'Organics' - Supports, Fencing & Railings
Peterson House - St Agatha

2011 - 2013

The overall project constists of three separate elements :

Fence Extension
May 2011

The customers had a board and batten fence around the front and down the driveway on their property. With a new (young and energetic!) dog, they were concerned that he would be able to jump the existing fence. There are posts set roughly every 8 feet, the fence boards are cut on a sweeping curve in a sideways D shape. The difference between the peaks in the middle and the level at the posts is about 12 inches.

Images by Karen Peterson

As a an alternative to replacing all the fence boards, they asked me if I could work up a decorative metal extension in increase the effective 'blocking' height of the fence. My solution was to use a horizontal line of 1 inch diameter pipe, held above the existing fence top by a set of decorative brackets. The intent is to raise the line of the fence by 4 - 6 inch at its highest point (so 16 - 18 inches above the post area).
To fill the gap around the posts will require placing a total of four brackets (using a roughly 6 inch square grid as the spacing guide). The pipe will consist of a number of 8 foot pieces, with a small gap just above the individual posts. This allows for any sway to the fence line. It will also make installation a lot easier, even allowing to raise the height of the pipe line should that prove necessary.
The individual brackets will be forged to individual organic curves. The leaves hang down below the top line, helping to block the gap above the posts. I also wanted to enhance the organic feel of the brackets. For that reason I forged a separate smaller 'tail' which will be welded to the main structural part of each bracket.
To ensure there would be enough physical strength to the support, I chose 1 1/2 wide by 1/4 inch thick flat stock. The tails are forged from 3/4 or 1 inch wide by 1/4 (roughly half of each width).

Support elements before installation - total 62.
View from the sidewalk, up the driveway.
Closer view, the rail hangs behind the fence line.
Porch Supports
December 2011

The next commission was for a replacement set of supports under the front porch.
The house is late 1800's, a nice 'short two story' brick, what could be considered an affluent farm house of the period. The front porch covers the entry for the original entry door, with a small balcony above off the master bedroom. The original sculpted wooden pillars have rotted out. Part of the project has included replacing some of the timber support beams underneath.

The image to the left shows the original wooden porch structure.
The imageto the right has been altered via Photoshop to remove the supports and wooden picket railing. This as a starting point to further design work.

  As with any project of this nature, there is a structural component, plus an artistic consideration. The first possibility was to continue working in that theme - a design based on the natural lines of vines with large leaf end terminals. As usual, I sat down with the clients and had them pour over a number of book collections of contemporary work by other artisan smiths. We marked things they liked, with me making notes on their specific comments. Later, I took a more careful look at those pieces, narrowing down the general outlines from all the specific illustrations.
From this I was able to generate a number of rough layouts. One specific structural requirement was going to come to dominate the possibilities - that there had to be a strong vertical line of metal to support the weight of the heavy porch roof and its upper deck. In most cases, this reduced the visual aspect of the potential designs to look too much like 'a beam with stuff stuck on to it'.


Runnels of slag - Slag Pit Smelt 1 - October 2011

In the end, I was struck by the potential from something else entirely:

Neil has become my enthusiastic right hand for the ongoing experimental iron smelts here in Wareham. The massive slag block produced in our 'slag pit' smelt in October was composed of individual runnels of slag, running downwards through a bundle of willow sticks. Even at the time, we both remarked on the artistic possibilities.

So I was struck by a potential design - using a bundle of individual tubes, instead of one major structural elements. In fact, a bundle of smaller tubes would be *stronger*, with the many side wall cross sections combining to the load carrying capability. Inspired by the folding and bulging of the slag, individual tubes could be partially flattened, twisted, folded or surface deformed. The bundle would be both welded and then wrapped with tendrils of round rod. This would both massively reinforce the welds, but also add an additional decorative feature.

Of course - I couldn't really draw this concept effectively!
Faster to make a sample piece...

At the right is the original sample, composed of a total of five individual pieces of pipe. The central core is larger diameter (roughly 1 1/4 OD) and the outer pieces of smaller (thus more flexible!) pipe (roughly 7/8 OD). The sample is about two feet long, and has tendril wraps of 3/8 round at either end.  A number of different forging techniques have been used on the individual pieces. The competed sample bundle is roughly four inches wide.

At this point, I played some hoo-doo with Photoshop.
- First I photographed the sample piece from a number of different sides.
- I then spliced the images together to create an impression of what a full sized support would look like.
- I then scaled that image to fit the proportions of the modified image of the front of the house (with the existing structure removed digitally).

Scaled from the four inch width, the bundle just looked too small in proportion to the rest of the structure. Next I played some games with scale - and the result is seen to the left. Here you see the bundle increased in size so it 'looks right'. Measuring from the known dimensions, the bundles should be closer to six inches wide.  (The total height of each is roughly 8 1/2 feet.)
To the right is my design drawning for the base section of the proposed supports.
Overall view of the Pillars
Looking North on porch
Looking South, back towards fence
Detail of Pillar
Top of North pillar - to West
North pillar, from porch
Top of South pillar - to West
South pillar, from porch
Balcony Railing
Under construction - Fall 2012 - Winter 2013

Further detailed in Blog posts:
Sunday, March 06, 2011
Peterson Fence Project
Thursday, May 05, 2011
Peterson Fence - Installed
Saturday, November 26, 2011
Where DO Ideas Come From (3) - Peterson House
Saturday, November 26, 2011
Forging the BIG Time (again!)
Saturday, December 24, 2011
Peterson House - Front Supports : INSTALLED

Unless otherwise indicated :
All text and photographs © Darrell Markewitz, the Wareham Forge.