A Worn Out Sign…?

I am in the process of making a company sign for the inside office at a construction firm.

I was sent the logo and given a unique challenge… make it look old.

As you can imagine, most of the painting and finishing I do involves working hard to make it smooth and clean. Nope, he wanted it aged and weathered.

And that’s where the fun comes in!

I was shown this photo of the design on one of their trucks.



I started by drawing the design on my computer and figuring how each piece would lay out and interact with the other parts.

The design was then cut from 16 gage steel with a laser. That resulted in this pile of parts. And yes, they all meant something to me and had a place in the design.


The threaded rods that were to hold the whole thing together were welded onto the back of selected parts so that they lined up with the precut holes. Then after cleaning and degreasing, the fun began.

I knew that there needed to be a top coat paint with the correct colors, some primer showing, and some ware through to the bare steel. That was created mostly with paint and a sanding block.



Different layers were added to parts and then wiped off while wet and/or sanded off when dry.



A little work on the wire wheel and I was on the way to making it right.


I then thought that many signs I had seen still had the gloss finish as well as a more matt finished in some areas. So that was an easy fix. Just use two different finishes and blend them together.


After all that paint dried, I spent some crazy amount of time stacking the pieces, calculating the spacers and just making sure the design still worked.



But I think the design turned out great. It is on the way to the owner and I know he will love it as much as I did.


I would love to hear your comments;

Use the form below or just email me at


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The River Gate

What do you do when you are asked to create something for a custom designed and constructed home? You have a great time! That’s what you do!

gate 2

I was commissioned to make the gate for a deck. The deck was situated to overlook a beautiful curve in the river.

It was a little intimidating to see the setting and know my work would have to compliment that view.

We had a conversation on style and feel for the gate. We were looking for something that had the craftsman style and feel a connection to the area where it was to be located.

The design “back and forth” is always a fun time. We emailed ideas and evaluated the value of each one until a final version was settled.

Here is a sample of an "idea"

Here is a sample of an “idea”.

I was given enough leeway to be creative and enough structure to be able to satisfy the client.

Long curves with banded overlaps reminiscent of the Nuevo style dominated the design and created a style all its own.

I was off to the computer to create the drawings for the laser cutter.

There was some trouble shooting of design problems, such as curves intersecting with straights. But that is what makes the creative process so much fun.

The parts came back from the laser and seemed to go together well… the welding and banding… the on the spot adjustments and decision making… All that added up to a fun build.



rivitsband 3









The smoooth dark bronze finish looks black in darker light and has gold highlights when in the sun.


Installation when smoothly and the gate looked wonderful in its setting.


latch 2

A fun addition was the latch and handle operation. The gate was to be accessed from the lower steps when entering, and the upper deck when leaving. So we added a feature to make the latch work from above and below. I have to admit it turned out cool and every one of the guys who saw it during the installation thought that was a great addition. (remember, with guys, it is all about the gadgets)

I am pleased with the overall design and how it fits into the overall look of the home and landscape.

I think it was a wonderful project, starting with a great imaginative client and ending with a great piece of metalwork I can be proud of for a long time.

And sometimes, that is what it’s all about.


I would love to hear your thoughts and comments.

Just use the form below;

Or email me at steve@stephenzmetaldesigns.com

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The Turtles Live!

Anyone who has been to my studio in the last … oh I don’t know…year, has seen the two huge Loggerhead turtles sitting behind the work table.

He finally as an attached head

He finally as an attached head

They are a design I started awhile ago and got sidetracked by other more demanding (read paying) projects.

And this is what the inside of a turtle looks like....at least mine.

And this is what the inside of a turtle looks like….at least mine.

Well the heads have been attached and they are done.  Except for the stand, and the finish, and the weatherproofing….ok they are not done…yet.

They will be.  I have a show in April  and they will both be swimming by then.


This is where they live for now.

This is where they live for now.

Love to hear your comments or suggestions.

Use the form below

Or email me at steve@stephenzmetaldesigns.com

Almost Over

There is only one more week in the run of my one man show,

“The Art of Nature”


Yep, I’ll will be taking the photos off the wall and removing the pieces that I get to keep.

If you did not get to see the show… go NOW!

If you are too far away you can see some great photos by clicking HERE.

I also was written up by Christopher Thomas in the Jacksonville Daily News and you can see his article by clicking HERE.

But the fun part will be to deliver the pieces I sold.  I love the idea of knowing my work is in the hands of someone who loves it as much as I do.

And being able to deliver them and see that reaction again will be a lot of fun.

red anvilAs I said before, I now get to do the recreating, and redesigning of the pieces which sold.  I never want to make the same piece twice.  So each piece I make can be unique in the world…or… unless you are a Si-Fi believer in a parallel world on the other side of the sun…the only one in the UNIVERSE!!

I think it is nice to ponder (yes I used the word ponder, I am from the south) something in your possession as being the only one.  The only table, the only piece of artwork, the only handmade wallet even.  Things created by hand are almost always going to be one of a kind.  There are processes to make reproductions, and they are fine.  But having something which is one of a kind, is special.

Being able to know the creator of an object is special too.  That is why I love to go to shows where people sell their own work.  You can talk to the creator,  ask them about their ideas, their technique, their joy of creation.  If you do, you will receive some of their creative joy and excitement.  You will also  be rewarding the craftsman by allowing her, or him to share that joy with you.

I am off to a new project, making an outdoor tree about 9 feet tall…but I’ll tell you about that another day.

In the mean time, ask a craftsman his thoughts on a piece you like… you will probably make his day by giving him a chance to share that love with you.




Steel Dogwood

I have been busy making the final pieces for my one man show in September so there has not been much time for blogging.  But I thought I would show the table top I have been working on this week.

It is a live edge piece from the vintage wood we collected from the bottom of the creek.  It is over 250 years old and is totally beautiful!

Here is the piece when I started.

board 1 s


It was checking right down the center.  (Checking is the word the woodworkers use for cracking/ splitting.  I don’t know why they don’t call it cracking…but who knows why those guys do things).

I doweled the whole thing in a couple of places for support and filled the crack with epoxy for visual emphasis.  It was not as messy as the last time and it turned out great.  The black line in the center and a number of other cracks is interesting to the eye.

I took the angle grinder and smoothed over the sides, but kept the feel of the live edge wood.  I preserved the area worn by 100 years in the creek. It will be the front of the table and an important aspect of the design.

grinding s

 It turned out nice.  Now a lot of sanding and finishing and it will be ready.

almost done s


The base of the table is a branch of a dogwood tree.  The thicker section was made by welding different size pipe together to make the right taper.  I then cut the pipe so that it could bend and curve in a more natural fashion.  Then all the cuts had to be welded back together…and ground sooth with the angle grinder. Not a fun thing to do for about an hour. Here is what it looked like before the welding and grinding…

branch start s

With the addition of other pieces, the base is coming along pretty well, and will look something like this…

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Let me know what you think of it so far.


Tomorrow, the leaf clusters and 5 flowers… but seeing that will have to wait for another day.

Or just come to the show opening and see it in its finished state.

The show runs Sept 8 through 28, at the Council for the Arts in Jacksonville, NC.


You can comment in the box below or you can email me directly at steve@stephenzmetaldesigns.com.



What Does It Take?

Here is the question for the day.

What does it take to attach a flat plate to the bottom of a post on a handrail?

That may sound like an easy question…and an easier event to make happen.

But for some reason it is not.

The plate needs to be:

Square to the vertical post

Square to the sides of the post so the base is not rotated off center

And centered on the post so the cover will fit over it correctly.

Let me step back and add an explanation.

two pieces

I cover all the anchor bolts on all my handrails as a way of making it look more finished.  And this plate has the holes through which the lag bolts go to screw into the anchor point.

Well, I have delt with it in a number of ways, each with varied success.

So I decided to make a tool!

                 (My regular readers will not be surprised with that statement.)

So here is what I have been using for about 3 years now.  And it works great!photo 4

I started with one of those $3 Chinese knock offs of “vise grips”.  They are perfect for making tools like this job.  I took some pieces of angle iron and mounted them so the tool would grab the end of the post.

Then I determined what was level and square and added wings to steady the punched plate.

I then learned, there needed to be some way to hold the plate in place… so I added small lips to two sides.photo 3

That’s it.  Sounded easy as I typed it out… but nothing is as easy as it sounds.

But I have done all the figuring out.  All you have to do is copy it , and you are there.

tool side

In use, it is very simple:

Clamp it on the end of the post.

Hold the plate in position, and tack it on.

Remove the clamp and weld it up.photo 2

Trust me…it makes the job much easier.

Weld one up and let me know what you think of the design.


I would love to hear your feedback.

You can contact me using the comment form below,  or email me at steve@stephenzmetaldesigns.com


Handmade Cherry Wood Bowl (H is for Handmade)

I found beauty at the farmers market. Yes the place where you buy tomatoes and potatoes, carrots and corn.

Yep,   THAT farmers market.

We were walking around looking at the flowers and fruits when I noticed an elderly man selling turned wood pieces.

His name was Herald Jones.

I do not know Mr. Jones but I stopped to talk to him because he made beautiful art.

The simplicity was beautiful. I ended up buying a bowl made of cherry.

It was turned lengthwise on the log….now to those of you who are not up on wood turning….bowls are more traditionally sideways on the log to make interesting cross grained oval shaped bowls.

But this was a smooth glossy cherry bowl.

And it was beautiful…I bought it!

cherry bowl

It’s only 6 inches tall and lives its life on a piano where it holds keys… not the most glamorous life.

But it is beautiful. And that is what I am looking for every day.

Let me know what you saw today that was beautiful. It’s all around you, just look.

You can contact me at Steve@stephenzmetaldesigns.com

Or just use the form at the bottom of the post.

See ya tomorrow.