The Biltmore Estate's Copper Ridge

We had the pleasure recently to recreate one of the Biltmore's copper ridges. Consisting of over 900 individual parts, it took a lot of time and attention to detail to make, and even look for ways to improve, what was so beautiful and withstood nature for 120 years.


High magnification view of the cross-section at the solder. The remaining cross-section was 46% of the original thickness of approximately 0.026-in. 

High magnification view of the cross-section at the solder. The remaining cross-section was 46% of the original thickness of approximately 0.026-in. 

In order to properly analyze the original for wear and tear, we had a metallurgist examine it more thoroughly to see if any of the parts could be restored. However, after much contemplating, it was decided that an entirely new ridge be built. And so the process of making 988 individual parts (including 63 molds and 38 turnings!) began! 

 

 

Notice the tabs added to the new floral ‘acorns’.  The added tabs will aid in providing a very secure attachment.  Again, as has been said before, one can’t say too much negative about an installation that has endured for 120 years.  The parts that have failed however were, in almost every single case, at soldered connections.  Such is the case of most of these ‘acorns’ that are and exist today on the Biltmore House. Also to the left of the picture are some of the uppermost end post detailed parts.  

 
 

Above shows an old part of the ridge that was held together solely by soldered ridges; we used copper tabs as well as soldering for maximum durability.

 

The previous panel had several vertical soldered seams; we were able to produce one continuous panel using our CecoStamp machine.

Here you see the components as we stamp an over 10-foot section:             1.   Upper die.

2.  Lower die.                                                     

3.  Drop hammer’s anvil.

4.  Running length of stamped copper

5.  One column of the

6.  CecoStamp machine

Forming larger stampings means employing the CecoStamp Drop Hammer.  This 48,000-pound air operated machine tends to make copper conform to what the mold, or die would dictate. These machines were invented in the 1800s! The one used for this project was restored from the mid-1900s. 

 

The entire process of carefully removing the old ridge, replicating it, and installing the new one took about six months to complete! To understand the magnitude of this home, this is just one of the many ridges that will need restoration in the future.