Metal Furniture: from design to nowhere?

Hi - So I’m a little frustrated. I’m a furniture designer who works for high-end production furniture companies, almost exclusively in wood. We also commission out one-off pieces for good clients, again, almost exclusively in wood.

Recently, I designed a metal console table - mostly negative space (read: not a lot of material required) - and a clean shape. In wood, it would be a straightforward project, but I chose (drumroll please) to specify metal. I’ve approached a few metal shops (both blacksmith-type shops and fabrication-type shops) and have had to hound every one of them to even call me back. I’d like to have the piece done expediently since it’s taken so long to get this moving, but I don’t want to get raked over the coals - it’s not really that complex a piece - it’s just a cool piece of furniture.

So I have two questions:

  1. Does anyone have a “metal guy/girl” in the New York/New England area that they know does good work and sounds like they could handle this project?

  2. Is this a chronic attitude at metal shops, and I should just stick to wood? Maybe I’m just calling the wrong people, but I’ve tried a dozen places from one-person ops to big shops.

Any help and opinions would be appreciated - I’m not feeling very zen-ish today!

-ZF

i also work for a high-end residential furniture company in Chicago. Metal vendors that can fabricate and do sick finishes are a rarity these days.

oh and also…if you can find a metal guy…make sure you get finish samples from him to approve…sometimes we have to get samples 3 or 4 times before the vendor even gets it right.

Thanks - I might have found someone this week… I hope it works out. If it does, I’ll be singing their praises…

-ZF

try these guys, a bit expensive and located in swizerland but i saw their laser cutting and folding equipment in iran and they were quite interesting.

Dear all,

I can manufacture metal furniture in any metal (SS, Steel, Brass, Copper etc.) Please send me an email on ujwaldesai@gmail.com

Thanking you,
Ujwal Desai

www.azahner.com

A. Zahner Architectural Metals, Kansas City, MO

I worked for them as an intern a while back, they can make anything and do a lot of work on everything from Frank Gehry buildings to small signs.

I’m finding that more-rural shops can be more responsive and less expensive. Here in north western Massachusetts, there is R.I. Baker, Inc., in Clarksburg, and they do terrific work in metals and wood. Try giving them a call to see if they might be good to work with you on this: 413.663.3791.

Peggy

I specialize in iron furniture design, my website will be finished in a week or two. I’m from Oklahoma, a little ways away, but I would love to help you in some way. If I’m not the man for the job, I do have a lot of resourses.

So Zen, how did the project go?

It turned out very well - I had a local blacksmith do the project, and with some discussion and working together it went well. A few compromises, but nothing that damaged the integrity of the design. I’ve had problems since then working with other metal people (i.e. for sheet steel applications)… I still don’t “get it.” There are good shops out there, but harder to find than I expected and very hard to work with if you have anything one-off or due on any kind of a schedule or budget - even a big budget. Motivates me to keep designing with wood, but I’ve got another project in the works now… I think I have found someone good, but don’t count your chickens until the piece is in your hands.

Not usually cynical about anything, but been burned too many times on this topic…

economies of scale.

Ya know you could make it out of wood, then send it to “basedupon”.

They apply actual metal to almost any surface. Its an interesting process.

http://www.basedupon.co.uk/

You may be getting poor results because:

  • they are busy
  • you don’t know how much they really want to charge … a lot, and they may have caught onto that
  • something you did or said gave it away that you really aren’t experienced with metal fabrication

So how to avoid that?

Find some fabrication shops that are used to dealing with one-offs, small runs, custom jobs. Places that might make architectural elements like metal staircases or displays for shops, for instance.

Then run your specs (dimensioned drawings I hope?) past a designer that has had some luck with metal fab. Have them help you make sure your request isn’t seen as half-assed.

Then, say as little as possible so as not to give away your n00b status with metal.

Fax them over the specs, and hound them for a few days for a quote.

Go to the Pratt metal shop and ask around there. The shop techs usually do other people’s projects for a fair price and the campus is public. Good luck.