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Blacksmiths Hammer Out Their Customers' Visions

September 04, 1993|MARESA ARCHER

Outside, suburban Orange County goes about its modern business; inside, sparks fly as blacksmiths clad in heavy aprons work with hammers, tongs, anvils and other tools to change the shape of wrought iron.

Making everything from custom gates to candlesticks, blacksmiths ply their trade at scores of shops in Orange County.

While some blacksmiths prefer to work only with established contractors and designers, others are willing to work directly with individual customers who have ideas they want to see executed.

Among those willing to work directly with a customer on a design are Carl and Chris Ellesson and Navarro's Ellesson Iron Inc., both with shops in Costa Mesa.

As long as you are able make a drawing with the dimensions you want the completed piece to be, both blacksmith shops are willing to work with you to make the idea a reality.

"The first thing we have to look at is, does the design meet California building codes," Navarro said.

If the design is for a balcony or staircase, there are certain height requirements that must be met. Also, for safety reasons, there cannot be any element in the design that makes a boxed space larger than 4 inches.

Next, Navarro estimates the cost to make the piece. Then he makes a mock-up for the customer. "This way we can track the hours it took to make the mock-up, which lets us know exactly how much time it will take to make the item," Navarro said.

"It also gives the customer an opportunity to change the design if they don't like it. Things look different on paper than in real life."

Navarro said an iron canopy bed that might retail for thousands of dollars can be made for about $800, depending on the design.

"We love working with anyone who wants to create custom furnishings for their home," he said.

Both Navarro and the Ellessons said they will make anything except an exact copy of a someone else's work.

"If someone comes in here with a picture of one of Doug (Murray's) pieces and wants a copy, we'll send them back to Doug. We don't want to bypass anyone.

"But if the designer is unknown, we'll make something similar for them, but not an exact copy," Chris Ellesson said.

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For a listing of blacksmith shops, see 'Iron' in telephone directories.

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