking, topped with (cracked) lead.
Not designed to be walked on, but I guess people have. Myself included.
Quote from: Kim
And remember that friends who organise things on Facebook aren't proper friends anyway.

Re: Is cast iron weldable?
« Reply #23 on: July 23, 2020, 03:15:23 pm »
Then as suggested above, may well be possible to prop the railings and replace as required beneath, in sections, if required. A reputable scaffold company/builder should be able to tell you if practicable and of course advise on cost. Don't forget erected scaffold is often charged for weekly if you are planning at having a go at some of this yourself over time. Some steels and acrows may also be possible as an alternative by hanging the railing on steels supported on/in the wall. As others have said a beautiful feature.
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Jaded

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Re: Is cast iron weldable?
« Reply #24 on: July 23, 2020, 06:59:15 pm »
Y, if it is a movable feast, ask the scaffold company for a single price as well as the weekly one. Don't tell them how long you think it might take.
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