Part of a prized col­lec­tion of old tools be­comes a very cool stair rail.

Old House Journal - - Contents - By Brian D. Cole­man

Bet­ter than Steam­punk, a new rail­ing from old tools.

Both of Josh Decker’s grand­fa­thers passed along to him their old wrenches, ham­mers, saws, and pli­ers. Work­ing fa­vorites went into a tool­box, and the rest of the col­lec­tion grew into the hun­dreds as Josh came across old tools at re­cy­cling yards and sal­vage stores. When he de­cided to add an in­te­rior stair go­ing to the base­ment, the old tools came to mind. With the help of two welder friends, he built a sturdy rail­ing that turned tools into art.


Decker be­gan by as­sem­bling a frame and posts with 1 ¼ " steel pipe frames and 4' inch posts, weld­ing them to­gether on a flat steel-top table with a wire feed ma­chine. He de­signed the rail­ing by lay­ing out tools within the rail­ing frame­work, hold­ing them in place with mag­nets, ex­per­i­ment­ing with place­ment and pat­tern un­til he was sat­is­fied.


In­di­vid­ual tools were first de-rusted and cleaned with a wire brush us­ing high speed on a drill (or grinder); a mini Dremel tool was used for smaller pieces and sur­faces. Such ad­justable tools as wrenches were cleaned and oiled so that work­ing parts re­main mov­able, even af­ter as­sem­bly.

Af­ter clean­ing, each tool was welded in place. Each weld was care­fully brushed and dressed (weld­ing droplets chipped off with a cold chisel) to make the as­sem­bly smooth and seam­less, to avoid catch­ing on ob­jects or hands. Each tool was then brushed down once again with old mo­tor oil, which was burned off with a weld­ing torch to cre­ate a uni­form patina. When it was done, the rail­ing was sprayed with Kry­lon’s matte clear fin­ish for pro­tec­tion.


Anchor points for the posts in the wooden floor were care­fully marked and fixed with an­tique, square-head bolts and lags as well as two-part epoxy. Half of the anchor points were in con­crete and re­quired set­ting with a rock drill and spe­cial­ized an­chors. The com­pleted rail­ing was care­fully lifted into place. It weighs 435 lbs. and so re­quired a crew of helpers to po­si­tion.

ABOVE Tools be­came art! Decker sug­gests that the idea could be used for, say, a shelf bracket, some­thing small and sim­ple; email him for more at deck­er­[email protected]

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