Restoration of an Iron Gate from Arlington National Cemetery.

From Left: Vern Mesler, Ty Zimmerman, Brian Howard,

Collin Howard, Braeden Howard at B.R. Howard & Associates, Inc: Carlisle, Pennsylvania.

“George Washington walked down this street,” my wife casually mentioned as we’re walking down High Street in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. Carlisle is steeped in history; aged brick buildings extend close to the street, which has been widened to accommodate the modern four wheeled horse. There is a historic sense in these streets and buildings that no twenty-first century mall can replicate. We just finished eight hours of consultation for a skilled and talented family of preservationists who had at their shop in Carlisle an early twentieth century wrought iron gate from the Arlington National Cemetery. The gate is made from forged and hand riveted wrought iron, punch marked with symbols and numbers for assembly. There is an assembly mystery here, written in iron by the hands of craftsmen that must be accurately read for restoration.

I had been contacted by Braeden Howard of B. R. Howard & Associates, Inc. to assist in developing a procedure for riveting the wrought iron gate. As we worked through the day, it was discovered that the quarter-inch rivets were hand driven and that pneumatic-driven rivets would not be in character with the original construction of the gate. A local blacksmith, Ty Zimmerman, who has worked with B. R. Howard on past projects, demonstrated his technique for hand-driven rivets. These accurately match the original driven rivets, thus preserving the historic record of the craftsman’s work.

Pack rust was another issue to be addressed. After demonstrating a pack rust removal procedure developed during my work at the Calhoun Country Historic Bridge Park and applying it to the pack rust on the gate, the procedure appeared to have some promise.

It was a fascinating day of discovery in preservation for my wife and me as we listened to the Howard family describe their work and their approach to preserving historic artifacts. These are historic pieces that can inspire a younger generation to see applications of old ideas that could lead to new discoveries.

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