The quality of a metal bed is most often determined by the quality of it’s castings or “Chills” as they were called back n the 1800’s. Most foundries making them back then, made their own molds and poured their own castings. Some foundries went to great lengths to be sure of the crisp clarity their castings had. If a bed had dull, muted or plain castings, it was usually a sign of a lower caliber foundry. It’s important when shopping for iron beds, to inspect the castings. Another thing to look for in a casting will be the “Gate”, the point at which the molten metal is poured into the molds cavity. A good foundry will make sure the “gate” does not stick out beyond the mold or design of the casting. Also be sure that there are not an abundance of “Sand Inclusions” in the castings. These are surface imperfections on a casting caused by sand washing into the mold cavity. A number of these imperfections on a bed can weaken it’s structure. Back in the 1800’s, all the castings on antique iron beds were poured by hand. There was a definite art in pouring casting out of molten iron. If it wasn’t poured at an even speed, there could be air pckets that would weaken the casting or not even fill the entire mold. Larger castings were even more problematic because they required a fast yet even pour for the entire mold to be filled quick enough before the early part of the pour started setting up and getting hard……resulting in “heat cracks” or waves of metal.
It is easy to see the overall quality of a bed by the detailing on it’s castings. As in the casting in this photo…….you can easily see the definition in the floral pedals and the sharp detailing throughout the design. This overall bed was a very high calibre one, and the castings certainly helped elevate it’s collectibility and value as an antique.
When considering buying an antique iron bed, look closely at the castings. It’s one of the best places to start.
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