A Quick Guide to Commissioning a Successful Custom Metal Design

A Quick Guide to Commissioning a Successful Custom Metal Design

Metal Art—it’s beautiful, powerful, and seemingly indestructible, and designing it is no longer the exclusive domain of professional metalworkers. If you have ever had the vision of owning, designing, or commissioning a three-dimensional metal art piece, you are in the right place. Envisioning is more than halfway on the journey to designing and commissioning your own work, thanks to the availability of Metalco’s custom metal design services.

What is especially enticing about creating a custom metal design is the strong statement and presence it will bring to architecture, interior design, and a landscape. Coupled with functionality and even when over-sized, metal design fits beautifully within a natural landscape, seemingly able to emphasize the surrounding scenery without overpowering it. That’s because metal is from nature and therefore predisposed to harmonize within a natural setting.

Nearly any setting can benefit from a metal design piece. Abstract panels mounted to a wall, sculpture carefully placed within a lush park to screen a restful nook, or a strip of fence to intuitively direct the flow of foot traffic—metal art offers unexpected and delightful structure, dividing open spaces into smaller sections. A thoughtfully conceived custom piece elevates your design beyond the ordinary and into the inspirational. Your space becomes one that is conducive to brainstorming, entertaining, or even quiet meditation.

Creating Your Own Custom Metal Design is Easier Than You Think

Once you reach one of our metal craftsmen, the journey begins. Turn off your mental editor and allow your creative ideas to flow unabated. Metalco staff are experienced professional craftspeople and artisans and have access to state-of-the-art materials and technology. Of course, you must meet the test of physical limitations. No impossible designs allowed, such as balancing a one-ton cube atop a two-inch, one-ounce pedestal. Humor aside, we always encourage our clients to push the limits of possibility and space.

As you collaborate with our team, we bring our own artistic perspectives and experience to the table, along with the practical nuts and bolts of metalworking. Our team of experienced professionals is there to bring seemingly impossible creative ideas into the realm of workable reality, often by modest modifications, additions, or deletions.

With that knowledge in mind, there are some simple approaches and concepts you can employ to make the process of creating your own custom metal design easier and infinitely more fascinating and fun.

And when a project is easy, fascinating, and fun, rest assured the end result will be an authentic artistic expression realized in the fabric of metal.

Outside the Box? Think As If There is No Box

Get a sketchbook and keep it on hand. This will be your idea vault, where you can scribble down thoughts, rough sketches, and reminders. Your sketchbook is your rawest canvas for capturing ideas and asking questions. Ultimately, your idea will need to digitize using CAD software (such as Adobe Illustrator, AutoCAD, or Fusion360). And remember, your creative custom metal design team can rein you in if you venture too far into the impossible, so at this stage, don’t hold yourself back on dreaming the possibilities.

Avoid These Two Pitfalls

As already mentioned, when coming up with your custom metal design, stay within the realm of the possible. Consequently, there are two things to avoid in your designs:

  • Avoid Free-Hanging Parts – if you are outlining the letter “O,” the center part of the letter needs to connect to the outside of the letter; bridges are used to connect nested shapes to the rest of the metalwork
  • Avoid Intersecting Lines – if your design image includes intersecting lines, it creates issues with the cutting process; to ensure you have no intersecting lines, combine all elements in a design file into one element, which will instantly reveal any unacceptable intersections

If this is unclear, don’t worry. Our experienced staff knows how to guide you through this stage. Beyond these two minor limitations, most things are possible as you conceive your project.

Selecting Your Material

The metal material you select is both your “canvas” and your finished product. The following offers a list of the most popular materials used in custom metal designs:

  • 1095 High Carbon Steel – this is a strong and brittle metal that cuts very well
  • 6061 Aluminum – aerospace-grade, this is lightweight, durable, and excellent material for welding
  • Aluminum – this is light, strong, yet versatile; also affordable and rustproof
  • Brass – aesthetically pleasing to the eye and touch, delivers an attractive metal that will not rust
  • Cold-Rolled Carbon Steel – when the need for commercial-grade quality arises, this delivers a durable, high-quality product
  • Copper – this heavy and dense metal is perfect for conducting electricity
  • Cor-Ten -get a truly unique look and feel, with this weathered and rustic style material
  • Hot-Rolled Carbon Steel – another strong and durable product, with a beautiful slate gray tone to the finish
  • Stainless Steel – for a bright and corrosion-free metal that welds easily, look no further
  • Titanium – for the ultimate in strength and lightweight properties, this is the material you want

Your custom metal design advisor can assist you in selecting the right materials, factoring in such important points as the desired thickness and weight of the final product.

Cutting Preparations

In this phase, you get to take a step back and breathe a well-deserved breath of relief. The imaginative work is now behind you, and your custom metal design team kicks into action. These experts will double-check the CAD file, making sure there are no free-hanging parts or intersecting lines. Then they go to work, using the material you selected.

Choosing the Right Finish

Once your metalwork has completed the cutting process, in all likelihood you will find a few minor scratches resulting from this final process. Typically, these minor blemishes are easily polished out during the last stage of the manufacturing process, but some designers prefer to instead apply their own polishing finishes. Metalco is highly experienced in every stage of the design and rendering process and they do this every day as part of their standard procedures.

Some common finishes used with custom metal designs include:

  • Grain Finish – this coarse finish is also called roughing; between a 60 and 80 grit finish
  • Architectural Finish – gives a brushed, satiny finish; polished with a 120-180 grit belt
  • #6 Finish – a fine-grain finish produced using a 220-280 grit belt
  • #7 Finish – produces a smoothed and buffed finish; uses a 280-320 grit belt
  • Mirror Finish – the ultimate finish, the material is buffed and then color buffed to attain clearly reflective surfaces

Metal Art Techniques

A key to successful metal art is selecting the right technique for realizing the end design. This is typically accomplished using one of the three following techniques:

  • Plasma Cutting – for precision cutting, nothing beats plasma cutters; for beginners, work with thinner metal alloys for easier cutting
  • Torch Cutting – for more power and the ability to merge to works of metal together (or to separate melded materials), you want a torch cutter
  • Stamping – perfect when mass-producing an item, stamp dies and DNC machines can create as many as you want

Finally, consider adding extra effects to your custom metal design, including:

  • Dimensions – add depth by including an outlined background that is connected by metal props, making your metal art jump out more
  • Embossing – when words complete the final touch to metal art, embossing gives it depth and greater meaning
  • Enameling – by fusing glass with metal, you can create some incredible effects
  • Etching – perfect for adding quotes or an artistic flair to any work
  • Painting – using suitable metal paints, color can broadcast the message more noticeably
  • Polishing – nothing speaks class and clarity like a finely polished work of metal

Getting Started with Custom Metal Design

With this simple overview on commissioning custom metal design, you are now equipped to competently discuss your ideas with our experienced artisans. With their years of experience, and love, and knowledge of metal as a medium, they can walk you through the process from start to completed and often complex, final product.

Have questions? Contact us today! We are ready to turn your ideas into metal realities! One warning: Beware of the possibility of getting hooked on a custom metal design. Once you see the potential results for your first piece of custom metal design as part of your architecture, home or garden design—the possibilities will open up.

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