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I Forge Iron

First handrail : more anguish than difficulty


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When I got the commission, I was not sure that I still wanted it! I had never done a handrail before.

I remembered I had seen in an ABANA publication a blacksmith making a story stick of the stairs he was to fit a handrail on. In woodworking I used these all the time and they never failed. And that is what I did. From the story stick of the stairs, I could draw my handrail to 1:1 easily. Here is what the drawing looked like after being used to adjust the parts. I never thought of taking a pic when it was clean... It worked. The whole thing fell in place without a hitch.

maincourante PD1 installée - 12 sur 12.m4v

Here is a view from the top ... obviously :


The forged holes lighten up the structure and the twist gives some movement.


The whole structure is held together with bolts (black) and small wing nuts as seen in Plummer's Colonial Wrought Iron.


The large wingnuts are Uri Hofi's.


The structure is bolted to the floor and fastened to a side wall with hanger bolts and the small wing nuts as shown in the first pic.

The clients fell in love with a scketch  in my drawing book. I warned them that it was surely not in accordance with rules and regulations and that their insurance company might also object. They decided that this is what they wanted. The client is to wax the steel. This was a low budget commission.


maincourante PD1 installée - 8 sur 12.jpg

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I like the look Yves. I have a couple issues with the build though. First are the finials that are upcurved, especially on the bottom rail, those are just waiting to catch a pant's cuff and trip someone. The ones on top are traps for clothing and even hands. My second issue is more cosmetic. The bolt heads, I think it'd look much better with carriage bolts and the price wouldn't be enough to matter. I think a half round top rail would be more comfortable but the bar as it stands would be a good grab bar if someone were falling and needed to catch themselves. I think that's a matter of personal taste so if the customer likes it's good.

Other than those, I really like it, it looks great. The code guys can and will find fault with everything to prove they're doing their jobs. Dad was a master at shmoozing with them so they'd only call projects on minor details rather than find something he'd have to work to "correct."

Frosty The Lucky.

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I agree with you Frosty, on all counts, especialy the part where you say it looks good ;).

When I went to take the pics, a while after the installation, I questioned the client with regards to the upcurved finials and wether they still felt comfortable with them. They are happy with everything as is. But the danger is there, especialy clothing engaging in the small wing nuts at the top. As I said, the clients were warned at the beginning. The bottom finial is not a concern for me. You would almost have to do it on purpose to stick the bottom of your pants on it. But the danger is there.

With regards to a top rail, the clients wanted the thing as is. There is something in the air, around our parts at least, with what could be called an "industrial look" sold to the people by such organisations as Pottery Barn.  It seems to have drifted in from France which has  been at it for quite a few years now : they reclaim old industrial furniture, doors etc., old wood on old steel structures. I even saw a prison door sliding on rails in a ritzy parisian appartment. (My source for this trend is the magazine "Art et Décoration" which, by the way, has been published for over 100 years.)

It does make for an out of the ordinary handrail. To me it was a drawing exploring the possibilities of Uri Hofi's wing nuts I had then just discovered here on IFI (BP1037). To the client it was the design they chose. It was fun to make except for the anguish but luckily and especialy thanks to the story stick everything fell in place to a millimeter. And which is not to be disdained, there was a little profit. I have also used the wingnuts on a clothes dryer I made for myself and I posted here last winter.


I like them. They are a great short cut and I like the way they look.

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Works for me though if I were running into that sort of thing I'd have to have a lawyer draw up the contract so the customer assumed all liability for design. You can't get away from screwing something up and causing damage or hurting someone but when it's designed in at the customer's request . . .

The industrial look whatever it's called is a growing look. I've seen some pretty attractive stuff including a pretty cool steam punkish clock at my endrcrinologist's office. It's not made from reclaimed/salvaged/found . . . stuff but it's made with the look. A number of things in his office have the look.

Maybe I should be talking to doctors eh? I don't really want to go pro but it'd be nice if the hobby paid it's own way.

Frosty The Lucky.


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