Working with me
Hello dear potential client!
I’ve found myself saying the same things to people looking for custom metalwork and so I’ve put together this brief explanation of the best way to work with me and what it is I actually do so you have an informed foundation to talk about your project.
First- what I do: I do art and architectural metalwork, fabrication and welding. This process is essentially taking round and square tubes, round and flat bars, and sheet metal and cutting, welding, bending, and occasionally forcing it into a shape. Laser cutting is a process I frequently use to create designs. To get a sense of the kinds of things I can make, imagine making what you want out of straws, paper and glue. These can be cut and bent, and with enormous labor the paper can be “stretched” like dough but more or less this is what I have to work with, just in metal and weld.
Other metalworking processes that I don’t do are blacksmithing and casting. Blacksmithing uses a forge to heat solid steel and iron up to glowing red hot, and then a variety of hammers, anvils, and dies to make shapes. Blacksmithing produces many organic shapes that I could only achieve by cutting them out and using a grinder to remove some material, which is much more time consuming.
Casting is a great process for very three dimensional or textured work- a sculpture of a person for example- where the artist uses clay or some other material to make their image, then makes a mold of that, and then pours metal, usually bronze, into that mold to make the final piece. Casting is quite intensive and bronze is quite expensive so most clients will not want to go this route for a custom piece.
Materials I work in: Steel, stainless, aluminum, red metals (copper, brass, bronze)
I primarily work in Steel- as it’s strong, affordable, and can do almost anything that’s needed. Steel, however, rusts, and requires a lacquer or paint coating. Outdoors steel does best with paint, although there are some lacquers and clear coats that hold up for some number of years before needing replacement. This is true for steel whether it has a shiny look or a dark millscale- it will rust either way. If going indoors you may want a patina on steel if it’s not in a very wet environment. These can be beautiful and elegant and I love doing them- however it requires a high degree of finishing work ahead of time to prep the metal as well as the time to patinate it so this does add labor cost.
I also work in Stainless- which costs 3-4x as much as steel just in materials. It’s also harder and requires more work to get a grained finish so you can expect the cost to be proportional. I recommend stainless in damp environments or for those with the budget to afford permanent sculpture where you want the stainless look and a durable finish.
Aluminum is lightweight and great for a variety of applications. It doesn’t rust though it can get dull outside over time. I can and do work with aluminum when it’s the right fit for the job.
Red metals- copper, brass, bronze- are beautiful and I love working with them when I get the chance. Copper and brass, for the most part, can’t be welded but have to be brazed or silver soldered or attached with fasteners so the fabrication process is a little different and usually more intensive than working with steel. For indoor work I sometimes recommend steel with a “Japanese brown” patina that looks very much like brass and is about 1/3 the cost of working with real brass. For some applications brass or a red metal is absolutely the right choice. These metals will naturally patina, usually to a green or blue. Other patinas can be done after fabrication and somewhat locked in with a lacquer, although over time they will change. These metals don’t rust and are great for locations with a lot of moisture, especially if a patina is desired over time. They are of course, expensive as copper is in such high demand.
What I need from you:
If my skillset seems like the right match for your project, what we’ll need to get started is a clear idea of what you want. This could be some pictures, or a Pinterest board, or a sketch. In some cases a verbal description will work but usually some visual aids will be necessary. You can also include what function this thing should have- for example if it’s a fire pit- is it wood or gas? Tall as a sculpture or short to have a conversation over it? How much fuel does it use? If it’s a gate, how wide does it need to be when it’s open? How secure does it need to be when it closes? Will it need a crash bar like public venues do? Is there a way you like it to latch? What environment is it going to have to blend in to? Etc etc.
Feel free to note anything you don’t know and want ideas about- such as how you’d like a gate to latch, or the best material to use.
Custom work requires a number of steps that factory made goods do not, including design time and often a number of steps to set up a jig. The tools for metalwork are large, heavy, and expensive, much more so than woodworking. My hourly rate is roughly $85 an hour- sometimes I throw in some free time, some complex and technically difficult things I charge more for. I try to keep my overhead low to make this work affordable.
Material prices have more than kept up with inflation and have doubled in recent years.
Many people don’t like to give a budget number right away, expecting that whatever it is I will just charge that, but it’s important to get on the same page about cost from the start. I ask clients for a budget window and then try to give options of quality of materials, work, and finishing that would land at different places in the window. If nothing lands in the window then I try to suggest options that would fulfill your needs even if I can’t. I’m here for any questions and e-mail conversations are free until we come up with a plan to start designing.