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I Forge Iron

First Railing Project?


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I was curious how those of you that do larger ornamental work, like railings, tables or fences, got your first commission? I assume as you progress and build a portfolio of previous projects, customers are more inclined to commission you. I would love to slowly venture into doing some larger projects like railings or tables, but am trying to figure the best way to get my feet wet in the process. I currently hammer full time, but only do smaller items that are bought and shipped online. The largest ornamental type pieces I have done are fireplace sets. Any advice?

 

Thanks!

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I started by doing crafts fairs. Mostly as advertisement. I then pounded on many doors of interior decorators. I focused on such things as brackets, cabinet and door hardware, small lighting and basically anything that came along. It took about 2-3 years and my door/cabinet hardware really kicked in. I became the "custom" hardware guy for a local specialty upscale hardware dealer. This evolved into many kinds of small to medium sized architectural jobs, primarily fullsets of cabinets and all interior and exterior doors, bath fixtures, kitchen accessories fireplace doors and accessories and a bit of lighting. This included my own forged switch plate covers. This eventually evolved into gates, railings, lighting etc. 

Every pathway by our very nature is unique, but I've known a fair number of traditional architectural smiths who got started and gained much experience of all types by doing door and cabinet hardware. I strongly suggest that doing one off doors as a goal will not work. 

My sales pitch to interior decorators and owner builders was to use my iron as a household theme. A similar design and color used to do different things throughout the house and tie it all together.. 

Good luck and go for it. It's a great way to spend the time of day.  ;)

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I've know a few smiths who started with gates; got them handled by high end landscape people and then matching railings started being asked for.

And then there was Albert Paley's Zoo gates. As I recall him telling the story at a Quad-State: He was working on a major project of making a set of zoo gates and it was cancelled.  Well he had the drawings on his wall during a gallery hop and a lady came up and asked to buy them.  He told her that the drawings were not for sale and she said "No; I want to buy the gates!"   He tried to tell here how expensive they would be and that they were designed for a Zoo and she would need to get one to agree and she said "I gave the zoo 4 million dollars last year; I don't think there will be a problem giving them the gates..."   And they are there at the St Louis Zoo. 

(This is how I remember the story, any factual errors I will blame on  TBI, Age and Diabetes!)

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On 2/26/2021 at 1:49 AM, MRB said:

Any advice?

HI  !

20-25 years ago I preferred large orders. Fences, gates, balconies, stairs. I work alone, so now I try to do small projects. Chandeliers, furniture, flower supports. The salary is much higher and less effort is required.

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I appreciate all the replies! Will definitely look into everything recommended!

Thats some nice work! How did you finish all those railing? Blast and powder coat? And when you say you find the salary higher with less effort, are you referring to doing furniture/flower supports compared to fences and gates. Or were you referring to architectural smithing as a whole compared to the little nick knack stuff.

 

Thanks!

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On 3/3/2021 at 7:42 AM, MRB said:

How did you finish all those railing? Blast and powder coat? And when you say you find the salary higher with less effort, are you referring to doing furniture/flower supports compared to fences and gates. 

By paint. Primer, paint, 2 layers , patina and varnish (indoor) on top.

By benefit. This is just my opinion. Our cost calculation is usually like this. Material cost multiplied by 10. For small jobs, it can be multiplied by 15-20.

An important point, I work alone and I will soon be 60. I no longer want to lift weights. :D

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Posted (edited)

Do you blast before painting? I've been making a bunch of fire pokers and have been painting them with rustoleum hammered spray paint. Knock off the loose scale quickly with a wire brush, then applied directly over. Been very durable and looks great, but I'm not sure it would be good enough for an outdoor railing. 

Edited by Mod30
Remove excessive quote.
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