Ornamental and Miscellaneous Metal
The official publication of the National Ornamental & Miscellaneous Metals Association
July/August 2009 $6.00 US
Get quick answers with the NOMMA ListServ, page 12
See entries from the 2009 Top Job contest page 44 Shop Talk
Choosing the right plasma cutter, page 19
Lay off results in a new venture, page 24
Leave your competitors in the dust, page 54
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July/August 2009 Vol. 50, No. 4
Crafted from scrap materials, this fence features coyotes and other wildlife, page 34.
Tips & Tactics
NOMMA ListServ . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12 Learn about another great benefit of membership.
Longtime shoer of horses winds Top Job gold .........................34 One man’s scrap is another man’s treasure.
Leave your competitors in the dust . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 54 Win the race by providing outstanding service to your customers.
By Pete Hildebrandt
By William J. Lynott
Fabricating a public restroom ............................39 A NOMMA firm fabricates Portland’s new public toilet.
Learn how to handle feedback . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 58 Don’t be offended by negative feedback, instead, learn from it!
Shop Talk Architects get a ‘hands on’ education at a NOMMA shop . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14 Architecture students receive a firsthand education on our trade.
By Greg Madden
By James Minter Jr.
Selecting the best plasma cutter for your shop . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19 For best results, it’s important to select a unit that’s the correct size and type. By Leon Drake
Member Talk A life challenge leads to a successful fabrication business A fabricator goes from sheet metal work to crafting highend designs. By Sheila Phinazee
What is your business worth? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 60 Don’t be offended by negative feedback. Instead, learn from it! By Lisa Bakewell
What’s Hot! The prototype “Portland Loo.”
PressLock fence proves an ideal solution ..............................41 Fencing system is ideal for both perimeter area and playground. Top Job Gallery .........................................................44 A sampling of entries from the 2009 Top Job competition. By Todd Daniel
Supplier Members . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 70 Biz Briefs . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 72 Events . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 73 Chapters . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 74 Products . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 76 Advertiser’s Index . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 81
President’s Letter . . . . . . . 6 Director’s Letter . . . . . . . . . 8 Reader’s Letters . . . . . . . 10 Metal Moment . . . . . . . . . 82 Exciting changes Transition time Top Job award is featued in Plug into the resources of the ahead. at NOMMA. local newspaper. Metal Museum. Cover photo: These stunning gates at forged from Monel 400. They were darkened with Birchwood Casey M-21 and waxed. Approximate labor time was 400 hours. Fabricator: Wonderland Products Inc., Jacksonville, FL.
Exciting changes ahead! Dedicated to the success of our members and industry. NOMMA OFFICERS President Bob Foust III Bob’s Ornamental Iron Studio Kansas City, KS
Vice President/ Treasurer James Minter, Jr. Imagine Ironworks Brookhaven, MS
President-Elect Bruce Boyler Boyler’s Ornamental Iron Inc. Bettendorf, IA
Immediate Past President Terry Barrett Royal Iron Creations West Palm Beach, FL
FABRICATOR DIRECTORS Frank Finelli Finelli Architectural Ironworks Solon, OH
J.R. Molina Big D Metalworks Dallas, TX
Will Keeler Keeler Iron Works Memphis, TN
Mark O’Malley O’Malley Welding & Fabricating Inc. Yorkville, IL
Ray Michael R & F Metals Inc. Clinton, MD
Greg Terrill Division 5 Metalworks Kalamazoo, MI
SUPPLIER DIRECTORS Wayne Haas Cleveland Steel Tool Co. Cleveland, OH
Cathee Speaks King Architectural Metals Dallas, TX
Gina Pietrocola D.J.A. Imports Ltd. Brooklyn, NY
NOMMA STAFF Interim Executive Director John L. Fiegel, CAE Meetings & Exposition Manager Martha Pennington
Communications Mgr. J. Todd Daniel Administrative Assistant Liz Johnson
2009 ADVISORY COUNCIL Doug Bracken Wiemann Ironworks
Rob Rolves Foreman Fabricators Inc.
Nancy Hayden Tesko Enterprises
Rob Webster Web Metal Fabricators Ltd.
Tom McDonough Master Metal Services Inc.
Curt Witter Big D Metalworks
Abraham Lincoln once said something
to this effect: “I’ll halt to a point of view just until someone shows me the value of another point of view.” During our week in Long Beach and just about every day since, your NOMMA staff and Board have spoken with exhibitors, past presidents, new and long-time fabricator members — and the one overwhelming “point of view” is that we must not eliminate our yearly convention and trade show. We understand that — more than ever — value is of great importance. That’s why I am pleased to announce that METALfab 2010 will be held in Tulsa, OK, for the first time in NOMMA history. Well, you asked for it, and now you have it. Multi-tier education! Hands-on training! Plenty of shop tours! As soon as the details are finalized, you will begin to see what’s in store for METALfab 2010. Recently, I spent two days in Tulsa, and was amazed and surprised — amazed at what Tulsa has to offer, and surprised to see that this mid-sized metropolis has a vibrant small town feel with big entertainment and many attractions. (Don’t let this get back to Kansas City, but the barbecue was excellent!) Why have we never been to Tulsa before? Doug Bracken and I visited with shop tour candidates and met with potential new exhibitors, and the reaction to what NOMMA is bringing to Tulsa next March was thrilling. Making METALfab 2010 more educational — with more products to view — and more affordable for everyone is at the heart of this plan. These improvements reflect our commitment to turning that philosophy into meaningful benefits for you and your shop. We were confronted with information that suggested there is a better path forward. We are at the beginning of a blueprint for an ambitious agenda, not just for 2009 and not just for future METALfabs, but also for the future of
NOMMA. Now, let me give you a quick Strategic Plan update. In late June, your NOMMA Board will meet in Atlanta for our board and strategic planning meeting. This is a critical time in the strategic plan process and that is why your immediate past president, Terry Barrett, will continue leading the strategic planning charge. Terry and the board will remain focused during the next few months on exeBob Foust III is prescuting this plan ident of NOMMA. and paving the way towards an updated NOMMA. In my previous letter, I asked for your help. Many of you have called to give ideas, all of them good. And that made me think how special this really is. I am getting advice from people in my industry, most of whom have been doing this a lot longer than I, and have experienced all of the same pains. This is a real resource that, for the most part, is untapped. As you come to decide your own level of NOMMA involvement, let me just repeat something Breck Nelson (Kelley Ornamental) said: “Once you get involved with NOMMA, you will get much more back than you could ever give.” NOMMA is vested in changing the future of your shops, and this is where it becomes easy for your Board and staff to become very committed and extremely focused on our partnership. In closing, for a little over two years, we have been hearing politicians using the word “change,” to the point that it has become tiresome with less meaning. Unfortunately, I must spout that same word, but please understand that we think the ability to change is critical to leadership. We can change. In the coming months, you will begin to see changes. Your NOMMA board is listening. Fabricator July/August 2009
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Ornamental & Miscellaneous Metal Fabricator (ISSN 0191-5940), is the official publication of the National Ornamental & Miscellaneous Metals Association (NOMMA). O&MM Fabricator / NOMMA 1535 Pennsylvania Ave. McDonough, GA 30253
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In addition to the magazine, enjoy more benefits as a NOMMA member. To join, call (888) 516-8585, ext. 101. For a list of benefits, see membership ad in this issue.
Classifieds may be placed on the NOMMA website at no charge. Visit www.nomma.org and click on “Career Center.”
Exhibit in METALfab
Exhibit in METALfab, NOMMA’s annual convention and trade show. For more information, contact Martha Pennington at (888) 516-8585, ext. 104, or email@example.com.
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Payment in U.S. dollars by check drawn on U.S. bank or money order. For NOMMA members, a year's subscription is a part of membership dues.
Published each December as a separate issue. Deadline for all advertising materials is October 31. For info, contact Todd Daniel at (888) 516-8585 or email@example.com.
For a quote, contact NOMMA at (770) 2882004 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Opinions expressed in Fabricator are not necessarily those of the editors or NOMMA. Articles appearing in Fabricator may not be reproduced in whole or in part without the express permission of NOMMA. Circulation: 8,500.
How to reach us
Executive Director’s Letter
Transition time at NOMMA As many readers recently learned, your
editor, Helen Kelley, and long-serving executive director, Barbara Cook, have left the organization. Todd Daniel, NOMMA communications manager, is reprising his role as editor. And I became interim executive director on June 25, 2009, following Barbara’s dismissal by a vote of the board of directors. The NOMMA board of directors has engaged Transition Management Consulting to assist it during this challenging period of change and transition for the organization. This time doesn't have to be stressful and rushed. By using a professional interim executive, NOMMA has the advantage of assessing the organization — what is working well, not working well, and what can be improved or changed. The interim provides a set of fresh eyes and an independence that only an outsider can. Executive transitions are an opportunity for organizational assessment and renewal, not simply as a crisis requiring an immediate solution or search. The hallmark of TMC’s executive transition services is its ability to integrate effective high-level association management skills with change management. The breadth of experience of its founders and consultants is unparalleled in the association field. Our work as professional interim executives is to prepare the organization for its next executive, so she or he can hit the ground running and take full advantage of the honeymoon phase. I have served as an association management leader for over 20 years following a 22-year military career, 15 of which were in the Pentagon with specialties in international affairs, planning, programming, and budgeting. I have provided interim executive leadership to a number of organizations in transition, including the Society for
Competitive Intelligence Professionals and Destination ImagiNation. Since 1988, I have served as executive director in over 15 professional societies, foundations, and trade associations, often simultaneously within association management companies, among them the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems, Society of Environmental John L. Fiegel, CAE Toxicology and is interim executive Chemistry, Inter- director of NOMMA. national District Energy Association, and World Airline Entertainment Association. I earned the Certified Association Executive (CAE) designation from the American Society of Association Executives in 1991 and have recertified every three years since. I hold a Masters of Science in International Affairs from Troy State University’s program in Germany and a Bachelors of Arts in Management from Texas A&M University. Over the next several weeks I hope to visit member firms to learn more about the industry as the staff and I assess an array of opportunities NOMMA has to continue to serve its members going forward.
Fabricator July/August 2009
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Letters are welcomed and encouraged. Send to: Mail: Letters to the Editor, c/o Fabricator, 1535 Pennsylvania Ave., McDonough, GA 30253. E-mail: email@example.com. Fax: (770) 288-2006.
Reader’s Letters Award receives mention in the press We can’t thank you all enough for the incredible amount of planning, and hard work that you did for METALfab 2009. We came back exhausted, I’m sure you all were barely alive by the end of that week. We learned a lot and exchanged some good information with fellow members. I also want to thank you for the press release that was sent out to publicize our award. The release was featured two different times in our local newspaper. ~ Brandi Crumpler Gulf Coast Metal Works Inc. Cape Coral, FL Are handouts available from METALfab? Members of our staff attended METALfab 2009 and were impressed by the presentations given by Cynthia Paul. Would it be possible to obtain a copy of the handouts that were used during her classes? ~ Jay Flom Feeney Inc. Oakland, CA Editor’s Note: You’re in luck. The handouts from Cynthia Paul are posted on the NOMMA website. To download them, go to “METALfab” and then click on “Education.”
ADA grab bar placement The NOMMA office has received several inquiries about the placement of ADA grab bars in bathroom stalls. This information is available in the ADAAG guidelines (www.access-board.gov), in section 4.17.6. The following are the requirements for the rear and side grab bars: Rear Grab Bar - The grab bar on the back wall shall be 36 inches minimum in length, extending from the wall toward the open side of the water closet, 33-36 inches above the finish floor (see Fig. 30c). Side Grab Bar - The side grab bar shall be 40-42 inches in length, beginning 12 inches maximum from the rear wall, 33-36 inches above the finish floor (see Fig. 30d). Diagrams are available from the Access Board website, and the guidelines may also be downloaded and viewed from your PC.
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Fabricator July/August 2009
NOMMA’s online support area offers goodies for all Have a question on a certain pare your work and how to provide topic? Often you will find the answer good instructions for the anodizer. on the NOMMA website. To access Resource Guide: This is our our technical resources, go to continually growing list of schools, www.nomma.org and click on “Suprelated associations, and for-profit port.” Here is a sampling of our popcompanies that provide free reular features: sources on their websites. To find on Joint Finish Guidelines: These line information that’s relevant to our guidelines are now regularly specified industry, we’ve made things easy by by specifiers and architects. You can providing links under the various oreither view them online or download ganization listings. For instance, go You can find answers to many common questhem. to the listing for Door & Access Systions in the “Support” area of the NOMMA Metal Rail Manual: Last pub- website. tems Manufacturers Association and lished in 1986, this publication is click on “More Info.” You will then currently being revised, but much of the engineering data see links to 26 technical bulletins. is still useful. You can download either the entire manual Literature Guide: This resource was born in 1997 or just the sections you need. when Ed Mack and Lloyd Hughes led an education session Working With Bronze Cap Rail: Likely, the all-time on literature resources. The handout from the class was in most asked question is “How do I form a bronze or brass great demand, and eventually we put it online. Since that cap rail?” Download an excellent article on this topic. time we’ve continually improved and expanded the online Anodizing Your Aluminum: You’ve never had to guide. The various books in the guide cover art, history, anodize a job before, so what do you do? Written by a suptechniques, business management, or more. Most of the tiplier, we provide a highly detailed article on how to pretles can be found online by doing a Web search.
July/August 2009 Fabricator
Member Benefits Contact: Todd Daniel NOMMA 1535 Pennsylvania Ave. McDonough, GA 30253 Ph: (888) 516-8585 Fax: (770) 288-2006 Web: www.nomma.org
NOMMA ListServ - A great benefit of membership Since its launch in 2000, the ListServ has become a thriving, online community. If you are a NOMMA member and haven’t subscribed, we encourage you to join us. ommend this simple procedure: • Find someone who has already posted and hit “reply.” • If you are starting a new topic, simply replace the subject line and body text.
By Todd Daniel NOMMA Communications Mgr. Imagine a place where you can get a
quick answer to anything related to our industry. Picture an online world where you can share your triumps and challenges with fellow fabricators. Think of a place that is, well, almost like an online tavarn, filled with your NOMMA member colleagues. Such a place does exist — it’s called the NOMMA ListServ. Okay, so what is a ListServ?
In 2000, NOMMA launched an email discussion list for members. To participate in the ListServ, a subscriber simply sends an email, which is bounced to all other subscribers. Currently, about 25 percent of our membership is subscribed, and we would love to see ALL members subscribed. What do you talk about?
In regards to topic, the only rule is that it must relate to our industry. Both shop and front office issues are fair game. Most conversations on the ListServ fit into four categories: • Where do I find it? • How do I do it? • What is it? • How do I handle a business situation? Discussions on the ListServ cover every corner of our industry. If you follow the ListServ regularly, you will gain a tremendous amount of information. For example, the following are some of the conversations that were taking place in early June: 12
What can I expect?
• Armillary sphere - What is it and where can I find components to build one? • Nickel silver - Can anyone give me pointers? • Presentation photo - Need a photo of a 6-foot high sliding gate to show a client. Can anyone help? • Dry ice blasting - Looking for information. • Silicon bronze - Need a source for odd ball sizes. • Fusion welding - Need a quick education. How do I join?
Any NOMMA member is eligible to subscribe. There is no limit to how many employees may subscribe from one company. To join the list, simply send an email to Liz Johnson at the NOMMA office (firstname.lastname@example.org). Once subscribed, you will receive two emails. These emails provide instructions on the ListServ commands and rules. Once subscribed, you will immediately begin to receive messages. If you’d like to post a question, we rec-
Right away, you’ll start receiving a lot of email. But don’t worry, the system has a daily limit on the number and length of posts that are sent out. Most email programs allow you to create a “rule” to better manage your email. For instance, you can make a rule to send all ListServ messages to a separate folder, or make them a certain color. If you prefer, we can set your subscription to “digest mode,” which means you only get one daily post that contains all the messages for the day. Participation is not necessary, but encouraged. If you can answer someone’s question, by all means, jump right in! Community
After a while, you’ll get to know many of your fellow subscribers, and you’ll start feeling at home in your online community. The relationships you create on the ListServ can carry over into the real world, and you may find a new fabricating partner, someone to subcontract work to, or even someone to exchange referrals with. ListServ Benefits
In addition to exchanging information, a lot of networking takes place on the ListServ. Some examples include: • A member needs another member to install a job in a distant location. Fabricator July/August 2009
• For geographic and other reasons, a member may hand off a job to another shop. • A fabricator may not be able to find something stock, and can often find a fellow member who can produce the parts. In addition, any work request received by the NOMMA office is posted to the list, as well as other announcements and NOMMA news.
• Always identify yourself by name and company. • If you are starting a new topic, make sure you change the subject line. This not only makes the ListServ easier to follow, but it also helps with archiving. Common troubleshooting
The most common technical problem we see on the list is that a person is posting under a different email list. Your email is the only way the system knows you are a subscriber, so if you don’t use the same address, the system will reject your post.
One of the greatest benefits of the ListServ is that we now have nine years of discussions stored in the NOMMA Archives. This is a nice resource and is great for pulling up a past discussion. Instructions for using the archives are at the bottom of every post. Some helpful tips
A few tips can make your ListServ experience more enjoyable and useful for you and your fellow subscribers. Here are a few basic guidelines: • Take the time to read the instruction email that you receive. This email
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At the NOMMA convention in Long Beach, NEF trustee Roger Carlsen led an excellent and thorough presentation on the ListServ.
covers the rules, NOMMA’s code of ethics, antitrust laws, and netiquette. • The most important rule is to respect antitrust laws. To play it safe, and just for good taste, we ask that you never post any specific dollar figures on the list. However, you may use percentages in your question.
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Your email address is kept completely secure in the ListServ system and is not given or sold to others. All outgoing emails are scanned for viruses and other threats. The company we use, L-Soft International Inc., is the original ListServ provider and has been in business for 20 years. We are confident that the service is safe and secure for our members.
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Architects get a ‘hands on’ education at a NOMMA shop architecture students visit Imagine Ironworks/B & O Machine and Welding to receive a first-hand education on the metalworking trade.
skills used in the building trades and construction industry, as well as some “old world” skills seldom employed nowadays. Not all of the fifth-year students could make the trip. “At this time of the year, there are only three weeks of school left in the semester — and four weeks of school projects still to finish,” explained Professor Callender. By James Minter Jr. While in the shop, the students got to try Imagine Ironworks their hand at cutting steel plate with a cutting torch, and MIG and TIG welding. Some of When opportunity knocks, open the door! them had welded before, and were anxious to And when it is a chance to entertain and edushow off for their classmates. Before begincate a group of architecture students about ning, all were briefed about safe work habits, metalworking, invite that opportunity in for a and the need to wear protective equipment. visit! “This is the first time I’ve ever cut metal That’s what happened recently, as Imagine with a tool,” said student Whitney Grant. “It Ironworks/B & O Machine and Welding in kind of feels like cutting butter with a hot Brookhaven, MS, entertained 16 knife.” fifth-year architecture students Of course, the art and skill of Consider from the Mississippi State Univerornamental metalworking goes hosting sity School of Architecture. The back much further than do welding architecture students spent an afternoon in machines and cutting torches. An students at Brookhaven learning about metaloverview of the art and artistry of your shop! Sponsoring a tour working, and also touring the ornamental ironwork was prefor a local university downtown area. sented, from grill panels from 12th helps architectural Professor Jassen Callender, century cathedrals, through restudents head of the School of Architecsplendent 18th century palace understand what ture’s fifth-year program in Jackgates, the work of 20th century arthey are specifying, son, MS, was delighted with the tisans Samuel Yellen, Antoni plus it’s great public offer to bring some of his students Gaudi, and Edgar Brandt, and on relations for our on a field trip. It offered them a to today’s metal artists. Although industry chance to experience some of the Tom Joyce and Albert Paley would
For your information
What? A NOMMA member shop opens its doors to a group of architecture students James Minter and their professor. Where? Hosting the event was James Minter Jr. and the staff at Imagine Ironworks/B & O Machine and Welding in Brookhaven, MS. In addition to the tour, students also toured downtown Brookhaven. CO NTAC T
James W. Minter, Jr. Imagine Ironworks 1380 Highway 51, P.O. Box 533 Brookhaven, MS 396020533 Ph: (601) 833-3000 Fax: (601) 833-3580 E-mail: email@example.com Web: www.imagineironworks.com
The tour group poses in front of the shop. Adam Haver working on a scroll.
Fabricator July/August 2009
LEFT: Rachel Davis (assisted by Chuck Plaisance) setting a rivet. BOTTOM LEFT: Whitney Grant (assisted by James Schenk) cuts with a torch. RIGHT: Students get the chance to practice TIG welding.
Photos courtesy of James Minter Jr.
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probably be amused, the soon-to-be architects tried their hand at forging tapers, bending scrolls, and even some pre-welding assembly techniques, such as riveting, banding, and mortise and tenon joinery. Some of the other shop equipment was demonstrated, as steel plate was cut in the shear and then bent in the press brake. Those students who experienced and struggled with the cutting torch appreciated the ease with which a powerful hydraulic shear can slice through ¼” thick steel plate in seconds. The original idea for the field trip came from Jackson, MS architect Richard McNeel. When he was a student, a well-known window manufacturer hosted his class for a visit to their facility. The visit made such an impression on him that, for many years afterward, he specified their windows on Why buy from various companies when almost every job because they were the Encon oﬀers all the products you need? window company he knew. Richard reaDial ONE number: 800-782-5598. soned that by entertaining and educating the architecture students of today, our shop can establish itself as either a reference source for metalworking, or better yet, the vendor of choice on many future projects.
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The students were invited to draw upon metalworkers as resources for their practices. A story was told to them about a very unwieldy and impractical canopy, which was specified and drawn as ½” thick stainless steel plate, with the only support coming from ½” round suspension rods and a small angle secured by 3/8” anchors mounted to the face of a cast stone veneer. The 800 lb. weight of the stainless steel plate, plus undersized mounting arrangements, could make for a very dangerous overhead architectural feature. The group was told that, yes, the awning could be built as drawn, but the architect who designed it would have served his client better had he sought advice on fabrication and installation from a Fabricator July/August 2009
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reputable and competent metalworker. After wrapping up the shop activities, the group toured downtown area. Brookhaven is the home of the Mississippi School of the Arts, a two-year residential arts-based high school (one of the current students, Jasmine Murray, made it to the top 13 on this season’s “American Idol”). One of the first graduates of the School of Architecture at Mississippi State, architect Larry Albert of Hattiesburg, MS, had the lead in designing the campus, along with its nine-story dormitory and the adjacent
Downtown developer Terry Pappas demonstrating the handoperated elevator in the renovated warehouse. RIGHT:
Student Life Center. Mr. Albert faced numerous challenges while trying to integrate old historic buildings with new state-of-the-art buildings on the campus of an abandoned women’s college. His answer to the contextual massing challenge provided by the site was appreciated by the group. Revitalizing Downtown
Downtown Brookhaven is seeing an influx of residents, as long-empty second floor areas have been converted to living spaces. The students toured two such recently renovated downtown buildings that now house businesses on the street level, and apartments on the second level. One building, a former mercantile warehouse, had been vacant for many years, and many wondered what could be done with the space. Now its two apartments are highly coveted. Terry Pappas, the developer of the former warehouse, proudly showed off the building and its focal point, a lovingly restored and operable hand-operated freight elevator in the building’s common area. With the rise of “green” architecture, what could be much greener than saving and restoring existing buildings? All of us who planned and put on the demonstrations and tour deemed it a success, and we enjoyed opening up our shop to the future architects. But how did we do in the eyes of the professor? We passed! While we didn’t get a letter grade, at the conclusion of the afternoon events, Professor Callender set up a tour for next year’s class. Mr. Minter is a trustee of the NOMMA Education Foundation and vice president/treasurer of NOMMA. 18
Fabricator July/August 2009
Selecting the best plasma cutter for your shop For best results, choose the plasma cutter that is the correct size and type for your needs.
By Leon Drake Dynatorch Inc.
More is better, right? Well, no — at
least, not as often as you would think. A larger plasma cutter costs more up front and more to operate, and may give poorer results. Select a unit based on your most common need, not the maximum you may one day need for one job. Start by using the most common material type and thickness you cut as a guide. You may never cut 1” material, so do not assume that you need that capacity at all times. Plasma systems are divided into two types: Air and mixed gases (also called mechanized). Air plasma systems generally use hand or machine torches and most have a contact start. These systems do
A sampling of plasma cutters includes (CLOCKWISE): Hypertherm Powermax 1000, Kalburn Spirit 275, and the Thermal Dynamics Cutmaster 83.
not generate high frequency at start and use only compressed air as the plasma gas. They generally are sized by amp ratings and run 40, 60, 80, 100, and possibly 120 amps. Cutting capacity is dependent largely on amperage. You can usually buy these with both torches as an option to allow use on a CNC machine and then quickly switch to the hand torch for manual cutting. Most consumables for these are interchangeable. Mixed gas systems allow using oxygen, air, nitrogen and special mixed gases. These are larger systems with amperages of 130 and up, and can cut faster and thicker materials. They are
always three-phase powered and only offer machine torches for CNC systems. They generally use high frequency pilot arc start and require CNC systems to be shielded to avoid damage or erratic operation. Be advised that hand torches are rated for much thicker materials than machine torches. On the same unit, you will see different capacities, such as recommended, maximum, severance, and machine torch (pierce). What does all this mean? “Recommended” is what you should plan on
For your information
major plasma system types are air and mixed gas. Determine what system best meets the needs of your shop.
What happens if my plasma system is too big? Imagine trying to cut aluminum foil with a blow torch!
Summary: When it comes to plasma cutters, more is not always better. In fact, a larger plasma cutter may actually give less satisfactory results.
Light cutting needs: If you’re only cutting by hand and using single-phase power, then air plama is your best option. The next step is to choose a system based on the thickness you want to cut.
What should I be aware of? You can’t just swap gases on a given unit. For instance, using oxygen on an air plasma unit will quickly eat up the electrode nozzle.
Plasma cutting types: The two July/August 2009 Fabricator
CO NTAC T
Leon Drake Dynatorch Inc. 3530 Starnes Dr. Paducah, KY 42003 Ph: 877-260-2390 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Web: www.dynatorch.com
for a hand torch. “Maximum” is possible, but not a promise. “Severance” assumes an edge start and is going to be a poor cut — but it will cut. The reason these numbers are greater is that you can tilt a hand torch over on its side to start a cut, blowing the material away from the cut. Machine torches must operate pretty much perpendicular to the material (exception is a beveller or torch rotator). Machine torches have to blow straight down through the material (pierce) and will reduce the capacity. If using this on a CNC machine, use the machine torch number as a guide. Usually, you can push a plasma system a bit past its rated capacity, but the cut quality will not be as good and you have to account for piercing or start on the edge. If you are only using the torch as a hand-held operation and will be operating from single-phase power, then air plasma is your choice. Select the unit based on the recommended thickness. Be aware that when running at or near maximum amperages, the duty cycle
will be in the 5060% range. That means that at 50%, you can cut for five minutes and then must stop for five minutes to allow the unit to cool. In machine CNC operations, this can be a huge slowdown factor and should be considered when quoting jobs on a machine or selecting a plasma size. Mixed gas systems
& RIGHT: Samples of artwork made with plasma cutting. TOP
Mixed gas or “mechanized” systems are for use with CNC machines only. They allow the use of different gases from air or oxygen for steel to nitrogen or mixed gases for aluminum or stainless steel, resulting in faster cutting speeds, cleaner dross free cuts, and 100 percent duty cycle. They will require three-phase AC
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power and have closed loop watercooling to keep the torch running full time. These systems cost much more than an air plasma system and are much more complex. The high end of these systems are “Precision” or “High Definition” (Hyp) plasma that will give a fine cut with less bevel on the edge. Generally one gas is used for the plasma and a different gas for the shield. Ratings for capacity on mechanized systems are quite clear and less confusing. Selecting an oversize plasma system is like using a blowtorch on aluminum foil. Cuts will be wide with a lot of dross. Detail is not possible as the larger system cannot be turned down to low amperage and have the cut quality of a smaller unit on thin met20
Fabricator July/August 2009
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als. It depends on the application and one size does not fit all. Also, keep in mind the material you’re cutting. If cutting primarily aluminum or stainless steel on a CNC, you will be much happier with a mechanized mixed gas type unit. If looking for high speed to cut parts quickly with less dross, get an oxygen capable unit. You cannot simply swap gases on a given unit, either. Consumables have to match the gas. Using oxygen on an air plasma system will quickly eat up the electrode and nozzle. Mixed gas
A Thermal Dynamics machine torch and hand torch.
systems require a change out of the whole consumable set when changing gasses, and are quite specific about
pressure settings. The pressures can be set manually or automatically, depending on the gas console you purchase. Automatic gas consoles are very nice but carry significant additional cost. What will you spend? Air type hand held plasma will start at around $1,200 for a 30-amp unit, reaching $5,200 for a 100-amp unit. Mechanized systems with 130 amps might start at $20,000 and go up quickly as options and amperage increases. Note: “High Definition” or “HyDefinition” are terms trademarked by Hypertherm Inc.
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A life challenge leads to a successful fabrication business ■ Now
creating contemporary ironwork and antique blacksmithing in historic Mt. Airy, MD, Antietam Iron Works began over 20 years ago, growing from union sheet metal work to crafting custom design.
For your information
About: Antietam Iron Works, LLC, a NOMMA member, has provided interior and exterior railings, gates, fences, and architectural designs for more than 20 years. Services: The company offers in-house powder coating and shot blast, featuring unlimited colors and textures. The firm has 20-foot ovens for processing large and small parts.
A railing with a meadow theme. A challenging job in North Virginia.
By Sheila Phinazee NOMMA shop members (Austin) Fred and
Kathleen Gunnell of Antietam Iron Works LLC specialize in interior and exterior railings, fences, gates, and architectural pieces using present-day fabrication for contemporary designs and historic blacksmithing methods for restorations and reproductions. Antietam consists of only six employees, including Fred and Kathleen. “It is a challenge to find creative, skilled workers even though our county has a 15 percent unemployment rate,” says Fred. “But we don’t really need many production welders. Most everything we do is custom.” With a recently acquired facility and new equipment, however, Antietam now takes on more production type jobs like product display racks, and commercial railings. This helps with cash flow and allows Fred and their son, James, to work on more ornate 24
pieces involving blacksmithing. Like many other businesses, Antietam began as a result of one of life’s challenges. Fred was a union sheet metal worker out of Washington, DC. Soon after he married, had his first child, and bought their first home, Fred was laid off. Out of necessity, he began doing various types of miscellaneous jobs and eventually narrowed it down to welding and fabrication of iron railings, gates, and fences. “Here I must give credit to Wally’s Iron Works, in Mt. Airy, MD,” says Fred. “I was making railings in my driveway with a buzz box, and would often go to Wally’s to buy material. They were so generous in sharing information and techniques with me, from laying out railings to punching the holes in my channel.” Fred enjoyed the sounds, and smells, and activity of the iron working going on in Wally’s shop. And he learned a lot. “They were NOMMA members and gave me a Fab-
Other Specialties: The company is proficient in restorations and has restored several historic gates. Memorable quote: “We feel blessed,” says Fred. “In the years we’ve been in business, we’ve never been this busy until now — even in light of the economy.” CO NTAC T
(Austin) Fred and Kathleen Gunnell Antietam Iron Works, LLC 201 Lincoln Way West, Suite 100 McConnellsburg, PA 17233-1304 Ph: (717) 485-5557 Web: www.antietamironworks. com Email: kathleen@ antietamironworks.com
Fabricator July/August 2009
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Ethan with one of the first railings that he fabricated in the Summer of 2007.
ricator magazine to read,” says Fred. “That opened up a whole world of information to us.” Setting down roots
In 1984, the Gunnells and their two sons moved to Keedysville, a small town near Sharpsburg, MD, where the name Antietam Iron Works was born. During the Civil War, the Antietam Battlefield was the site of the bloodiest one-day battle in American History. In 1989, the Gunnells found the perfect setting for their home and business, a 220-year-old limestone farm house on 13 acres, with a large barn and 3,000 sq. ft. implement shed, which — after renovations — became their shop. “When considering the purchase of the farm, I was concerned about keeping the name Antietam Iron Works. I was so excited to learn that the Antietam Creek flowed right through our property within a few feet of our new shop,” says Kathleen. “It was here in this beautiful historic setting that Fred’s love and talent for black-
Regan handpainting a staircase railing. The customer wanted a rustic look, with rust showing through the finish.
smithing grew.” The Gunnells added a Kuhn Air Hammer to their shop, and worked with coal and propane forges. Fred’s work then evolved to incorporate hand-forged scrollwork and historic details. “We have created railings, gates, and fences for residential and commercial customers in the Pennsylvania, Maryland, DC, and Virginia region, and as far west as Lake Charles, LA,” says Fred. “Our customers have included a cabinet member of the first President Bush, historic restorations in city parks, and historic homes.” Three years ago, the business had come to another crossroads. The Gunnels had to choose either to grow, or continue to turn away work due to the size of the shop and limited equipment. “We chose to expand and purchased a large abandoned warehouse on Main Street in McConnellsburg, PA,” says Kathleen. “We renovated the building in keeping with the historic character of the town, incorporating
antique brick and iron accents.” The front half of the building now houses eight office suites, which the Gunnells rent out to tenants, including the Fulton County Chamber of Commerce and State Senator John Eichelberger. The rear of the building houses Antietam’s 7,000 sq. ft. shop and an addition for the newly-added shot blast and powder coating operation. Antietam has patronized some NOMMA suppliers to help the business grow. “We have added FABCAD and Tracker CNC,” says Fred. “We aren’t using this new technology to the fullest yet; we just haven’t had time to learn all it can do for us.” Other equipment in the shop includes a shot blast machine for prepping material for powder coating and Eagle Bending equipment. “Our blacksmiths use many handmade tools and dies, antique anvils (one from colonial times), a 125-yearold wagon wheel roller, coal and propane forges, a Kuhn air hammer from Centaur Forge, and other equipment,” adds Fred. Family affair
Fred with sons James and Daniel in front of driveway entry gate which includes hand forged roses, vines, scrolls, etc. LEFT:
Recently, Fred discovered that his grandfather had been a blacksmith for 40 years in Beltsville, MD. This was quite a surprise to Fred, since he himself had worked many years in the metalworking business without this knowledge. “You won’t see me shoeing horses like he did, though,” adds Fred. The Gunnells’ three sons and one daughter have grown up with the business. Their sons started out playing in Fabricator July/August 2009
the shop. As they grew older, they started cutting material, measuring things, and welding, and then gradually began blacksmithing. “Our oldest son, James (26), has become my right hand,” says Fred. “He is an accomplished blacksmith and helps run all aspects of the business. James urged us to enter the top job competition this year at METALfab, and attended the convention in Long Beach along with his new bride, Danelle, and his brother, Daniel (24).” The Gunnells’ youngest son, Ethan, was learning the skills of welding and blacksmithing as well. He was excited to begin working full-time during the summers. However, in October 2007, at age 15, Ethan passed away in a tragic car accident that also claimed the life of a dear friend. “During this time of unbelievable grief, James and Daniel were such a tremendous help in enabling us to carry on the business,” recalls Kathleen, with much gratitude. Although Daniel has recently returned to his career in the Criminal
Justice field, Kathleen has considered future business possibilities for James and Daniel. “We’ve often thought they would do well with their own line in the future,” says Kathleen. “They have made many things on the side as gifts for friends, like wine bottle holders, candle sconces, coffee tables, A new hairpin gate and fence. and fireplace screens. brochures and have done some local But we’re always so busy with big arbuilders’ shows,” says Kathleen. “Use chitectural things—we just need more of the Yellow Pages has been minimal, time.” along with an occasional fall festival or Marketing the business special event ad in the newspaper.” Experience and having a good repThe Gunnells also utilize the Interutation has its advantages as demonnet, where Antietam’s website menstrated by Antietam’s repeat customers. tions assisting businesses in ADA “Being in business as long as we have handicap accessibility requirements. has been the strongest asset,” says Fred. “We can provide railings for the re“That, and word of mouth.” quired handicap ramps to comply with The shop has also tried other marthe code,” says Fred. Often local cusketing strategies. “We’ve made up tomers or contractors are not familiar
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with the requirement, so Antietam employees explain the finer points to them. Although Antietam offers restorations, reproductions, and modern fabricating techniques, Fred acknowledges that blacksmithing is his favorite part of the business. “I love it when a customer gives me the freedom to run with it,” he says. Although they sometimes have to use components to meet a client’s budget, the Gunnells enjoy doing something that is creative without components. “We love hand forging
The staff restored the archway, took it down and brought it back to the shop in pieces, reproduced missing parts, blasted and powder coated the finished product and reinstalled it. RIGHT:
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Fabricator July/August 2009
and making the scrolls,” says Kathleen. “And we can control the size and shapes,” adds Fred. Restoration, a key portion of Antietam’s business, has also been interesting. They have restored fences and archways around historic cemeteries and homes. “Often, after we have completed a restoration involving reproduction of entire fence sections or gates, old cast iron parts, and missing scrollwork, the customers have commented that they cannot tell the old from the new parts,” says Kathleen. “That’s rewarding.” One very memorable project was a grand staircase that Kathleen and their daughter hand-painted with a rustlooking finish. James oversaw the very challenging installation while Fred was in Honduras on a mission trip doing welding on the roof of an impoverished hospital. New business ventures
After Antietam started powder coating — just a year and a half ago — its powder coating business is starting to pick up. “We feel blessed,” says Fred. “In the years we’ve been in business, we’ve never been this busy until now — even in light of the economy.” The Gunnells decided to offer their own in-house powder coating to save time and money for their own projects — after having to send many projects to a shop 40 miles away — and they can also powder coat for others. “We have 20 ft. ovens and can coat large items like race car frames, patio furniture, etc.,” says Fred. “Our customers love it because we offer unlimited colors and textures with much less maintenance.” Other powder coating jobs include finishing racecar frames, display racks, motorcycle frames, and wheels for cars. “One of our ongoing projects involves fabricating sales display racks incorporating logos cut out on the Tracker then adding them,” Kathleen explains. “This has opened up a lot of new venues.” NOMMA support
The Gunnells have been NOMMA members on and off for 10 years. “We July/August 2009 Fabricator
still haven’t used all of NOMMA’s resources. We’re still just scratching the surface,” says Kathleen. “We need to set aside some time to utilize the ListServ and web connections, etc. I know they would be tremendously helpful.” Fred says, “I’m visual. I love to see the work of other people and the care and time they put into their work. Seeing the incredible skill of NOMMA workers raises the bar for us all.” The Gunnells say NOMMA has helped their business in so many different ways. “It keeps us up to date on code, we learn new products from the advertisers in the magazine, and we have purchased new technology as a result,” Fred notes.
A Piece of Iron Fred sees much correlation between his life’s work and his faith. About 15 years ago he wrote the following: I love to pick up an old, rusty, bent-up Piece of iron, and then give it new life by Cleaning it up, re-shaping it, and forging it into A unique and beautiful piece of work. When thinking of this, I am reminded of What Jesus has done in my life. Before I was saved, I was bent up, rusted and dirty. He has taken me through the fire Purified my heart, cleaned me up, Straightened me out, and given me new life! Even now, though, I still get banged up and rusty. That is why I need His mercy and forgiveness daily. I also know that He continues to take me Through the fire daily, shaping and forming Me into the servant that He wants me to be. Without his shaping and forming, what are we?
Fred hand-forges a part for a gate.
By Austin F. Gunnell III Antietam Iron Works
Constructing a walk-through gate for brick wall in customer’s garden. 32
Fabricator July/August 2009
Longtime shoer of horses wins Top Job gold A lone cowboy is one of the many features created for a rural gated community.
Scrap materials were skillfully incorporated into an artistic fence. The project netted Darling’s Blacksmithing a gold award in the 2009 Top Job contest.
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By Pete Hildebrandt It’s not every day you get asked to make junk. At his shop in the hills outside of Fresno, CA, Reuel Darling took on the task of making a variety of pieces for a “junk gate and fence” in a gated community. The project won him a gold award in the Exterior Railings and Fencing category of NOMMA’s 2009 Top Job competition. According to Darling, it all began when two young people from Los Angeles welded some things they’d found in a junkyard onto the fence. Over time, the fence boasted airplanes, motorcycle riders, and all sorts of things crafted out of junk. But then, people started stealing things off the fence, such as the spiders from the spider web, the flowers, a horn player, and lots of other interesting adornments. “The thefts became easier due to the availability of battery-operated saws to remove them,” says Darling. “Before that, people would just bend the pieces back and forth a number of times until they broke right off. They hadn’t been welded on very well in the first place.” The thefts increased — other things stolen from the development included fireplace 34
screens, handrails, drawer pulls, and doorknobs. Residents of the gated community decided that the stolen fence items should be replaced, and that’s where Darling entered the picture. He ended up replacing many of the stolen decorations. His source of material — and inspiration for his work — was junk. Fortunately, junk was readily available. “We have a big junk pile onsite at our shop,” explains Darling. “It’s grown through the addition of pieces we’ve found over the years and put in the back of our truck to bring back here.” Fence features whimsical creations
For the gate and fence, Darling crafted a cowboy playing a guitar, snakes, coyotes, quail, and anything else that came to mind. His son-in-law, Kevin, makes small dogs, which he cuts out and sells as silhouettes. The two put some of those dogs (a little Dachshund and a Chihuahua) on the gate. Big fiveto six-inch pipe became snakes, complete with rattles that wiggled back and forth. Darling’s wife, Jodi, didn’t think it would be too big a hit with the homeowners to place mean-looking snakes on a fence gate. She suggested that they be made to look less threatening — so the snakes’ heads now have
Project: A fence addition made completely of scrap materials, and featuring various animal designs. Unique feature: Because of past problems with vandalism and scavaging, the cowboy was secured with anchors driven about 4” into the rock. Challenge: Making the horseshoes look like a human form. Designer: Fabricator. Safety Challenge: During installation it was necessary to have a water truck on standby in case of an accidental fire. CO NTAC T
Darling's Blacksmithing 30248 Watt Valley Rd. Tollhouse, CA 93667 Phone: (559) 855-2929 Primary Contact: Mr. Reuel Darling
Fabricator July/August 2009
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This fence section contains an amazing variety of scrap parts.
July/August 2009 Fabricator
©Fox Vance Photography, Reno, NV
a more cartoonish look. One intriguing section of the fence features a piece in which — using laser cuts —twisted bars became an arch crafted into a “Kilroy Was Here” face in the gate. Another piece of the gate and fence featured some multi-sided lamps with slit glass down the sides and layered tops that Darling’s crew managed to transform into flowers. In addition, Darling made some bows for the gate. Using extra “ribbon” left over from another blacksmithing job, he “tied” up the funny-looking flowers. Replacements for the spider web, which had been vandalized, were constructed. More spiders were made and rebuilt back into the spider web. Vandals had also stolen the “driver” and third wheel of a tractor built out of a variety of gears and old wheelbarrow wheels that had been on the fence. That missing wheel was rebuilt and a little horseshoe driver was crafted and placed back on the tractor. One of the new pieces Darling’s Blacksmithing created was a guitar-strumming cowboy made of horseshoes. Darling’s son-in-law cut the top and bottom of the musical instrument from the pattern of a real guitar, and then installed welding rod strings on it. The cowboy was welded onto some pins that were already in place on an adjacent rock, but had broken off to some degree. More heavy pieces of metal were welded down to the rock and under it, in an effort to make it much more difficult for vandals to remove the cowboy. Darling is already working on a complementary piece for the cowboy. “We’re now building a fiddle player to go on the other side of the gate opposite the cowboy playing the guitar,” says Darling. “He’ll go on another rock. We got part of his legs and the fiddle made but it will be another month or so before we get him on the gate.” Since the residential development where the fence resides is called Quail Oak, Darling also constructed a flock of cut-out quail, which were welded on the gate, to reflect the name. All of the new and replacement features were painstakingly attached to the fence and gate. “We’ve tried to weld the items onto the fence much better than the originals were,” says Darling. “Back when the symbols were first placed on the fence, they were tacked on pretty lightly
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Two coyotes sing along to the cowboy’s music.
and a lot of them were simply falling down anyway.” Fire and water
The job posed some special challenges. When work started on the fence and gates, the land where the project was located was green. As work progressed, dry grass had to be cut back with a weed eater and raked back so that welding could be done safely on the gate and fence, without setting the surrounding area on fire. Darling also got help from someone he works with — a horseshoer who owns a water tank that he uses to haul water to his horses. The horseshoer’s truck, its tank, and the pump on it were brought in as a backup “fire truck,” in case welding sparks might have escaped during work on the gate project. From horses to blacksmithing
Growing up, Darling’s dream was to be a horse jockey, but he grew a bit too
The fence is full of small, whimsical details.
big for that career — so he ended up as a horseshoer, horse trainer, and horseshoeing trainer. Darling began shoeing horses as a way to make a living, later becoming well-known as a farrier for Arabians, Morgans and Tennessee Walking horses in the Fresno area. He would sometimes travel as far as San Diego for his work. A local school eventually asked Darling to teach a vocational education horseshoeing class, which allowed him to stay much closer to home. He took care of his shoeing business in the mornings and taught the horseshoeing school in the afternoons for about 10 years or so. When Darling built a fireplace screen for a friend of a fellow horseshoer — crafting grapes on the screen that looked real enough to eat — other people noticed the work and decided they wanted such a screen too, but with a different kind of grape. Work on the first project occurred while Darling was still shoeing horses. But
after the grape screen, demand for his blacksmithing work took off. Next, a customer wanted a gazebo made for the middle of his flower shop, with his name written on it in his own handwriting. That customer, in turn, got Darling more customers. Darling has helped out a great deal with the American Farrier’s Association, the Western States Farriers Association, and the California Farrier’s Association. “I was in them all. I’m a firm believer in the importance of the associations,” says Darling. “We had the first horse-shoeing contest in Fresno, where I served as coordinator. I’ve also been added to the International Horseshoeing Hall of Fame in Louisville, KY.” A collaborative shop
Darling’s 10 acres includes a barn workshop-residence at one end of the property. These days he isn’t shoeing horses anymore — he can’t “pound” very long due to some long-term prob-
Two quail listen to the cowboy too. Designed by the fabricator, the entire project took about 160 hours. 36
Fabricator July/August 2009
A bouquet of flowers. BELOW: A front view of the singing cowboy, which was one of the main elements of the project. RIGHT: The snakes and the spiders were made “not too scary.” LEFT:
lems with his back and neck, including recent neck surgery. But his helpers are all there watching out for him and they don’t let him lift (though he says he’s able to lift more than they will let him). Darling has three people working with him at his shop, including a horseshoer who comes out to help and learn when he isn’t shoeing horses. “I really don’t have what you might July/August 2009 Fabricator
call ‘employees,’” says Darling. “All those involved work on any project, and I divide up what comes out of it. They are my helpers and when we get paid, everyone gets their share.” As long as the scrap metal holds out
Darling is not sure what lies ahead for his business, nor which whimsical character will end up on the gates on the other side of the Quail Oak development, which is being revitalized after years of neglect. Darling has also done railing work and a stairway for a house there. “Our gate work will be an ongoing project,” he says. “I see it limited only by our imaginations – and the size of our scrap metal pile.”
A farmer plows his field, and no doubt enjoying the cowboy’s music.
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