The major thing that give metal beds their distinction from any other type of bed, are the cast iron castings that are the decorative pieces that are poured around all the “joints” of rods and tubing in the design of the iron beds. They are the “fingerprint’ of the foundry that has designed them , made molds of them and the poured them on their beds. Castings also are able to give you a real good idea of the quality of the foundry and manufacturer of the bed. Plainer, simpler castings usually did not denote a very good manufacturer. Whereas……. a bed with nicely detailed,unique, big castings could almost always be seen on a good quality frame from a highly respected foundry.
The art of pouring the castings, was not a simple one. Some castings were extremely large and required pouring at a very even smooth rate. Otherwise “heat cracks” would show up after the mold was removed and the casting cooled. Smaller castings did not take the expertise or craftsmanship needed for pouring larger castings.
The more castings a bed had……. usually speaking, the better a bed it was. Also……the heavier it was.
I’ve had beds where each piece weighed in at over 120 lbs. That weight came from the castings….not the tubing or interior rods. Like all high carbon steels, cast iron has a critical temperature at which it can be hardened or annealed (heat and allow to cool slowly, in order to remove internal stresses and toughen it). For most grades of cast iron, that temperature is 1500 degrees F. Cast iron is heat treatable to a very high hardness, up to Rc 65. This hardening can make machining difficult, if not impossible. Machining includes drilling and tapping. The harder cast iron gets, the less ductility and strength it has. It is critical the temperature of 1500 degrees F be maintained throughout the pouring process or “heat stress cracks” will show up and weaken the purpose of the casting.
Here are a number of beautifully detailed castings from some fo the more unique beds we’ve had.
I hope you’ve found this blog informative . I invite you to revisit my website
to answer any and all questions you might have about antique iron beds.
I also invite you to take a look at our company Face Book page for multiple photo albums on Custom Finishes, Canopy Conversions and a comprehensive “Before & After” King Conversions album.