Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Drummonds dry frit bath enamelling

Eastern Europe - UK BATHROOM manufacturer, antique bathroom dealer and restorers, Drummonds of Surrey, has set up a bath re-enamelling facility which will restore the vitreous enamel on old baths in the traditional way, first developed by the Victorians, but using modern technology.

The method is a technical tour de force which has taken Drummonds ten years to develop to a highly reliable and consistent process which finally came on stream in 2006. It uses sophisticated equipment and relies on the manual skill of a number of Drummonds uniquely trained workforce.

First the old vitreous enamel is carefully cleaned off by hours of shotblasting, after which the bath is kept meticulously clean and moved to the enamelling shop. Here the tiniest speck of dust can ruin the process so cleaniness is vital. The bath is evenly heated to a tangerine red in a purpose made oven. When the correct temperature has been reached it is removed from the oven with the aid of a long-reach hand-operated mobile crane fitted with a cradle, and placed on to a steel shoe in the heat-proof enamelling booth. The shoe tilts, twists and turns, controlled by a foot pedal operated by the enameller at the back (in the video).

The two enamellers have air-operated sieves containing the frit powder which is evenly released as they move the sieves above the bath, depositing a fine layer which melts into a viscous liquid glass. The bath gradually cools and has to be put back into the oven for a reheat. This is done several times until a thick even coat of tough enamel is deposited on the bath. Around 20kg of frit is used giving a coat in the region of 1.2mm thick on the finished bath.

The process was made to look effortless by the men carrying it out, which is testament to their skill. One of Drummond's competitors told SalvoNEWS that their enamel is 'really quite superb, especially on the roll'.

1. Drummonds gives their bath enamel a 25 year guarantee. They recommend the use of standard liquid cream bath cleaner rather than Ajax-type scouring powder. (Chlorinating scouring powders are in any case no longer considered acceptable to the environment or human health.)
2. The life of an enamelled cast iron bath should be in excess of 100 years if treated carefully, well-maintained and cleaned regularly.
3. Drummonds charges £600 to re-enamel a six foot bath.

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