Designer to Ironmonger

Designer to Ironmonger

At the beginning of the year I started my Guild of Architectural Ironmongers Certificate Stage 1, the first step in obtaining a diploma in Architectural Ironmongery.

I have been working as 3v’s Brand Design and Strategy Consultant for the last 4 years and it felt like the right time to increase my knowledge of Architectural Ironmongery and the industry. I came into this from a different perspective compared to many candidates, being a qualified commercial interior designer with a decade’s experience working predominantly on commercial office fit out for large international tech companies and banks.  

As an Interior Designer it is your job to know a reasonable amount about everyone else’s job -  the client, the main contractor and everyone in between. If you don’t understand the basics of M&E, security, partitioning, furniture, joinery how can you understand the effect they will have on the appearance and function of your design?

I was quietly confident that I knew a reasonable amount about Architectural Ironmongery. I’ve specified and used countless pieces of ironmongery; I know doors need hinges, door closers, handles, signage and that the correct fire rating needs to achieve . Well, it turns out there is a bit more to it than I that!

Stage 1 is arranged in 4 blocks, each concluding with a Block Assessment. There are 12 learning modules spread across the 4 blocks that cover Handing of Hardware, Hinges, Metals and finishes, Timber doors, Seals, Steel doors and frames, Closing devices, Locks and latches, Fixing and fastenings, Hardware Part 1, Bolts and Basic Scheduling.

Over the last 4 months I have read through thousands of pages of information about product types, product details, building code, basic scheduling and lots more besides. Learning about the product types is reasonable easy. But learning how, when and (most importantly) why you select one type of product over another is slightly harder. Understanding how you then select the complete package of ironmongery for just one door is more than a little bit complicated. 

Different door constructions require different types of Ironmongery, different sizes, different fixings and different materials. Every product selected has an impact on the other items you have to specify for that door. Select one product incorrectly and your door doesn’t work.

The GAI certainly don’t make learning this easy for you! You might assume that everything you need to know is included within the learning literature. But in reality, there is no way that you can complete this course without further research and discussions with more experienced ironmongers in the business.

I have learnt a lot from the course and my knowledge has certainly been improved. There have been plenty of times though where the course has left me with far more questions than answers.

Perhaps one of the most important things that I have gained is a greater appreciation for the knowledge and experience held by our Architectural Ironmongers.

Our team of Ironmongery consultants are experts in what they do. Naturally they are there to sell you product, but more importantly they are there to provide a service that ensures all doors throughout your project open, close, lock, protect and perform to your expectations, whatever the application and whoever the user.

We know we need ironmongery for all building projects and we know ironmongery plays an important role in making our buildings work safely but yet we don’t discuss ironmongery at the beginning of design development. Why not?

We assume scheduling is simply a shopping list of products selected from a catalogue but that should never be the case. A scheduler has the responsibility of ensuring that your ironmongery meets security, fire safety, functionality and legislation requirements. They cannot achieve this successfully without understanding the purpose of a building, the intended end users and detailed client requirements. 

We must acknowledge the responsibility Ironmongery consultants have in helping to create a safe and secure environment within our buildings and we must start talking sooner, not just to put together schedules but to talk about opportunities. Early discussions give us the time to create something unique, new finishes, new designs, inspiring ironmongery.

We must fight for high quality product. Ironmongery is so often an easy target for value engineering but do we really understand the difference between the products being swapped out.  We must ask more questions to be able to fully understand the value in the service being provided.

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