image: Left to right; a group of men standing and watching the following scene; four men steering a sheet of steel hanging from chains attached to a crane, a pile of clinker or coke in the background; a man hammering a steel sheet in the foreground and two men decanting large bolts from a wooden box to a sack in front of a furnace; a man preparing a trolley-burner, a semi-automatic oxy-acetylene burner that ran on a prepared track; a man lying on a sheet of steel in the foreground, preparing the track for the trolley-burner. Behind him five men work on a long and shaped length of steel. In the background several men work on a red-hot shoe plate which has just emerged from the furnace. One man sweeps away the detritus sticking to the plate while the others hammer it into shape; a collection of iron 'dogs' used in bending metal; a group of men survey the scene; two men lever up sheet steel from a pile; a group of men carry a steel girder; a man seated on a bench works on angled pieces of steel.
This work was originally called 'The Shoe Plate' and the composition caused Spencer so much difficulty that he nearly abandoned it. The central part of the canvas was worked out in a drawing in 1940 but the painting was executed in early 1943, not 1941, the date usually assigned to the work. Although Spencer was never happy with the work, the War Artist's Advisory Committee paid him 150 guineas once it was completed in October 1943. Spencer described the centre section of the painting: 'one looks across an intervening space in which men are respectively 1 preparing a plate for the machine burner, and 2 bolting a lighter section of frame to a heavier section, to where the shoeplate in its cradle is being beaten into shape.' Related drawings: LD 6008 34 (verso), LD 6008 47, LD 6008 45, LD 6008 48, LD 6008 76, LD 6008 96 (verso), LD 6008 128, LD 6008 138
War Artists Advisory Committee commission