Although I’ve posted more than one reference to the use of unnecessary force in assembling iron beds………it continues to be one of the major requests I get from people over my website on what to do “after” the damage has been done.
Take a moment to read this so that “damage” doesn’t happen to your bed.
There are two places, on all antique iron beds, that because of their age are susceptible to “blunt force trauma”.That’s a term you may have heard on the TV show CSI, to describe a victims injuries at the hands of an attacker. Well that’s pretty much the same description when it comes to that damage that can be done to a bed frame when caution isn’t used. Those two places are the “hitches” which are about 13″ off the ground and are what the iron side rails fit it to, to hold the head and foot-board upright. The other is the end of the iron side rail that fit’s down in to the “hitch”. Both of these pieces are cast iron and were specifically designed to fit together snugly so there is no play and so they self tighten. Being cast iron that was poured in a foundry between 100 to 200 years ago, they don’t have the same density and makeup they did when newly poured. Although still very strong, they now are your beds “Achilles heal”. Why is that you ask……..?
Quite often, beds that were made back in the 1800’s become separated from the original set of iron side rails that were specifically made for them. You would think that wouldn’t be much of a problem and a set from another bed could easily be used……unfortunately that can’t be done because iron side rails are not interchangeable. Each individual foundry, and there were thousands of them, made their own side rail moulds that only fit their beds. They are very similar in their appearance. But vastly different in the “tapper” and “girth” of the conical shape at the end of the rail. Using one foundries iron side rails on another companies bed usually won’t work and will result in a head and foot board that moves back and forth with considerable instability. When this happens people have a tendency to think cast iron has a degree of “play” to it, and that they can force the side rail down into the “hitch” by using a hammer and hitting it down in……STOP……..
This is where you’re about to create a mess that you might not be able to fix.
Using a new cast iron “hammer” to drive an old iron side rail down into an old cast iron “hitch” can cause what foundries refer to as “harmonic concussion”. They define it as a shock wave sent from the new hammer to the old iron side rail and old iron “hitch”. That shock wave can very easily “crack” either the end of the iron side rail or the “hitch itself”.
So “big deal”….. you might say. “I’ll just have it welded back together”. Wrong………cast iron can’t be welded. At least with any lasting strength. It will just break again. Steel can be welded , but not cast iron. It can be heated to a very high temperature and then “brazed” back together. But that still is going to be a weak point and because this is the point that is carrying all the weight of the mattress and box spring , plus the occupants in the bed, it needs to bed extremely strong. Any movement in a bed with repaire rails and you run the risk of ending up on the floor.
So…….never, never use a hammer to drive the side rails down into the “hitches” on the head and foot board of your bed. You can lightly tap them down in with either a rubber mallet or with a piece of wood…..possibly one of the beds wooden 2″ x 4″ bed slats, will work just fine.
Remember you don’t want to hit metal against metal…….that’s where the problem comes in.
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.