This project took me three years... but I have remarkably few photos of the creation of it.

It is difficult to arc weld and take pictures at the same time.




The newel posts support the hand rail on the top, and cling to the rocks of the staircase on the bottom.
In reality they are each welded to the top of a piece of 3/4" rebar that penetrates 6 inches into a hole, diamond drilled into the rock for strength.


Each root is bent to fit the rock it will grip.

The seashells embedded between the rocks are from a collection of shells we inherited from Kathy's grandmother.



The newel post is heated with an acetylene torch to bright orange. Then I slam it into the hole and start pounding the roots into their final position as quickly as possible.
I've got one shot to make it work. I plan and rehearse every hammer strike. Hit it to hard and you can break the rock, or break a rock out of the mortar bed. Dunnit.

After the steel is cooled the hole in the rock is injected with epoxy from a syringe and a big fat needle to lock it all down hard to the stone.




There is a pull chase that runs thru both rails. Some day I hope to run fiber optic lighting down it... but that's going to have to wait.
In the background, the door is still the plywood prototype door shape here.



The rail begins at 2.25 inches at the top and gets smaller as it descends until it is 1.5 inches in diameter at the bottom,


where the root comes to life with a claw,
poised to hurl a spherical boulder across the yard.



Rail bending was done with a hydraulic bender suspended from scafolding by a block and tackle to exactly control the vector of the bend, changing it to computer predicted angles as it traveled inch by inch down the rail, resulting in the predicted helical form. In spite of the rough textural quality, I think it's all within about 1/8" of CAD.
The whole rail bender mech was kinda cool but I guess I got so busy working it I forgot to take pix of the contraption...

The roots in the rails cling to stones. Each stone in the railings is diamond drilled and pinned into the grip of the steel roots.

The waterfall from the sump pumps running under the foundations have got the fern pocket thriving at last.
It takes about 3 - 4 years before the soil can become acidic enough for ferns to thrve in the alkaline fresh concrete planting pockets.
Same goes for moss.



During these 3 years the garage was a danger zone of flying metal, sparks and 2000 degree flames. My kids would just not even notice if they walked in and my sweatshirt was on fire or there's a dinner plate size smoking hole in the chest of my sweatshirt. I burned thru hoodies like firewood in January. "Hey mom... dads.on fire again... could I have a glass of water to drink please?"

Always weld in a hoodie. It keeps the sparks out of your ears and collar. A lot of this I did while hanging on the outside by a knee and an elbow. Easy to get a "bee in your bonet" when hanging upside down and welding. (a spark ricocheting around in ones welding helmet.)

I lost track of how many pounds of arc welding wire I cooked into that rail.



The metal is textured. I buy it in 10 foot straight sticks. There are three grains of steel "wood" in 6 different diameters. Ground about 700 points, then I take all the straight out of each one of them with a hand rebar bender. I use a hydraulic bender for the big stuff. I hired Paul Columbo to help me grind about 200 of these points.

Then I just heat 'em up to orange then and go after it in a vice, twisting the metal with pipe wrenches for a more natural, gnarled form.

One time as Mom was dropping her kid off for a playdate whilst the garage belched forth sparks said.... "Its terrifying to come here." I think that's the best compliment I've ever gotten. "Just yell when you come up behind me, and don't look at the flash."

Welding with kids around ads a whole other challenge. Metal stickers from the grinding all over the floor tend to keep the bare feet outa the garage.

Seriously though with kids and dogs around I always gotta shield my arc or torch flame from view and be careful who's around. A piece of copper flashing makes a handy shield you can wrap around the area with ease.


put hydraulic bender pix here...


To meet county code... among many other rules... the railing can have no opening larger than 4 inches. this welding wire spool is 4 inches in diameter. This was my guage. I worked my butt of to check, double check and weld in more roots all over until I got it perfect.

When Santa Cruz County came out to inspect, I had my guage there and everything. I was sooo prepared for the guy...
and they didn't even glance at it. Not one frikkin glance.


I also had good luck slipping a sheet of copper in between the rock and the steel for welding roots in place.
The copper pulls the heat away from the area quiclkly and prevents welding spark marks on the stone.
If the stone gets too hot in one place you can pop a big flake of rock out.