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Railings and Gates


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What methods can be used to put together railings and gates? Is it unorthodox to use a MIG welder? What kind of other fasteners could one use? I was resently ran across someone who wanted a small railing job but I had to turn it down because I didnt know how to attach the bars.

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Whitaker talked about one he had seen years ago where the pickets had been drilled with cross holes alternating the width of the top rail, then pinned with tapered dowels. For example, pickets 1, 3, 5, etc., were drilled at 30" from the bottom end, while numbers 2, 4, 6 and so on were drilled at 29-1/2". Dowels are driven in the even numbered pickets, a 1/2" rail that had been punched with square holes is dropped on all pickets, then dowels are driven into the odd numbered pickets, locking the rail into place. Neat, simple and stays tight. Hope this makes sense.

PS - It's perfectly fine to use a MIG welder if that is the look you and the customer can accept.

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There is an aweful lot of high dollar work that gets done with a
MIG welder. Like HWoolridge said, if both you and your client are happy with the design and the results then it is perfectly fine to use the MIG gun:-)

Francis Whitaker also did a gate where the Whole thing was drilled and tapped, and I think he cut the heads off of grade 8 harded bolts and used them as allthread to make the joints. He said he was surprised to find that there was no sag in the gate. (it was a design that would have lended itself well to a MIG or ARC welder and a good grinder, but I guess Francis was too stubborn to refuse the design, and too principled and stubborn to use a welder:-)

Ellements of traditional joinery:

Forgewelding - You can forge weld individual ellements together to get your design, not for the faint of heart:-) But used quite extensively, especially for the frame of many grills and some gates. Generally used in conjunction with one or more other methods of traditional joinery.

Riveting (inline, lap, and blind) - Some ellements can be drilled or punched and riveted inline with the other ellements, this can get prettty tricky especially with tight scrolls. In situations like that you almost need to make a special snaring iron for riveting. There are a number of good designs that include ellements that are lap riveted to a forgewelded frame. Blind rivets can be used on railings where you do not want to pierce the top. Punch or drill a shallow hole atleast one diameter of the rivet stock, preferably two, then get the railing hot and center punch around the rivet angling in toward the shank, slide on your ellement and get rivet hot and finish heading. Blind rivets are not as strong a regular riveting, but can be made just bit stronger by upsetting the head of the rivet stock slightly, or use a small pan headed rivet. However you choose to do it blind riveting aren't as strong as normal rivets, but it is still a very useful trick. Rivets can be an additional source of decoration in an otherwise simple design. They can be faceted, or cut to look like rossette, they can be stamped with crosses...

Simple Collars - Generally used on smaller grills and gates, though still functional on larger pieces. Collars are prepared out of a material that is normally about the same width as the stock used in the main ellements of the design, but is thinner. The collars are preformed either with a vice and a piece of stock that is the size of the matterials to be joined, or in a specially made swage or bolster block with a set tool and then a piece of stock the same size as the materialls to be joined:-) The sizing bar should be just a hair under size, so that the hot collar will fit, and when quenched and cold will hold tight. The collars can be cut and trimmed so that they are butted, lapped with a diagonal cut, or forgewelded. You will need different sizes of collars for every different type of joint. So if you are doing a grill with a 1/2" x1" frame and all the ellements to be attached are 1/2" square where they attach, you need a collar to fit 1/2" x 1 1/2". Where you have two scrolls joining you only need 1/2" x 1". But in the center where you have scrolls sitting in C scrolls attached to the center ellement you may need 1/2" x 1 1/2" again. Francis Whitaker gives a formula for collar length, but I can't find my copy of The Blacksmiths Cookbook at the moment. I think it was perimeter of the joint plus 1.5, 2 or 3 times the thickness of the collar material??? Always do a few test pieces to find the correct length, the formula (whatever it is:-) is a good guide, but should ALWAYS be tested before all of the stock is cut to size:-)

Pierce and Collar - Using this method the frame is pierced (instead of being wrapped in the collar),and the pickets, or other ellements of the design, are attached to the frame with a collar. This method is used extensively in screens and grills, especially where there is a wide flat frame that affixes to the wall.

Mortise and Tenon - Forge, file, grind, or cut on a lathe a tenon on one or both ends of a picket, and then match it to a precisely sized and placed hole, the tenon can be finished flush and hidden, or can be finished with a riveted head. Doing pickets with tenons you need to make absolutely certain that all of the pickets are the same length between the shoulders. A pass/no pass jig can save time and trouble (The jig is just a tab with a hole drilled in it on one end of a bar, and another tab on the other end with a slot. Then the picket is inserted into the hole, and the shoulder should just barely slide into the slot on the other end. Too long use a monkey tool to upset the shoulder some more to reduce the length of the picket somewhat. Too short, better luck next time, or get the middle of the picket hot and tap it to lengthen the picket till it passes. This is a great place to use the MIG welder, to weld up this jig;-)

Wrapping - You can join two pieces together by just wrapping one around the other hot, some of the artsy foliate designs use this technique. Think tendrils of vines wrapped around the toprail of a railing, or a pot rack...

Its late as I am finishing up, so I may have missed something;-) But this is a good overview of the basics...

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Finn,

You covered it all. I personally like riveting (especially blind rivets) and I try to work them into a design even if I use the MIG somewhere else on the job. It definitely separates the work from the typical glue gun job since most people don't even know what a solid rivet is, so they think it's cool when they see one.

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