Balconette Railing development

On July 10th I delivered 30ft of railing to the Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden’s new project ‘Lost Hollow’, opening later this year.  So, before the total installed glory of the piece, here’s a bit about the the process of making and the design.

The design was a collaborative effort with W.Gary Smith the overall designer of the Lost Hollow garden. The 30ft I provided are a 5-panel feature railing in the longer plain balcony railing that has come to be known as the Balconette.  There are eight medieval tapestry flower elements, a central crown and the key and escutcheon plate that feature in the logo. These are surrounded by 63 different leaves of 5 different varieties and a myriad of scroll elements.

The newel posts were installed first to enable me to construct the empty railing frames:

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I then set about making components for the railing, my earlier post, Leaves, leaves everywhere was about the many leaves I made, once I had those done I moved on to the scrolls and other elements

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The railing panels were assembled over the printed out drawing.  Some elements were put together as sub-assemblies to help with fitting and clean up. The panels were held together in a cradle formed of heavy angle iron and stabilizing bars to prevent, as much as possible, any warping from happening while the pieces were being welded in to the frames.



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The intrepid install team, Randy & Paul get to work bolting in the panels and welding on the top cap.





IMG_20140711_163934_526 (Large)Hooray I got this railing finished and delivered on time! The best part of finishing a project – a packed up tidy truck ready to head out knowing that a fine piece of ironwork has been delivered to its new home.

Leaves leaves everywhere

The Balconette Railing – my 30ft uber ornamented section of the balcony railing at Lost Hollow – has a large number of quite detailed leaves in the design so I have been working on these most recently.


As you can see from the marked-up design pic there are lots of different elements to the design and there are five leaf variations so I highlighted each variation with a different colour and then numbered them all.  I printed out all the blue leaves at full scale and worked on those, then moved on to the orange and green leaves etc.


Within the design no two leaves are exactly alike so they are fun to make.   I try and keep my parts organised by using the same colour line around the printouts of the leaves that I used on the marked up design.  First I make measurements from the drawings, forge the component parts, then weld them together and finally clean up the welds – I use the angle grinder to remove what excess weld I can and then get the files out.  At this stage the pieces are treated like jewelry – careful work finishing with the needle files is the only way to go.

On site: Moon Keep brackets

This week was the time to mount the brackets and cap rail for the Moon Keep railing panels, ahead of the rock work being added to the concrete block columns.

I had planned the siting of these elements around welding railing bracketsnot being able to do more than run electricity to the site to fix anchors in to the concrete block but as the installation crew came with a welder on the truck, we changed plans a little.

Three railing frames

A piece of 1/4 x 2in flat bar was anchored to the face of the columns and then my brackets were welded to that.  This made for a smoother installation process and saved some fiddly shimming to align each of the four separate brackets to the varying positions of concrete block in the column faces.


The rectangular frames are not permaMoon Keep railing framesnently in place, I will dismount them later in June to take back to my blacksmith shop to add the central decorative features but by that time, hopefully the stonemasons will have rocked around them and will be able to see the actual gaps rather than run plumb lines.

On site: Balconette railing

The section of balcony railing that I will be contributing to the Lost Hollow children’s garden has been pre-fitted on site in the last week. I replaced the temporary railing

Balcony newel posts

newel posts with the permanent ones that I brought to the site with the custom forged railing frame brackets attached. The posts were carefully placed into the core drilled holes to level off to the final railing height at the top.

The main challenge at this stage of the fit-up was to get the curves of the cap rail and the railing frame to fit the curve of the wall. The bars were curved to a near fit in the workshop and then refined on site. Balcony railing framesThe seemingly brutish tools of a sledge hammer and sections of rail road track can be used to get the most subtle of adjustments when used to strike blows of varying weight in precisely the right places on the curve.

Using a bolted-in frame design for this railing enabled me to fit the frames to the newel posts in the field and so they could be then taken back to the blacksmith shop for the main sections to be added.

Lost Hollow

The Kimbrell Children’s Garden

losthollow_map_1200I will be making the creative metalwork for an imaginative new children’s garden space being created at the Daniel Stowe Botanical Gardens in Belmont, not too far from Charlotte, NC. The garden will be known as ‘Lost Hollow  – The Kimbrell Children’s Garden’, it is under construction now and will be open in Fall 2014.   My work will be sited in several places around the garden and I will be showing how these projects unfold at my workshop in this blog.


Moon Keep ironwork

panel_hardwareI will be filling in eleven 24x42in spaces between stone clad columns at the Moon Keep with ironwork and as the logistics of this demand, they need to be fastened to the concrete block underneath the stone cladding.

To the right is a drawing showing the fixing methods and one of the panel designs – they’re all different!:

Cap and frame set up Continue reading “Moon Keep ironwork”