Stairs

Steel stairs offer advantages in that they are significantly stronger than timber stairs and significantly lighter than concrete stairs. They can also be built into complex geometries and curves that are difficult on impossible to achieve in other materials.

Steel stars can be clad in stone or timber but they really came into their own where the strength of the material is used to create open structures, sometimes accentuated by the use of glass treads or balustrades.

As with all our work our strength is at the high quality, bespoke end of the market where we combine complex star geometries with high end balustrades, polished stainless steel, brass and bronze.


Services

We focus on bespoke services that are difficult to replicate elsewhere. Combined with an extensive supplier and sub-contractor network this enables us to offer a very comprehensive range of bespoke metalwork solutions.

Specifications: we use 3D digital survey equipment for our surveys, and prefect design and specifications are developed by our in-house draughtsmen. This means that we retain full control of the build process, whether processes are carried out in-house or sub-contracted.

Materials: apart from standard mild steel, bright steel, stainless steel, aluminium, brass and bronze stocks we can also source more unusual non-ferrous profiles, including bespoke extrusions where required.

Fabrication: we have extensive fabrication expertise and equipment, including mig and tig equipment to the latest hse weld fume regulations, allowing us to accurately assemble the most complex of requirements.

Machining: we go to great lengths to achieve work with no visible welds or fixings. To achieve this we work closely with specialist engineers on bespoke components and assembly methods.

Casting: we work with specialist sand and investment foundries where cast elements are required.

Profiles & sections: we work with a number of laser cutting, water jet cutting and profile bending companies, so that we can source accurately cut and rolled components in any material. This includes helical elements for curved stairs.

Sheet metalwork & cladding: cutting and precision folding of sheet metalwork is outsourced to specialist suppliers. Sheet metal work we do in-house includes bespoke textures, bronze patinas on brass and sharp outside folds on brass sheet. These services are only offered as part of larger bespoke commissions.

Hot bending: we can set most metals to complex component shapes and handrail transitions. This includes steel, stainless steel, aluminium, copper, brass and bronze (phosphor, silicon & aluminium).

Hot forging: we have extensive forging facilities including hand forging, power hammer forging and pressing equipment. Backed up by over 25 years of experience this enables us to create both traditional and artistic bespoke forge work in wrought iron, steel, stainless steel, aluminium, copper, brass and bronze (silicon & aluminium).

Helical balustrades: we can create helical panels in continuous scroll designs and other complex patterns. Our adjustable curve setting jig also allows for the creation of oval plan view panels, without the need to create multiple setting out jigs.


Materials

An overview of the materials we work with, their suitable use and what can and can’t be achieved with them.

Wrought Iron: while this term is used as a general description for decorative ironwork it has not been produced for a long time. It is still available in limited quantities for specialist restoration projects where the original material needs to be matched. It can be forged and assembled using traditional fire welding, tenoning, riveting and mechanical means.

Cast Iron: While not produced in-house we can supply cast spindles and components, either to match existing items or by producing the required patterns.

Mild Steel: this is the standard steel grade for general fabrication. Processes include the traditional methods mentioned above as well as electric arc welding.

Bright steel: this is an engineering grade mild steel with more accurate dimensions and a more consistent carbon content. We tend to use this for plain spindles etc. to achieve cleaner lines, and for machined components.

Stainless steel: this comes in a number of grades with varying levels of corrosion resistance. We mainly use it for items where a polished, non-painted finish is required or where corrosion resistance is important. All the processes mentioned under wrought iron through to bright steel can be achieved with the exception of fire welding, it can also be cast. Due to a fairly high chrome content they tend to be significantly more time consuming.

Aluminium: this is mainly used where weight is important as it is significantly lighter than other metals. We can forge, shape, cast and fabricate it. As with stainless steel most processes are a bit more involved than doing them in steel.

Copper: this can be forged, fabricated and machined but as it is not very strong without being alloyed its main uses are decorative.

Brass: this is yellow copper/zinc alloy. Its main uses are for decorative items like decorative components and extruded handrails. It can be polished or, using a variety of patina treatments, it can be finished to look like antique brass through to aged bronze at a lower cost than using actual bronze. It can be forged, shaped, cast and machined but while it can be welded this will always show up over time in the final finish.

Phosphor bronze: this is the traditional copper/tin alloy. It is copper coloured in it’s bought form and it will need a patina to make it look like aged bronze. It can be cold worked and welded, with limited hot shaping ability. Welds will not show up once a patina is applied so it is the most suitable material to be used along with brass where this process is required on a particular item.

Silicon Bronze: This is a copper/silicon alloy with a rich bronze colour even before a patina is applied. High silicon bronze is slightly more yellow looking and more generally available in Europe. Low silicon bronze is more copper looking and it has to be extruded to order or imported from the US. It is the most suitable bronze for hot forge work and it can be readily welded.

Aluminium Bronze: this is a copper/aluminium alloy with a very high corrosion resistance and tensile strength. It can be forged, cast, machined and welded. As with stainless all processes are more involved than doing them in other bronzes but we have developed a range of techniques to get around this. The natural colour is slightly more silvery than brass, which we can age and darken with our patina methods.

Timber: We work closely with joiners and specialist timber handrail suppliers. Where it needs to be incorporated with our work we can supply cabinetry, treads, handrails and decorative mouldings.

Glass: We can incorporate toughened, laminated, opaque, coloured, curved and traditional glass to complement our metalwork.

Plastics: In some cases like light diffusers plastics can be more appropriate than glass. We also use rubber extrusions on door seals and other applications.

Lighting: we can advise on, and incorporate a range of lighting in our work. You will have to ask your electricians to do the final wiring and commissioning however.

Stone: As with timber and glass we can incorporate this in our work where required.


Handrails & Stair layout

If you are reading this then you are likely looking for a continuous handrail along your stairs and landings, with free flowing elegant transitions and terminations.

For the stair layout the first consideration is often the feature termination on the ground floor, unless the balustrade starts at a lower level and flows round the ground floor. For a nice flowing termination scroll, or volute, it helps to have a generous first tread. This can be achieved by making it wider than the subsequent stairs and it can be enhanced by making it a bit deeper, either overall or by coming back to overlap with part of the footprint of the second tread. We can fit a flowing volute on most layouts but the extra bit of space helps with the natural flow and creates room for a generous newel post or spindle layout.
To facilitate flowing transitions further up the stairs it helps to have some radius on any sharp changes of direction. This can either be achieved by not sitting the balustrade too close to the edge or by making sure that there are no spindles right on the comer.

Another big decision is whether to go for open or closed treads. Open treads tend to work well with individual spindles or balusters, whereas a closed tread or stringer will often work well with a more flowing balustrade design. On cast concrete stringers we will often supply a flowing base rail for you to plaster up to to ensure that the flow at the top and bottom of the balustrade work in harmonie with each other.
Most of our balustrades are built with a steel core rail along the top of whatever balustrade design has been chosen. This is then capped by the handrail you have selected.

Moving on to handrails, the cheapest option is obviously to have straight reals between new posts. For flowing handrails the cheapest option is to have steel handrails, followed by stainless steel handrails. In both cases the choice of handrail profile is limited to what is available off the shelf.
For the best choice of profiles and finishes we recommend timber or brass handrails. Both tend to come out at a similar price, although we can be a bit more flexible on the brass option as they are produced in-house.

For flowing timber handrails we work with a number of specialist sub-contractors. They can be produced in a range of timbers and the final finish can be matched to other items in the house if required, there is a profile library of popular shapes and bespoke profiles can also be accommodated. Survey, manufacture, installation and finishing will be after the balustrades have been installed, please allow 3 to 6 weeks for this.

We hot set brass (and aluminium) profiles to follow the flowing core rails already produced, which means that they can come to site at the same time as the balustrades. They can be supplied with a mirror polished finish or with a variety of patina finishes ranging from antique brass to aged bronze.
There is a limited number of smaller profiles available off the shelf, these will be joined with joinings sleeves which will sit proud of the handrail. We have developed a range of attractive, more substantial, solid profiles up to 66×32mm which can be joined by our proprietary clamping system. This allows for clean joins without any ridges.
Should you want a different profile to the ones we already have tooling for we can have a bespoke profile extruded especially for your project.

Bronze handrails and bespoke steel or stainless steel profiles: these can be accommodated but the profile will have to be machined, which is significantly more expensive than any of the options outlined above. We are aware of some companies advertising bronze extruded handrail profiles but as far as we can tell these are still copper/zinc alloys (i.e. technically brasses) rather than any of the true bronzes.


Finishes

This is a technical guide to metalwork finishing options to help you arrive at the most suitable final look of your project. You may want to read this guide in conjunction with the materials blog.

Painting: this gives you a large number of colour choices, apart from the commercial options we have developed some metallic black finishes that look very good on forged metalwork. Surface preparation is very important and for external work steel should be protected through hot zinc spraying or galvanising prior to painting. Advantages are that work can be easily touched up after installation, disadvantages are cost and sometimes durability.

Powder coating: this is a harder, more durable finish than painting. Surface preparation is again important and a high zinc primer is a cost effective alternative to the hot zinc options. There is a large range of powders available, including some attractive metallic options. Advantages are speed, cost and durability. The hardness does mean that natural warmth and earthy feeling finishes are not achievable.

Anodising: This is a specific treatment for aluminium. It protects the metal from corrosion, it hardens the surface and it is available in a range of colours.

Chemical blacking: this is a hot submerged process with some nasty chemicals, mainly used on small components. We would not recommend it on larger items as the cold applied methods are less effective and hot tanks are not large enough for architectural purposes.

Polishing: this is a labour intensive process with grades ranging from brushed to super mirror. A practical shiny surface for architectural purposes is somewhere between a commercial mirror and a super mirror finish. Electro polishing is more cost effective and very suitable where the surface texture wants to be retained, it will not achieve a full mirror finish. Polishing looks best on stainless steel, brass or bronze. Aluminium can be polished but will quickly tarnish and steel will be too prone to rusting.

Commercial hot processes: there are a number of proprietary stainless sheet steel finishes, which include different colours including bronzes, and textures for cladding purposes.

Traditional hot processes: hot forged ironwork can be heated and wire brushed, before being waxed to protect it from rusting. This gives a beautiful deep sheen that metallic black paint and powder finishes basically try to emulate. It is obviously only suitable for interior use. Heat can also produce tempering colours on polished stainless steel, ranging from a straw yellow through purple and blue to black. This can either be done with a heat torch to create a rainbow effect or in a large kiln to create more consistent colours. Consistency on some colours can be hard to achieve, depending on the heat range that produces the required colour.

Metal Plating: this is the opposite of electro polishing, a thin layer of metal is deposited on the underlying work. This will normally be done on a polished stainless steel base which means it is possible to achieve shapes that are not otherwise practical. Finishes offered include chrome, nickel, brass, copper, bronzes, rose gold and more. There is often a significant cost saving over making the work in the actual material. The downside is that the thin decorative layer and subsequent protection can make it look overly shiny.

Patina: we define a patina as controlled ageing, or oxidization, of the metal. On steel the only practical patina is a light brown rust, which can be sealed under wax or lacquer. Stainless steel is specifically designed not to rest and we are not aware of any decorative patinas on aluminium. Where the patina process comes into its own is on copper based alloys: between copper, brass and bronze we can create red, green, blue and a large range of brown patinas. There is a limit to the number of even colours that can be achieved but if you include the variegated finishes the options ran into the hundreds. There are some commercial patina solutions which will create cold applied brown to black finishes. We have however found that hot submerged techniques give a more durable and even finish, which we will typically seal under a layer of wax to retain the rich natural look. Our current tank capacity is up to 3M X 1.5M.


Commissioning Process

We are always happy to advise on overall layout, materials and interfaces between the metalwork and other elements of your build, if you want to ensure that there are no unforeseen issues further down the line. Our strength is in finding the most suitable way to realise your design or vision, rather than giving you a limited number of options.

If you have a design that you are looking to achieve then we can advise on the practical ways this can be achieved so that you can weigh up any relevant cost and design implications to arrive at the final specifications for the work. If you are still developing the design then we always appreciate some details on the layout of the work and a starting point for the design in the form of a sketch or images of work you like. We can then help you develop the design to the point where we can move on to practicalities.

Once the design has been agreed in detail we will issue a formal quotation. If you are still at an early stage of your build we offer the option to book time in our production schedule for a nominal 10% booking deposit.

On bespoke items and finishes we will often supply samples for approval.
Our surveys are conducted with the use of digital survey equipment, enabling us to create a 3D point cloud of the relevant surfaces. Where possible we prefer to do this off finished surfaces.
This survey is then developed so that we can build any setting out jigs required for the work. If any aspects need detailed design decisions then we will develop the drawing further to give you 3D renderings to help you visualise the detail and the options in question.

The metalwork manufacture and finishing will be entirely off-site. Given that progress with most other trades is more visible we can supply images of the work in progress and you are very welcome to visit our workshop to inspect it during the build. Depending on the size of the project, installation can mostly be done inside of a week. If the work includes metal handrails then these will come fully finished along with the work. Timber handrail survey, installation and finishing will be after the metalwork install.


Cladding, Doors, Furniture & Shop fitting

There are any number of high quality products and suppliers for these items so I would not make us your fist port of call. There are however limitations to what they can, or are willing to, produce in which case it is worth getting in touch.

Cladding: we can create architectural bronze (i-e-brass with a bronze patina) cladding panels, including sharply folded outside edges. We have also created polished stainless steel panels with a bespoke hammered finish as well as cladding for complex geometries under stairs.

Doors & Windows: Solutions we can offer here include curved and shaped frames for cut glass patterns and slimline door profiles where there is not sufficient space for a standard frame.

Furniture : we can help with cladding of timber framed furniture, fully bespoke high end metal shelving and library units and metal frames for tables and lighting.

Shop fitting: to make the best use of the elegance, lightness of design and specialist cladding options that metals allow for, it is well worth discussing your bespoke metal shop fit requirements with us. We specialise in realising unique, bespoke designs to the highest quality so do get in touch with us if you don’t want to be told that something can’t be done.


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