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Avoid Your Typical Pitfalls With Custom Pedestal Projects

Start By Knowing 2 Important Things
Published: Monday, 23rd of June 2014
Categories: Custom Project;Pedestal;Stainless Steel

There are two key features to consider when designing your custom pedestal posts:  material and finish.  These two characteristics alone seem to be the greatest factors in determining price and lead time.  Start with these and the rest of the details will begin to fall into place. Knowing what materials are readily available can impact your custom pedestal project. 

Architects, installers, and end users are simply unaware of the nearly impossible tasks that fabricators might need to overcome to deliver custom card reader pedestals– so they incidentally specify all kinds of shapes, sizes, gauges, and finishes that are outside the norm of readily-available material in the industry.

As an example, a common mistake is assuming all stainless is the same.  Reality couldn’t be farther from the truth.  Varieties of stainless offer so many combinations of gauge, constitution, and finish that local material suppliers (and even the mills themselves) can’t keep all stainless products in stock. Architects often don’t check readily available materials when designing pedestal projects making it difficult on you to deliver for the customer.  Knowing the readily available materials before you begin can help turn a custom project either into a cost-effective two-week deal or a costly 8-week challenge.

Pedestal CEO fabricates custom stainless steel projects daily.  Since customers often see electronic face plates (such as telephone entry systems, keypads, intercoms, and push plate actuators) in a brushed #4 stainless finish they assume a pedestal can be matched fairly easily.  Sometime it can, sometimes it can’t.  The truth lies in the material being requested.  Pedestals should not be made from the brushed #4 sheet that the face plates are made from; rather, pedestals are better made from tubing, not sheet… and brushed stainless tubing has many limitations.

Mills have limitations on the size (H x W) and finish of tube they produce.  Brushed tube can be procured from stainless steel mills but often require minimum quantity purchases and 6-8 week lead times to accommodate special orders. 

Local distribution centers that stock stainless tubes may only inventory a couple tube sizes on a regular basis– limiting availability and substantially increasing costs for small pedestal jobs.  Although stainless steel tube is readily available in some areas and in some sizes, it is not readily-available in a brushed #4 finish. 

Procuring raw stainless tubes and polishing them through a third party rarely creates the beautiful polished finish most customers hope for.  One might ask, “Why can’t mill finish tube be ordered then polished by hand or machine?”  Those who ask this question simply don’t understand how difficult (or impossible) this task can be.  The most common “straightliners” (machines that finish metal surfaces) usually have 4.00” height restrictions– limiting the tube passing through to 4.00” or less.  Furthermore, it may require passing the tube through 20, 30 or even 40 times– per side!  By doing so, the sanding belt gets so hot that “belt burnout” is inevitable.  Whereas these machines can handle mild steel easily, it’s simply not so with stainless. 

Brushing by hand is even worse.  A raw finish typically has so many scratches, pits, and dings combined with uneven “wall warping” that an electrical hand sander just can’t get the job done– and certainly not to the consistency that the mill can achieve.  This is of great concern when the customer is expecting what they normally see on brushed sheet parts like the face plates on telephone entry systems, keypads, intercoms, push plate actuators, etc.  

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Having anyone other than the mill to polish the stainless tube is simply cost prohibitive for most stainless steel pedestal projects.  Clearly, polishing stainless steel tube to a brushed #4 finish should be left to the mill.

This is only one of many examples where knowing the readily available material and potential difficulties may help an architect, installer, or customer design around cost and lead times.

Examples of materials and processes that can be more challenging and more costly than usual in the pedestal-making business are:

Material Special Challenges
Anodized Aluminum Prep work & limited tank size
Galvanizing Small quantities, increase the cost
Brushed Stainless Steel Particularly for tubes larger than 4x4 square.
Mirrored Finish Long lead times and increased cost.
#316 Stainless Steel (marine grade) Not the same as the typical #304 stainless
Bronze Matching Almost Impossible
Chroming Prep work, limited tank size, substantial cost
Copper Plating (& Patina) Prep work, limited tank size, substantial cost
Coping Cutting & fitting round together (two opposite shapes)
Tube dimensions larger than 6x6" Automatic red flag, consult Pedestal CEO prior to project. 

 

 
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Pedestal CEO has successfully fabricated solutions such as these; however, they each required special planning, increased costs, and sufficient lead times.  Simply put, these processes are not insurmountable but should be openly understood and built into customer expectations ahead of time.  

Pedestal CEO recently finished a project for the United States Air Force for a quantity of very heavy duty, brushed, #316 stainless steel pedestals requiring special order 6x8” tubing.  Certain parts needed galvanizing.  Furthermore, the tops vs. bottoms needed to fit together like tongue & groove.   There was little room for error– especially once it left our facility in Alpine, Utah because returning the order from a distant island would be both time consuming and very expensive. 

After a few very short consultations, the customer was able to give us 8 weeks for the project.  Despite the convergence of several difficult materials and processes, the project went smoothly and was completed on time and on budget.  The customer was pleasantly surprised at the end result noting that he did not expect the final product to be so good looking and heavy duty as it actually was!  We attribute much of the pleasantries from the customer’s ability to be open to certain production limitations and to plan accordingly.

If you find yourself up against a custom project, consult with us first.  In a matter of hours (not days) we can help direct you on readily-available materials, processes, pricing and lead time... an more often than naught, we can provide custom project quotes the same day we receive your request.

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