Dilapidated, rusty wrought-iron railings need to be cut away if the screws or other fasteners have become too rusty. When wrought iron is not installed correctly and maintained properly, it devalues property. It is also a tragedy waiting to happen if the railing protects a window, stairway or balcony.
An oxyacetylene torch or a titanium-coated, high-speed steel saw blade on a hacksaw or right angle grinder can all be used to cut wrought iron. The torch can cut close as long as the rail is attached to concrete or some other nonflammable surface. If the railing is attached to a deck, porch or interior wall, the risk of damage is too great unless the area is shielded. The hacksaw will cut away the bulk of the railing, but the physical effort involved will leave little time for any finishing needed. According to industrial blacksmith Gypsy Wilburn, "Your right angle grinder will give the closest, smoothest cut, requiring the least grinding and finishing." You can use a 24-grit wheel on your right angle grinder to smooth all cut areas.
No fire safety procedures are necessary when using a hacksaw. Oxyacetylene torches and right angle grinders are both capable of starting a fire, though. A large, fully-charged ABC fire extinguisher should be within hand's reach at all times when using torches or grinders. One-inch-thick Type C sheetrock will provide additional fire protection when placed beneath or behind the cutting area. Sheetrock is used as firewall because it is made of plaster, which is processed gypsum and a mixture of other materials. Type C sheetrock is the most fire resistant, according to the National Gypsum Company. If the area around your torch tip bubbles, changes color or begins to smoke, the area is about to ignite.
Marking the area you intend to cut with a high-contrast colored paint or marker makes it easier to keep cuts consistent. Using firm, even strokes away from your body will prevent injury. One or two initial draws of the saw will create a groove before you begin steady sawing, which will make it easier to keep the saw from slipping. Steady pressure makes a more consistent cut when using a right angle grinder.
Personal Protective Equipment
A welding helmet and full leathers protect eyes and skin from your torch flame. Wrap-around eye protection is used instead of a welding helmet when using a right angle grinder or hacksaw.
Order of Cuts
Railings need to be cut as shown in the diagram that accompanies this step for best results. The lowest supporting rails are the last to be cut. Steady rests are used wherever possible to support the railing. Nails and 16-gauge wire can be used where steady rests can't reach or won't fit. Having your helper support the railing while you cut will keep the blade from being pinched if you are using a right angle grinder or hacksaw.
- Gypsy Wilburn; Artisan and Industrial Blacksmith; Carrollton, Ohio
- National Gypsum Company: Fire Resistant Assemblies
- Appalachian Blacksmiths Association Safety Pages
- Photo Credit Gypsy Wilburn
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