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With careful planning and proper estimating, fabricating commissioned metal gates and railings can be a lucrative endeavor. Metal fabricators are called upon to do many odd jobs, and most are within their range of skills.
This article describes the process for designing, pricing, and creating these unique and often intricate structures based on client preferences. But when someone requests a gate or a railing with a specific theme, will your shop be up to the challenge?
After several iterations we presented an acceptable design," Lee said.Each horse is 4 feet high, cut out of copper on both sides, and detailed with repouss?.
Meilach's early book, Decorative and Sculptural Ironwork, was a driving force in the renaissance of modern ironwork. Her more recent books include The Contemporary Blacksmith, Architectural Ironwork, Fireplace Accessories, and Direct Metal Sculpture, all published by Schiffer Books.
The projects described here are examples of one-of-a-kind jobs that are out of the ordinary.
They also require costs and profits that can be significantly more than bread-and-butter jobs.
But the trick, say the artists involved, is to plan your work carefully based on time and materials and to be careful not to underbid.Figure 1Stephen E. The fun part of this project was that it required old-world forge welding for the scrollwork and modern techniques for creating the horses.The gate is 20 ft. Lee's dimensional gate of copper horses shaped with repouss?.The forge welded roll work is iron.
Photo by Kate Hoover.A theme gate or railing requires grasping the client's wishes and making drawings that they sign off on.
Often clients don't really know what they want or what is possible, so the sketching and drawing stage is crucial. Original client contact through the drawing and acceptance stage comprises the first part of the job, and your time to make and remake drawings must be figured into the original estimate.
Next the materials and fabrication time must be carefully figured, including the engineering and mechanics if the gate is to open and close automatically. Finally, shipping and installation must be added into the final budgeting."Richard Prazen's Flat Steel Horse GatesRichard Prazen, president of Decoration Creations, West Valley, Utah, also was asked to create a gate with a horse theme to cover the entrance and exit for a circular driveway. The client, who raises champion paint horses, wanted the gate to make a statement that they were horse people.

Said Prazen, "After the drawing and acceptance stage, we started by building a heavy gate frame structure from heavy-wall tubing.
Photo by Richard Prazen."The design of the horses in the orchard created a sort of trusslike component and added to the strength.
We then ground everything clean and primed and powder-coated the surface so it would remain weather-resistant. But if you normally price your work at $600 a foot, these projects have to go to about $900 a foot.
As you work, you try to figure out the history of where the profitability was and where it should have been. One other problem is finding and keeping people with the talent and skills to do artistic work.John Boyd Smith's Low Country RailingJohn Boyd Smith is used to creating themed commissions encompassing an amazing variety of plants, birds, fish, and animals. His Metal Studios in Savannah, Ga., fashioned this incredible "Low Country" railing for a private home in Georgia that features many examples of the coastal region's flora and fauna. Among them are herons, fish, frogs, sea turtles, palmettos, marsh grass, mangrove vines, cattails, sea oats, dragon flies, and sandpipers.
The client's theme for this ocean-front residence was the marine life and nature of the region.Figure 3John Boyd Smith's Low Country railing for a private home in Georgia.
Photo by Rhonda Neil FlemingFigure 4John Boyd Smith's Low Country railing with a heron and local plant forms are on the landing railing and illustrate Smith's photorealistic approach to creating art in iron.
Photo by Rhonda Neil Fleming.Smith said, "I designed the grand stair railing with [the costal region's flora and fauna] in mind. All the forged elements are completely three-dimensional and almost 'photorealistic' in their detail. For example, all the marsh birds have every feather individually forged to suggest realism. For more than 20 years, this style of photorealism has allowed me to complete unique, challenging architectural commissions throughout the United States and several other countries."Concerning artistry, my approach to forging 'realism in iron' is not for everybody," explained Smith. If the key details are there, much of the forged element can be 'suggested,' without losing the desired effect, that of depicting nature."The railing weighs approximately 2 tons, stands 16 ft.

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