Anyone can shop at a local big box store and find a perfectly serviceable version of the item they need.
But what if you’ve got a little more vision? What if you hoped for something unique?
Metal fabricator Brad Bielefeld is the go-to guy for custom metal work. Homeowners know him for his gates, fences and custom railings. He also does gazebos, patio benches, chairs, tables, planter boxes, pictures and wall-hangings for indoors or out. Businesses commission him to make industrial parts and production work. He even creates stunning plasma-cut panels for a local artist.
Brad has been welding since he was 18. His artistry seems to come naturally. He discovered early on that he had a knack for drawing directly on his materials. He then takes a handheld plasma cutter and cuts out his intricate designs.
He works primarily with steel and aluminum—and particularly loves the latter. Aluminum can be powder-coated any colour, looks exactly like wrought-iron and doesn’t rust.
“You could say my gates are art because they’re fully custom to each individual,” says Brad. “That’s why people like coming, because they can get exactly what they want. That’s what a lot of people are going for these days. They want to pay a little bit more to get something where they can say, ‘I came up with this design and had someone make it.’ It’s a conversation piece.”
He loves the variety that comes with his work. Figuring out ways to create some of the truly one-of-a-kind pieces his customers request keeps him challenged and engaged.
“It’s pretty cool when you can do different things,” he says. “It keeps your mind moving.”
Some request really ornamental pieces, while others prefer a more pared down, clean-lined look. Often his clients know exactly what they want: they tell him the design, what they want it to look like, and he gives them a price.
Brad has noticed some trends in the requests he’s receiving. “A lot of people are going the way of aluminum instead of steel,” he says. “Everybody wants the wrought-iron look but they don’t want to have the maintenance behind it.”
After the initial four or five years, the coating on wrought iron starts to break down. Repainting and touch-ups are required every couple of years to keep it looking good. With aluminum you can go three times as long. The material is also much lighter and easier to work with. Brad uses only powder-coat on his products because it lasts really well.
Another trend is toward more modern-looking ironwork. Many don’t want old-style, ornate wrought iron with a scrollwork design, instead they want a clean and open look.
Brad also offers commercial and industrial services for onsite welding. He does pipe and sheet rolling, as well as all the different types of welding: TIG, braze, cast iron, stainless and stick.
Everything he does is always custom and every job is priced individually. Because every project is unique, he doesn’t offer a standard per foot charge. Quotes are always free.
He is happiest in his shop, where you can find him puzzling out the best approach to his latest creative challenge. Recent projects include a hitching post for horses and a very ornate base to hold a massive 80-lb cast iron bell.
Says Brad, “It’s really fun to do, all this cool stuff. That’s why I love my job.”