Introduction: Rustic Cabin Railing

Custom railing I made for a lake cabin on the shore of beautiful Lake Coeur d'Alene. This project involves forging, plasma cutting, and welding. I used a pneumatic power hammer for most forging but it can be done by hand (if you choose to punish yourself that much). Everything is made of solid steel. This is the first of four sets for this cabin.

This railing sits at 38" above the deck and will be directly lag screwed down to the deck. The section of three panels was 20' 2" long and the section of two panels was 13' 11 3/8".


1" steel round bar

1/2" steel round bar

1/2" x 2" steel flat bar

3/16" steel plate

3/8" steel plate

Step 1: Cut Down the Round Bars

The 1" round bar was cut into 40" lengths on a marvel saw. For this project, I ended up using 50 1" round bars cut to 40". As far as the 1/2" round bar, I wasn't sure how long everything was going to be since it was the filler material, so I cut them to 5' sections.

Step 2: Forge Out the Branches

I heated up the bars in my forge and textured them using my pneumatic power hammer and bark texturing dies. When the section had been textured, I smashed the bar down onto a 1" steel plate that laid on my floor to upset it and put in a natural bend. To correct bad bends, hitting them over the horn of the anvil works great for this. The process was repeated until the entire bar had been textured and bent. This took about 5 heats per bar with the bar being cooled and flipped over after the third heat. For this length of railing plus 5 posts I needed a total of 50 large branches. Each branch takes approximately 30 minutes to make.

This process was repeated for the 1/2" bars, however I omitted the upsetting as the power hammer put a lot of bend in them already.

A note here, all the bars will be longer than needed but it is necessary to make them long as it is impossible to know that length they will come out at after bending them to shape.

Step 3: Prepare the Top and Bottom Rails

The next step was to cut the top and bottom rails (1/2" x 2" flat bar) to length. I made sure to match a top and bottom up really well; however, after it was all said and done, this step wasn't crucial. I drilled out a clearance hole on either end of the rails though for my bolt to go through. I gave myself a loose fit here to allow for some slop in welding.

Step 4: Deisgn and Cut Out the Center Panels and Plates

I designed the center panels in Fusion 360. I made a template file with the overall outside profile and the oval section cutout. From there I added in whatever design I needed. The panels outside profile was 18" x 33". These were cut out of 3/16" plate on my CNC plasma table, the Crossfire PRO from Langmuir Systems.

While I was cutting those, I cut out my plates I needed for my posts. The bottom plate for each post was 6" x 6" from 3/8" plate and the attachments for the rails was 2" x 10" that were slotted with holes on either ends for adjustment and a large hole in the center to slide over a branch also cut from 3/8" plate. One end of the railing was terminating on a post so I made a separate plate weldment that would attach there.

Step 5: Weld Out

I made a couple jigs from wood to help with welding before I began the long haul. There was a lot of welding here! I found it easiest to put a rail on the ground, mark out where each branch will sit (roughly evenly spaced) and then welded up the branches and center panel. I would then cut off the branches to the correct length using a cutoff wheel on my angle grinder. I would then flip the section over onto the other rail piece, line it all up, and then weld out the other side. After the panel and the large branches were welded out, I would take the smaller branches, mark out the length and angle I needed, and cut them off with the angle grinder. Those would then get welded into place to fill in the large gaps.

The posts were made in a jig as well. The top of the railing was always at the same height and then I would adjust the height of the bottom attachment piece to best match the railing after welding distortion.

Step 6: Dry Assemble and Fill in Large Gaps

Dry assemble the railing. Mark location of areas that still need filled in with branches. I found it easiest to leave it all assembled, switch my welder to flux core, and weld in place. This way you don't have to guess at branch length.

Step 7: Clean Up and Finishing

When everything is assembled there will be plenty of clean up to do. I used flap discs on the angle grinder for most of the clean up work. When I had finished my clean up I sent it out for sandblast and powder coat before install.

Metalworking Contest

Participated in the
Metalworking Contest