TMB Art Metal - 4472 Flying Scotsman Luxury Gifts and Accessories

Compiled by TMB Art Metal Managing Director and founder Christopher Bennett, this is a basic overview of our latest Products, News and TMB Art Metal in general.

TMB create an edition of special lapel pins and cufflinks for the Royal British Legion to commemorate the centenary of World War 1.

Royal British Legion - Poppy Pins and Cufflinks
Royal British Legion Poppy Pins and Cufflinks

Nearly a century after the guns fell silent on the Western Front, the very shells they fired in anger are returning to Britain - in a remarkable act of remembrance marking the Great War.

Hundreds of brass shell fuses - once primed to detonate on impact with enemy targets - still lie scattered along the 450-mile front line, together with fragments of barbed wire, bullets and other machinery of war. Now, thanks to the dream of a former photographer turned amateur archaeologist, the once-deadly weapons are finding a peaceful new lease of life - as unique commemorative poppy pins and cufflinks for the Royal British Legion.

Approximately 100 kilos in weight of British shell fuzes were obtained for the Flanders Fields project.
Approximately 100 kilos in weight of British shell fuzes were obtained for the Flanders Fields project.
Millions of shells were fired, each of which was fitted with a brass fuze during WW1, and these can still be found on the battlefields.
Millions of shells were fired, each of which was fitted with a brass fuze during WW1, and these can still be found on the battlefields.

The conical 1 lb fuses, once produced in their millions by munitions workers in wartime Britain before being shipped out to France and Belgium, are being melted down again in a Midlands furnace at over 1000 degrees centigrade. Under the guidance of master craftsmen the resulting ‘lava’ is poured into elaborate clay moulds in a painstaking procedure known as the ‘lost wax’ process. When the metal has cooled the clay moulds are broken open to reveal the crisp, ornate, golden-coloured poppies that are handcrafted into special cufflinks and lapel pins. Each one is polished, before being engraved by the Assay Office with the dates 1914 - 1918, and presented in velvet-lined, wooden boxes, along with a certificate of authenticity.

The Royal British Legion, which has 350,000 members, will put the unique mementoes of the Great War on sale in June, in time to mark the 100 years since Britain’s declaration of war against Germany, on August 4, 1914. The Legion hopes that many of its members, and thousands of members of the public, will buy the poppies and wear them for years to come, raising money which will go towards looking after the ‘Armed Forces Community’.

“I stumbled across the idea when researching a book into historic artefacts still visible on the Somme and in Belgium,” said Christopher Bennett, who founded TMB Art Metal, a London firm that specialises in creating specialist jewellery and works of art fashioned from the parts of famous cars, trains and aeroplanes.

TMB was formed in 2005 following the excavation of a Battle of Britain Hurricane fighter which crashed into Buckingham Palace Road, London, in 1940. Parts of the recovered Hurricane were later made into limited-edition sculptures. Among other flagship projects, Christopher, 56, has since created cufflinks forged from pistons donated by Prince Charles from his cherished Aston Martin DB6 Volante, and which were sold to raise money for the Prince’s Trust.

Brian Gray, the Royal British Legion’s Poppy Shop buyer, said: “These poppies really are special; we have never done anything like this before. For us they are a direct link right back to the battlefields of World War One. It feels like reaching out - and touching history. What is most remarkable is that these objects were created for war - but are now being turned into an act of remembrance that will help the Legion and its dependents. It’s turning evil into good. It is all about provenance and there is a real story behind them; we hope people will wear them all year round.”

Remarkably, the design for the lapel pins and cufflinks, which are about 1.5cms across and weigh five grammes each - is based on a real-life Flanders poppy sent back from No Man’s Land in 1915 by Private Len Smith and preserved in his diary to this day. A natural artist, Len kept his beautifully illustrated diary documenting his exploits during WW1, which was published in 2009 under the title ‘Drawing Fire’. The delicate poppy was sandwiched between the pages and preserved through the years. Descendents of Len agreed to the poppy being used as the basis for the Royal British Legion project.

Original 1915 Flanders poppy preserved in Private Len Smith’s diary.
Original 1915 Flanders poppy preserved in Private Len Smith’s diary.

All profits from the sale of the poppies will go to the Royal British Legion; Mr Bennett has agreed to recover only the costs incurred in producing the objects. He considers following up the initial design with special editions marking each year of the conflict, which lasted from 1914-1918.

“Considering that they are made of 100-year-old corroded detritus that has lain, undisturbed on the historic battlefield for so long, the transformation into beautiful poppies - looking for all the world like 18ct gold - is astonishing,” says Mr Bennett. “It has been an immense privilege to produce them - and to work with the Royal British Legion.”

The “Flanders Fields” poppies are available via the Legion’s website: www.poppyshop.org.uk

Transforming bad into good, the Flanders’ Fields Poppy edition successfully turns items that were forged with hatred for the purposes of destruction into tributes commemorating the millions of lives lost embroiled within the tyranny of war.
Text Courtesy David Williams The Sunday Telegraph

The fuzes were too big for jewellery casting so initially needed to be made into rods. Here they are put into a huge crucible.
The fuzes were too big for jewellery casting so initially needed to be made into rods. Here they are put into a huge crucible.
Once the crucible is full the fuzes are melted until molten.
Once the crucible is full the fuzes are melted until molten.
When a white hot liquid the crud from the top is skimmed off prior to pouring into moulds.
When a white hot liquid the crud from the top is skimmed off prior to pouring into moulds.
The WW1 metal is poured into sand casting moulds to be reformed into bars.
The WW1 metal is poured into sand casting moulds to be reformed into bars.
The sand moulds are broken open to reveal the bars, which can more easily be cut into re-castable miniature ingots.
The sand moulds are broken open to reveal the bars, which can more easily be cut into re-castable miniature ingots.
Here the rods can be seen cut into sections, stage one of the fuzes’ transformation into poppies complete.
Here the rods can be seen cut into sections, stage one of the fuzes’ transformation into poppies complete.
For stage two, the metal will be recast using the lost wax method of jewellery casting, for which every one requires a wax effigy.
For stage two, the metal will be recast using the lost wax method of jewellery casting, for which every one requires a wax effigy.
A pair of freshly formed wax poppies in their rubber mould.
A pair of freshly formed wax poppies in their rubber mould.
Waxes for the Flanders Fields poppy pins and cufflinks accumulate.
Waxes for the Flanders Fields poppy pins and cufflinks accumulate.
These are then put into a small crucible and again heated until molten.
Short sections of the fuze rods are put into a small crucible and again heated until molten.
Once molten the century old metal is very smoky indeed!
Once molten the century old metal is very smoky indeed!
The shell fuze metal is poured into the lost wax casting ‘can’.
The shell fuze metal is poured into the lost wax casting ‘can’.
The ceramic can filled with red hot WW1 shell fuze brass.
The ceramic can filled with red hot WW1 shell fuze brass.
Once the metal has had time to solidify the ‘tree’ is broken out of the can, this one being of poppy cufflinks.
Once the metal has had time to solidify the ‘tree’ is broken out of the can, this one being of poppy cufflinks.
The same tree once cleaned of casting compound. The poppies will be cut off, checked, fettled, polished, engraved and lacquered.
The same tree once cleaned of casting compound. The poppies will be cut off, checked, fettled, polished, engraved and lacquered.
Flanders Fields Poppy Pin, made of original WW1 metal.
Flanders Fields Poppy Pin, made of original WW1 metal.
Flanders Fields Poppy Cufflinks, with a physical link to WW1 history.
Flanders Fields Poppy Cufflinks, with a physical link to WW1 history.

Piston Desk Clocks

1930 Works Le Mans Bentley Old Number 2 Piston Desk Clock
1930 Works Le Mans Bentley Old Number Two Piston Desk Clock

We are embarking on creating an ongoing, but extremely limited, number of ‘Piston Desk Clocks’ featuring original historic engine pistons and connecting rods with suitable period clock mounted into the con-rod’s ‘big-end’. This is an exciting project, the rather unique desk clocks being visually very attractive, but the addition of the clock turning what would otherwise purely be a highly desirable collectible into a useable artefact - a desk clock that very effectively combines function with history and form, guaranteed to gain comment from anyone who sets eyes upon it. And, once commented upon, there’s the fascinating background story to tell!

Current desk clocks include examples featuring pistons/rods from Battle of Britain Spitfire Mk 1 X4276 KL-B; Junkers Ju88 Jumo and, with an automotive theme, Bentley Old Number Two.

Future clocks may involve original pistons/rods from the D-type Jaguar, R-type Continental Bentley and Bugatti Type 35.

Please click on the relevant subject for more information.

Visit the dedicated Piston Clocks page

Spitfire X4276 KL-B Rolls-Royce Merlin Piston Desk Clock
Spitfire X4276 KL-B Rolls-Royce Merlin Piston Desk Clock
1930 Works Le Mans Bentley Old Number 2 Piston Desk Clock
1930 Works Le Mans Bentley Old Number Two Piston Desk Clock

The Spitfire Case

TMB’s new The Spitfire Case is surely one of the most eye-catching, exclusive and individual brief cases ever created. Uniquely these cases, which are limited to only twelve (12), plus initial prototype, and include design clues taken from the iconic Spitfire throughout, incorporate actual sections of Spitfire skinning in their construction, this “donor” material being Duralumin wing skinning originating from Spitfire PM631. A fusion of function, history and art, each case is entirely handmade to order to customers own specification.

An extreme limited edition of just 12 numbered cases, crafted using ex-Spitfire PM631 skinning, cases are priced at circa £9,995.

We are also working on the prototype for a totally different but equally spectacular case, this time based around an actual section of Spitfire’s aerofoil wing and incorporating skinning from “P7350”, a Battle of Britain aircraft that’s the oldest most original flying Spitfire in the world.

Prince Charles’ Aston Raises Funds For Prince’s Trust

In conjunction with TMB, His Royal Highness, The Prince of Wales’ prized Aston Martin DB6 Volante is helping raise funds for The Prince’s Trust. TMB created two editions of cufflinks, each limited to just 100 pairs, formed from the car’s original aluminium engine pistons, with profits going to The Prince's Trust. Martina Milburn, chief executive of The Prince's Trust, said: “With these proceeds, we will be able to help more young people into jobs across the UK. Young people have been hit hardest in the recession, so it’s now more important than ever to give them the skills and confidence they need to find work.”

The project also strikes a chord with The Prince of Wales’ dedication to the environment. The six donor pistons became available when his cherished DB6, a 21st birthday present to the Prince from Her Majesty The Queen, was first converted to run on biofuel and their subsequent transformation into exclusive accessories is a classic TMB inspired example of recycling redundant historic components that would otherwise have been simply thrown away. Christopher Bennett, Managing Director of TMB, and originator of the project, said: “These cufflinks are quintessential conversation pieces, each with their own story to tell. When I heard about the possibility of creating such future heirlooms from The Prince’s Aston, the project was irresistible!”

The car, which bears the registration plate EBY 776J, was the centre of major worldwide attention at Prince Charles son, Prince William’s high profile wedding to Kate Middleton, now the Duchess of Cambridge. The Royal newlyweds had borrowed the historic Aston for their post-wedding journey from Buckingham Palace to Clarence House, the Prince of Wales’ London residence.

The cufflinks are only available direct from TMB, priced £1,995.00. Contact +44 (0) 208 810 9997 or info@tmbartmetal.com

At Highgrove Christopher Bennett presents The Prince of Wales with one of the first pairs of cufflinks made incorporating metal from the Prince’s cherished 1961 Aston DB6.
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge making their royal getaway in the Prince of Wales’ Aston DB6 Volante.

Supermarine Spitfire X4276 KL-B 14" Sculptures

A long time in the creation but we are now issuing our spectacular 14" wingspan Spitfire Mk1 sculptures. These amazing sculptures are crafted of aluminium originating from the Rolls-Royce Merlin Mk III engine fitted to X4276 KL-B, legendary ace Al Deere's personal Spitfire for the latter part of the Battle of Britain and 1940, which crashed on 28th December 1940. To add fascination to these very special pieces that command attention due to size, is the fact that they are mounted upon the V12 Merlin's original, beautifully engineered pistons.

Surely one of the most spectacular tributes to the iconic Supermarine Spitfire ever created with history to match!

A limited edition of just twelve (12) made of ex-X4276 KL-B aluminium and mounted upon the pistons (although we reserve the right to shorten the edition number) priced at £7,995.

We are also exploring the possibility of creating three or possibly four 36” wingspan Spitfire sculptures which, at that large size would surely be one of the most spectacular tributes to the iconic Spitfire ever created. Please enquire for details.

Aston Martin DBR1/2 Essence of Form Cufflinks

To coincide and celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of Aston Martin's 1959 Le Mans victory in the iconic DBR1 we are launching some new cufflinks incorporating metal from the most famous and valuable of them all; DBR1/2. This is the very car that driven by Carroll Shelby and Roy Salvadori won Le Mans for Aston Martin in 1959, along with the Goodwood Tourist Trophies of both 1958 and 1959 in the hands of the legendary Sir Stirling Moss.

The miniature circa 25mm long DBR1 'Essence of Form' sculptures are crafted of actual original ex-DBR1/2 aluminium, whilst the tiny drivers seated in cockpits and cufflink arms are of (much less significant and scarce!) 18ct gold.

Two separate editions of just 50 pairs of these links (thus 100 pairs in all) are being created with certificates of authenticity signed respectively by Sir Stirling Moss and Carroll Shelby.

The pictures will hopefully relate the drama of this design but I can confirm that these are without doubt surely one of the most spectacular motoring cufflinks ever created with, of course, suitable history to match!

Supermarine Spitfire Rudder Pedal Cufflinks

Recently launched, and only just in production, are our Spitfire Rudder Pedal Cufflinks, incorporating metal from Battle of Britain vintage Spitfire Mk 1 X4276, KL-B, which was Al Deere's personal Spitfire, and his third named KIWI.

Al Deere was one of the Royal Air Force's most successful fighter pilots during the Battle of Britain and on through WW2, downing 22 enemy aircraft. I like to do things differently and, rather than producing cufflinks incorporating the obvious Spitfire shape, decided to design ours around the beautiful 1930s deco style Supermarine branded rudder pedals with which the early Mk 1 and 2 Spitfires were fitted. I think these are a very innovative cufflink design and one that is practical in function. But its also a subtle design, begging questions to be asked, which is what TMB product is all about, as when questions are asked our cufflinks have that wonderful evocative story behind them to relate.

Concorde From Concorde Edition

Continuing the aeronautic theme, we have recently completed our new Concorde cufflinks. The beautiful little Essence of Form Concorde sculptures they boast are cast in metal from Concorde - more specifically a rudder with outstanding provenance.

We acquired the rudder via British Airways and the great thing is that the entire history of the component had been officially researched. Therefore we know the rudder accumulated precisely 10,861 flight hours and we know it did 3,724 landings whilst fitted to three different Concorde aircraft throughout its life, but primarily the BA flagship G-BOAC.

Concorde is one of those truly iconic designs that defies age. If she flew today for the very first time she would still appear cutting edge!

Buckingham Palace Road Hurricane Spinner Cufflinks

Surely one of the most spectacular aeronautic cufflinks ever created, and with history to match, I am very proud of our new Hurricane Spinners. These incredible links, which represent a propeller spinner plus three propeller blade lower sections, incorporate metal recovered from the Buckingham Palace Road Hurricane, the most famous of all Battle of Britain aircraft, bar none.

The silver coloured spinner is actually crafted of aluminium using donor metal from the corroded lower section of the pilot's control column (the actual 'spade grip' itself is on display in the Imperial War Museum) whilst the propeller blade sections are in brass using donor metal from pieces of the Hurricane's Rolls-Royce Merlin engine ignition harness. The backing discs and arms are of much less historic and readily available mere 18ct gold. But the real icing on the cake to the Spinners is that the central boss is equipped with a tiny bearing enabling the propellers to be spun - providing true tactility as well as history to these amazing cufflinks!

Be warned, these links, surely the ultimate in bragging rights aeronautic cufflinks, are, unlike our Rudder Pedals, not at all subtle!

Flying Scotsman Sculptures

I was very proud recently to launch our new 24" long sculptures of the iconic steam locomotive Flying Scotsman which are crafted using actual metal from FS. These sculptures, which are surely one of the most spectacular pieces of railway art ever created and were two years in development, are by far the most ambitious project my company has embarked upon to date.

Aston Martin DBS Quantum of Solace Pins

Talking of Aston Martin, we were pleased to accept an exciting commission late last year by Dr Ulrich Bez, CEO of Aston Martin, for the production of 150 rather special pins featuring the Aston Martin DBS car.

The special thing about these pins was that they were cast using actual metal originating from a door from one of the cars used in the opening sequence of the latest James Bond movie, Quantum of Solace. The pins, which were produced in TMB's house Essence of Form style, were for presentation to VIPs at the various premiers of the film. I am told they went down very well!

A Thank You To All Our Customers

I just wanted to say a personal thank you to all those who have purchased product from us in the past; your custom is hugely appreciated. Being only a small company, I have dealt personally with most of you, from all corners of the globe, and it has always been a pleasure. I am also hugely grateful for the kind words people have said about their acquisitions (see our testimonials page) and proud of the fact that of the hundreds of pairs of cufflinks, sculptures and wallets etc, we've sold over the past three years or so, not one item has been returned and I have not received one single complaint.

Please do feel free to get in touch with me to share any thoughts or comments on past or current product, or indeed with any ideas or concepts for future projects. I am always very open to ideas as these, along with the original 'donor' material, is TMB's lifeblood.

Chris Bennett shows P2725 TM-B's pilot, Ray Holmes, the Hurricane's control column or 'joy stick' recovered just moments earlier from the excavation beneath Buckingham Palace Road in May 2004.

Wartime Image Presentation to the Queen The Dig Imperial War Museum London Buckingham Palace Road Crossroads

TMB Art Metal

I am often asked why TMB Art Metal is called TMB Art Metal and feel I should explain. TMB Art Metal came about following my successful excavation of P2725 TM-B, the Buckingham Palace Road Hurricane. This was the Hawker Hurricane fighter that, piloted by Ray Holmes, famously rammed a German Dornier bomber over London on 15th September 1940, Battle of Britain Day. Ray, who believed the Dornier was intent on bombing Buckingham Palace itself, had run out of ammunition and decided the only way to stop this dastardly intruder was to "hit him for six". The downed bomber crashed on the forecourt of Victoria Station whilst the Hurricane, minus Ray who had baled out, came to earth at the crossroads of Buckingham Palace Road and Ebury Bridge SW1, a quarter mile from Buckingham Palace. The mangled and smashed P2725 buried itself some twelve feet beneath the road and there remained until 2004.

After many years of research to pinpoint the exact location where the Hurricane had come to ground, I orchestrated an excavation to recover this famous aircraft's remains on 29/30th May 2004. The 'dig', televised live, was a total success, a large proportion of P2725's smashed Rolls-Royce Merlin engine together with other items of wreckage, including the pilot's control column, being recovered. I loaned the engine and the control column to the Imperial War Museum, where they remain, but as an afterthought decided to have some simple Hurricane sculptures cast out of the corroded and otherwise useless shards of aluminium engine casing. Some of these resultant sculptures were for presentation (I even presented one to HM The Queen at Buckingham Palace), but others I decided to sell commercially. Such was the interest in these provenance sculptures of a Hurricane made of the most famous Hurricane in the world, that I decided to expand the concept and TMB Art Metal was born. We still have some of these very historic sculptures within the 125 limited edition remaining, by the way.

The 'TMB' part of my company's name comes from Ray Holmes Hurricane's call sign, 'TM-B', whilst the name 'Art Metal' originated from the name of the company in the building on the corner of Buckingham Palace Road and Ebury Bridge back in 1940. Called Art Metal Steel Office Furniture, this building, which featured prominently in the background of the film taken by the fire brigade of the crash site on 15th September 1940, was a vital piece of evidence in my search for the Hurricane's resting place. Indeed without it TM-B would still be lying 12 feet beneath that busy road junction and TMB Art Metal would not have been created. So even the name has provenance!

In case of interest, the dig location is still visible in the road. If you take a centre line down Ebury Bridge and the same for Buckingham Palace Rd, where they cross can be seen a 10 feet square diagonal patch of tarmac darker than the rest of the crossroads. That's where TM-B's remains were excavated.

Whilst it would be true to say that starting a luxury goods business from scratch has been challenging (I was a photographer before) it has been an amazing journey and little did I know how that excavation back in May of 2004 would change my life. Whilst our USP is "Creating Passion For Provenance", utilising original historic donor material in everything we do, I also strive to create very different and cutting edge designs with quality to match and am proud of what we have achieved.

TMB Art Metal, Luxury Gifts and Accessories