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I Forge Iron

Stair Railing


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Hi everyone,

I have some skills with steel and welding, but I am not a blacksmith

I am building a stair rail for my house (indoors - dry and warm).  The newel posts and top rail are made of hot rolled 2-1/2 x 3/8 flatbar.  The balusters are made of hot rolled 1x1 solid square.  Some finishing wood will be placed ontop of the flatbar rail once complete.

The newel posts are simply screwed down with structural screws and the balusters have screw threads built into them and are screwed into place by hand. After everything is in place the balusters will be mitered to the correct elevation (length) at 37 degrees, the flatbar rail mounted on top of everything and the rail TIG welded to the newel posts and balusters from the underside to hide the welds.

The railing needs a coating. I don't mind taking all the components to a local blacksmith after I build them and ask him/her to put a reputable coating of heated wax or oil on it for me.

1) How can I coat and protect the welds and heat affected zones as the coating previously laid by he blacksmith will be lost?  Can I use the amateur method of a warm pot of wax or oil and a small plumbers torch and touch up the hidden welds and heat affected zones and have a nice day?

2) What kind of life can I expect from a heated wax or oil finish from a local blacksmith? How often will I have to maintain this finish? I am guessing 20 or 30 years.  Or am I entirely wrong and I should consider powdercoating?

3) Is the heated wax or oil finish dirty to the touch? Will it contaminate clothes or hands?

Any other advice in this regard is well appreciated!

Kind regards,





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1) your welds are the toughest to deal with for a hot oil finish. These welds are "brightwork" and must be heated to a good red and wirebrushed to restore the black iron.

2) basically indoors the finish lasts indefinitely. Considering the forged aspect, I suggest to my clients that they treat it like a good piece of furniture and rub it down with a carnauba based furniture polish ever so often.

3) no. If done properly it is clean. My process after applying  a hot oil finish is to clean it with denatured alcohol. Then I apply cold a light coat of carnauba based furniture or car wax and buff it up. Another light wipe with alcohol and see if the black smudges are gone. This will also develop some brighter highlights that I really like. 

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How long a finish will last depends on the environment it's in. Here in the desert, inside and out of the sun, a finish will last way past the time the next owners get tired of that balustrade and want it replaced.  On the ocean shore it may need to be touched up yearly. Where you are at we haven't a clue.

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I did a trellis job  ~5 years ago. It's outside and I'm near Durango, Co. I used a hot oil finish and prepped the client on the need to rub it down with either linseed/ turps cold or a carnuba based furniture polish once a year or so. They do this in the spring and in the fall. I let them know that if you do this it will develop a beautiful russet patina. It's developing a rich deep red finish at the moment.

Basically they wipe it down lightly with  fine sandpaper to remove loose rust and bring out fine highlights. Then they apply the cold finish.

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