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The art of working with arch formers

The art of working with arch formers

The arch was an amazing architectural discovery as it was, in ancient times, the only method known for roofing a building without the use of beams, which would at the same time really open up internal spaces visually to create some of our most beautiful churches, castles and public buildings.

It comes in many shapes – semicircular (Roman), segmental (less than half a circle), or pointed (Gothic), and is also commonly used over doors and windows instead of a lintel. Interestingly, the arch developed from the post and lintel or possibly the corbel, which is similar in shape and principle to the arch.

In the Roman times, arches were constructed utilizing arch formers, which were assembled from wood and acted to take the shape and support the weight of the stone above until the mortar has gone off. These were then removed to leave the curved arch in all its elegant glory.

Today, however, to make an arch former from timber for the huge housing developments we are creating would cost an absolute fortune. It would require the careful attention of a carpenter to measure the door or window aperture, and make them accurately for the brickie or stonemason to use. When time is of the essence, this would greatly push up the cost of each property, so is really a non-starter for modern housing.

Hence we have seen the arrival of more cost-effective GRP/plastic arch formers. Which, being quite thin, can be left in place permanently. They are suitable for all the traditional uses of the timber versions, but are quite often used to open up spaces internally – they are ideal for commercial as well as domestic applications, linking divided rooms in Victorian terraces, loft-style apartments and restaurants, as well as leisure space, schools and other educational establishments.

But, as with all components utilised within a building’s envelope, they are subject to damage by careless tradesmen or the occupant. Hence, we at Plastic Surgeon are increasingly being called upon to repair arch formers, to put good the gouges, scratches and dents that have occurred to the plastic.   Or quite simply – and possibly most commonly, architects are specifying plastic arch formers which, once the work is done, do not suit the design of the building. So we are actually being asked to disguise as well as repair them, to match their surroundings and actually make them look like part of the arch.

Mimicking stone, brick and timber backgrounds is not difficult for our Finishers – being that they are colour mixing experts, who carry their own palette of colours in their vans. They mix these on site to perfectly replicate stone, granite and timber, as well as bricks, marble and composite stone.

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