Meet the 12” x 20” Locust grate by Iron Age Designs. This grate is made for custom Iron Age frames and is typically used in suspended walkways and stairs. We had a sample available and brainstormed about innovative ways to use trench drain grates.
Ultimately, we decided to custom paint the grate and use it as a decorative planter stand for our office plant life. It really came out beautifully… I’ve included details on the process with photos below:
The first stage was to create a base coat that would be the natural color of the grate. The paint I used was gray enamel designed to protect metals against rust. After spraying an initial layer, I returned to coat the corners and crevices – just to ensure that there would be no rust-vulnerable area on the grates.
The grate dried in the sun for several hours until the paint was no longer soft. Then we baked it at low heat (150 F) in an electric oven for 15 minutes so that the paint hardened. Because paint is simply pigment suspended in a bonding agent, paint relies on a long evaporation process to become dry. The theory in baking the grate was to reinforce that process.
I wanted my final background to be bright and have a clean surface to show through, so I painted the grate white. It took a few touch-ups here, too, to make sure that I had an even coating. I baked the grate again and let it cool before continuing.
Early on the grate’s design, I’d decided on a blue-to-green gradient background that had a separation at the locust branch. The effect suggests shadows underneath the branches and a blue sky. The background shown below is different from the final product because it lacks the gradient dynamic of the blue paint (I forgot to photograph the final background before I began detailing).
With the background complete, I was able to begin detailing the leaves and stems. This was the most was the most time consuming aspect of the project. I worked with oil-based paints (bright yellow and red) to create a highlighting which gives the grate a Japanese anime effect. You can see me at work in the photos below. (Note: Cleaning the brushes from this oil-based paint was a chore until I learned to use acetone. It works like a charm but gives off a lot of fumes, so be careful!)
Once my artwork was complete, I gave it one final bake in the oven just to make certain it was dry and hard. At this point, I could have given it a coating of clear enamel, but I was too anxious to put my new creation to use.
The final phase of my project was attaching felt pads to the bottom of the stand. This is important in protecting the wood table from the heavy plant stand. The grate used to make the stand is cast iron and weighs a hefty 18 pounds. I used six ½ inch diameter pads that I purchased from the local hardware store. They also had rubber bumpers that I considered using. I felt that the “felt” would work better for this application.
Just take a look at the finished product below! Wowzer!! This was a fun project. This locust grate is available in a 20” x 40” size, as well. I’ve seen a coffee table made from this larger locust grate. And, I have my eye on a sun grate that looks like it would make a nice wall hanging. It makes me wonder about how many uses there are for these ornamental grates.
Email me with your ideas if you can think of other uses for any of the Iron Age ornamental grating products. If you have photos of something special you have done, send those, too. I’d love to see your work!