The Process in Action

I am often asked to describe the planning, design, and construction process of a project. 

Many people wonder how and why I decide to do something a certain way or cut something at a specific spot.  If you are one of those then here is your chance to watch it happen. 

 A while back I started the design and crafting of a custom doorway for a client’s home. 

It was to take the place of her storm doors. As we talked about the project, she was quick to point out how bad she was at keeping flowers alive. She wanted a flower that she could not kill.  And that flower was to be a metal one!  Having a flower as part of the door was her way of always having something blooming in her yard.  I thought it was a great concept and was interested in helping it come to pass.

 The client had a design in mind and handed me a small piece of paper with a flower blossom drawn on it.  Then she said the ultimate statement… just do what you think will look good.  I love that…someone who has an idea for me to start with and then simply says, run with it.

my first working drawing

I drew her design on the computer and returned it to her in a more formal presentation. This showed her a clearer picture of the design and I could also use it in the building process. She loved it, and the project had wings!


I thought it would be fun to show her what the design would look like on her house so I photographed the doorway and altered it so the new flower door was in the photo.


computer image of the final design











The next step was to enlarge the design so that the pieces could be cut and bent to shape. I transferred the grid to the floor of my studio (to the regret of my repaired ACL)

a grid is drawn on the floor

the image is drawn in






I started cutting and bending.  I was using three different size pieces of steel to make the relief for the petals. Each size represented a different layer of the flower’s petals. 

one by one the pieces are made in laid in place








all the pieces come rough form

As I cut the sections I had to twist and then bend each piece to match the design.  The idea was to make the design from flat pieces which are twisted to provide a thicker and thinner area. That meant bending and twisting everything.  And then bending matching pieces to mirror everything for the other side of the flower.  Slight variations were created to have the design match without being a perfect mirror reflection. 


each piece is bent and twisted to the correct shape










to be honest, most of the bending is done with some help from a tool










The whole door, of course, is framed and hinged to the door jams.  So I started constructing the frames and hinge plates.  That process went pretty fast considering I was scared of my measurements of the existing doorway. If I made it too small I could adjust it with some difficulty.  If I made it too large then there would be a lot of cutting and remaking of the structure.  After a while of looking and thinking I had to pull the trigger and start cutting the excess off of each piece of metal so they would fit together.  So one morning I just said  “I am going for it” and I did. I started early and tack welded the first piece into place and everything was sized off of that one piece.  Well, lo and behold, the pieces started going into place just right, and the whole door just materialized in what seemed to be just moments. (but in reality it was a number of hours) 

one side is successfully tacked together

It is always wonderful to see a project go from a concept to 3D.  I love it when I am able to hold up something I have made and see it matching the design in my head.  That is what makes it all worthwhile.

I was going to take the old door down and size in the new one this week.  But alas life got in the way and I wasn’t able to get it done.  But I did spend a while looking at partially finished pieces in the door.  I decided that they needed contouring. 

the plasma cutter in action

The thicker pieces needed to be wider in some sections and thinning in others.  So out comes a wonderful tool called a plasma cutter.  The plasma cutter is a type of electric torch that is made to cut metal by using electricity to convert the metal into plasma and then blowing air into the area thus cutting the metal. (yea I don’t understand it either). 

 But anyway, the pieces were contoured with the plasma cutter and the ground smooth with an angle grinder.  A ton of metal grindings are created and I left with a lot of metal dust all over me. 

 But at the end of the day the result was well worth the effort.  

Check back later to see the rest of the process… and the finished piece!



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