SLHL: How did you get started in this business?
Peter: I purchased the business 12 years ago from the original owner. Throughout many years working in manufacturing-related positions such as manufacturing engineer, production supervisor, production manager and ultimately as a general manager, I always had a goal of owning my own business. I have always put in long hours, so I felt if I’m going to do this, why not work hard for my own business? When I found the right small business to buy, I had the support of my family to make the decision to quit my job, finance the purchase and start a new career. I had the confidence in my ability to learn a business, shape it and build upon it.
SLHL: What training does it take to be able to work with steel and other metals professionally?
Peter: Our fabricators not only are skilled welders in both MIG and TIG, but they have strong math skills and mechanical ability. They are more than welders, and they can fabricate anything we present to them in a complex CAD drawing, from a spiral staircase to custom forged scrollwork for an interior staircase.
SLHL: What is the primary metal you work with?
Peter: We primarily work in mild steel. Steel is the strongest and most economical metal to work with. Aluminum fits certain applications but is seldom used in custom ornamental railing applications. We also combine materials such as a bronze handrail with an iron balustrade. Hot dip galvanizing of steel is an option that has become popular. We are able to produce cost effective designs in steel with the resistant rust characteristics of galvanizing, offering customers the strength and beauty of ornamental iron with the maintenance free aspects of aluminum.
SLHL: What is your specialty in terms of project type?
Peter: The majority of our work is ornamental railings on homes. These can range from a simple exterior step rail to porch and deck rail to interior staircases. Gates of all kinds, fencing, structural balconies and a variety of custom fabrication projects make up the balance. We make beautiful, functional products.
SLHL: What is it about metalwork that motivated you to start your own business?
Peter: It is a niche product that doesn’t have a slew of competitors. Railings in many cases are required by code, so it is somewhat isolated from a recession. Every set of steps is different, and railings cannot easily be mass produced for a perfect fit without some customization. Railing code can vary between local municipalities, so we are able to modify as needed to accommodate these differences in code. The odd shape and weight of rails make it difficult to ship, therefore keeping much of the fabrication local. Lastly, installation requires a skill set and specific tooling not all consumers have. Our installers are experts at installing and we stand by our work, so if there is an issue to address after installation, we will do our best to make it right.
SLHL: What type of project is your favorite to work on?
Peter: I enjoy a project that challenges our entire operation from start to finish. From approach, design, detail, fabrication and installation. However, these can also be the most time consuming to price and create as the customer initially doesn’t always know what they want or how much it will cost.
SLHL: How does metalwork contribute to the overall look of a home?
Peter: Custom ironwork can be a way to express your personal taste and style, just as furniture, curtains and your kitchen cabinets do. You can choose traditional railing styles or branch out with something unexpected. Custom railings showcase the owner's desire for something custom and original as well as functional.
SLHL: What is something our readers would be surprised to learn about metal crafting?
Peter: Probably the most common misunderstanding is that it is not sitting pre-made on the floor just waiting to be cut to the size of railing you request. Most everything is made to order from steel bar and tubing. Manufacturing is done in-house by our skilled individuals and takes more labor hours than many people would think.
SLHL: What is something in terms of ironwork that you can add to your home to give it the wow-factor?
Peter: A custom driveway gate, garden gate or front door scrollwork over existing glass door are all good choices depending on the home’s style.
SLHL: What is your biggest challenge running this business?
Peter: Finding skilled workers. Not all young people who are intelligent need to go to a four-year university. The skilled trades need talented young people who want to work with their hands. We are extremely fortunate to have a group of dedicated employees that take pride in their work, resulting in Classic Metal Craft’s continued success.