We are proud of our baths, formed by us from cast iron poured by hand in our own foundry. But what precisely is cast iron, and why do we believe it makes the best baths? Is it right for your bathroom? These questions and more are answered on our blog this week…
What is Cast Iron?
Cast iron is a generic term that can refer to a range of iron-carbon alloys (metals mixed together with carbon). It derives the name ‘cast’ or ‘casting’ iron for its relatively low melting point, which at 1150 degrees Celsius is still 26x hotter than a really hot bath! This allows for it to be melted down and used to cast items, like a bath, in a mould.
Once cast, the metal is strong under pressure, will not bend or warp and is extremely durable. Due to being a poor conductor, it also has extremely good heat retention properties. This makes the ideal material for a bath that will stand the test of time.
How is it used?
The earliest cast iron artefacts date to the 5th Century BCE, discovered by archaeologists in the region that is now China. It was used here for crafting weapons, agricultural implements and also in the construction of pagodas. Over time, the material was adopted across Europe although not widely available until the 15th Century, where it was used to make cannons and shot and to support buildings in architecture. By the 18th century, more furnaces meant more production and cast iron was used to make smaller items, including baths.
Other uses include pots and pans, components for steam engines and in construction. The first cast iron bridge was commissioned in the late 1770s.
How is it made?
Drummonds’ cast iron baths are sand-cast by hand in our own foundry, the same way as they would have been in the finest cast iron foundries of the Victorian era.
The sand casting technique involves creating a mould from compacting fine sand to fit a metal casing. The cast iron is heated to liquid form and then poured by hand, to ensure the perfect temperature and precisely the right thickness. When the cast iron has cooled to a solid state the mould is cut away by hand to reveal the iron underneath, it will have taken on the texture of the sand which is why it is lightly textured and rough to the touch.
The interior of the raw cast iron bath is then ready to be enamelled. The outer surface can be left raw, painted or polished to perfection.
Is cast iron right for my bathroom?
It is a popular misconception that traditional manufacturing makes a product that is only suitable for a traditional aesthetic, but cast iron baths are suited to bathroom spaces of all styles. Although some traditional shapes endure, like our Usk which is a reproduction of an 18th century Bateau bath, cast iron baths can also be made in modern shapes and styles.
The only problem you could encounter with a cast iron bath is that they are heavier than modern acrylic or composite baths. If you have an especially old property, it is best to check with an architectural expert, who may advise you to strengthen the joists in exceptional circumstances!
Although many modern materials have come along in the intervening years, with faster and cheaper manufacturing methods, we still believe there are no shortcuts to manufacturing the best baths that will last for many generations to come.
See in more detail how we manufacture our cast iron in this video.