August 2016

Metal's mettle

When Purchaser/Project Coordinator Tim Swartz first started with WallGoldfinger 25 years ago, almost all of the metal WallGoldfinger put in tables was narrow ⅛- or -inch shiny brass, statuary bronze or stainless steel inlay. Today, nearly all tables feature metal of many kinds, often centered around technology. Tim tells us about the trend toward metal.
 
Decorative metal
"Today's tables often feature wider, decorative and functional bands of metal, often 6-inch or wider. These can replace, or be in addition to the narrower inlay bands we've done for decades. Wide bands of metal inlay are often used with technology, such as hatch lids for power and data boxes and lids for retracting monitors. These metal bands also serve as a transition between say a stone or glass centerfield and a veneer outer field.
 
Occasionally metal hatch lids stand alone on both large tables, and on our popular smaller Summit and Arbor reconfigurable tables.
 
Decorative metal is also increasingly popular for edges, edge inlay and clad bases. WallGoldfinger has been doing a lot of applied metal edges in the last several years. This is a flat metal edge glued on with a special flexible epoxy that accounts for the differences in movement between metal and wood. We also use bent, 90-degree corner pieces of metal rather than a miter joint at the corner to avoid the risk of separation and exposing what would be a chisel-sharp edge at the corners. 
 
Most common metals
The most common decorative metals used in today's WallGoldfinger furniture are stainless steel and statuary bronze, the latter of which has been impressively popular over the last several years. Stainless steel is brushed or polished. Clad bases tend to feature either bronze or stainless steel, but a note of caution about polished stainless steel clad bases: they create a mirror like finish. In fact, unlike the modesty panels we often add to furniture, you might call them an immodesty panel. Polished stainless steel also shows scratches and finger prints more easily than its brushed counterpart.
 
Unlimited color choices of powder coat over aluminum are also popular, especially in the Comfort Edge pan frames and metal legs used as part of our Arbor reconfigurable table line. We call it the Comfort Edge because the bottom edge of the frame is slightly rounded, making it both comfortable to carry and preventing damage to chair arms.
 
Structural metal
I'd estimate that 75 percent of today's furniture includes decorative metal. But decorative metal is by no means the only type of metal that goes into the furniture we build. In addition to incorporating metal into the Arbor tables, metal components make our Summit tilt-top table line function. Today's designers are also pushing the limit on engineering and gravity, necessitating metal supports within or under tables and other furniture to keep large cantilevers and expanses level and upright with minimal bases.
 
WallGoldfinger works with structural engineers and special fabricators to professionally engineer and build welded steel support frames. We also use steel beams under furniture when long spans without base support are called for, slotted aluminum extrusions for creating support without welding, and in the case of a couple of recent tables and benching workstations, thin metal fins protruding from the base for extra support. Metal fins and support beams are often preferred because they take up far less space than an equivalent wood support, improving leg room.
 
Considerations when choosing metal
When it comes to adding metal to tables there are the pluses of stability in the case of structural metal and beauty in the case of decorative metal. But it should be noted that metal comes at a cost and almost always slows a project down considerably. Metal must be custom fabricated by an outside vendor, or what I like to call a partner fabricator, able to meet clients' and WallGoldfinger's high quality standards. It is specialized, detailed work that takes skill and time. Statuary bronze is perhaps the best example, as it is mostly created by hand. Statuary bronze is brushed and then acid is applied by hand to oxidize the surface. The acid is wiped off with a rag after a period of time depending on whether a light, medium or dark finish is desired on the bronze. Statuary or antique bronze finishes are also the most likely to have variations in color because of the hand-wiping process. At the same time, all curved pieces of metal, whether stainless or bronze, require hand brushing to make the brush match the curve.
 
A final consideration to weigh when choosing metal is the type of metal edging chosen. A pan frame style, such as often used with an Arbor table, while sturdy and convenient, will result in a small gap between the edge and inset tabletop, whereas an applied edge will not. An alternative is to have a small hardwood edge extend over the pan frame. There are many options.
 
Learn more
As always, we are happy to talk to you about the right metal for you and what it means to your project in terms of costs and production time."  

About us

WallGoldfinger produces the world's finest corporate office furniture. From custom boardroom and conference tables, lecterns and credenzas to meticulously-crafted product lines, WallGoldfinger's furniture is designed with state-of-the-art, integrated technology solutions, responsibly sourced and made in America for discriminating designers, furniture dealers and corporate clients.
 
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