We’ve mentioned before that we go back to Brooklyn two days a week for work. We were there on Tuesday, and had a little time after work to putz around in Bradley’s office. I use the word “office” very loosely. You won’t find any desks or chairs or computers here.
Bradley’s boss purchased an enormous building in Greenpoint before it was cool to own an enormous building in Greenpoint. Or anywhere else in Brooklyn, for that matter.
It was in really rough shape when he purchased it, and he renovated it himself. A lot of work went into this place. Cute story: his mother helped cut the glass for each window in the warehouse. All together now, awwwwww!
I love how it always smells like sawdust on the main floor. And all of the colors and textures of the different tools and woods and metals all over the place. Most of all, though, I love watching this guy work:
He got to experiment with a new cement process that his company is considering, and I got to experiment with my camera. And when he was finished, we went down to the basement to his metal shop.
He’s so at peace in the metal shop.
Soot on his skin, grime under his fingernails, grin on his face. This is where the magic happens. The dirty, dirty magic that leaves his white t-shirts stained black and makes me super glad we have a laundry room in our house now.
Anyway, our project for the night was making door handles. We searched high and low for door handles for the guest bedroom French doors. We wanted something modern and sleek, and we weren’t finding it Lowe’s or Home Depot. A quick search online showed us that the look we want will cost us an arm and a leg. So we decided to make custom handles instead.
Bradley went to one of his metal suppliers and picked up $50 of angled steel. Then he took it to his giant metal saw to give it a cut. He measured twice:
And let ‘er rip:
If you look closely, you can see a white liquid pouring down from the saw onto the steel. This is to lubricate the steel and keep metal slivers from flying everywhere. After the cut, Bradley drained the liquid from the steel:
And we were left with a perfect cut:
The steel is an L-shaped piece that we’ll attach to the door with the angled side out. The result will be a flat bar that’s the exact height of the door. Basically, it’s a little ledge you can slip your fingers under to open the door:
We want it to be the same on both sides of the door, which means we need to weld two pieces of L-shaped metal together to form one U-shaped piece.
Bradley set up his welding station:
Nerd alert! Can you spot Yoda on the top of his arm?
He put the two L-shaped pieces of metal together and clamped them down to his welding bench:
And then he put on his metal smith jacket — what I call his cropped leather bolero jacket — so he didn’t burn his arms while welding:
There were a lot of bullfighter jokes flying around. Olé! He also put on his welding mask so he didn’t burn his face or eyeballs:
And then it was time to weld.
Bradley was spot-welding, which means he welded the two pieces of metal together in just a few spots — he basically made dots of welding that will hold the two pieces together. I threw together a little time-lapse to show what we mean:
One side of the U will be on the outside of the door and the other will be on the inside of the door. This means the spots where Bradley welded — the center of the U — will sit flush against the door. The welds were sticking up a little, so Bradley took a grinder and leveled them out.
Little bits of hot metal flew in every direction, so I kept my distance during this part.
It was like a Katy Perry video, except the fireworks were shooting out of Bradley’s back instead of his bra. Not that he wears a bra.
Cropped leather bolero jacket, yes. Bra, no. He draws a line somewhere.
We could have kept going, but we decided to go to our favorite sushi spot for dinner and a beer instead. This is what the door handles look like right now:
They’re ready to be cleaned, painted and installed. Maybe even this weekend.
What we learned from this project:
- Can’t find exactly what you’re looking for? Make it yourself.
We realize this is way easier when you have access to a fully stocked metal shop, but even if you don’t, there are tons of ways to make this same basic idea work.
- Modern design is crazy-expensive, and we can save a ton of money by going the DIY route.
We paid $50 for the steel used to make 2 door handles, and we have a bunch left over. This means each handle is roughly $20. That’s way cheaper than any modern door handles we found online. It’s even cheaper than most standard door handles we found at Big Orange and Big Blue.