Preservation People: Iron Railings Repaired or Copied
Iron Works: Kenny Edwards
Edwards Railing, Co.
Specialty field: Custom fabrication of quality ornamental iron products.
At times, Kenny Edwards is like an ER doctor. He puts broken pieces back together, bringing the near-dead back to life. When a car ripped through an old wrought iron fence in a historic neighborhood, Edwards picked up the mangled limbs and surgically reconnected them. He painstakingly created gates for St. John’s Church in Richmond, an 18th century My Space for America’s founding fathers.
At another early Virginia landmark, the Old Stone Church Cemetery in Leesburg, he restored fencing damaged by rust. Repairing and duplicating railings, gates and fences is the beating heart of the business Edwards started in 1993.
But an artist himself, Edwards also designs and makes dining room tables, wall partitions, doors, brackets, and sculpture. If you can draw it, he can make it. Like that set of cemetery gates he did in 1997 for a Richard Gere /Bruce Willis movie. "I’ve never walked away from a job leaving anyone unhappy," Edwards claims. (And you can bet Paramount Pictures is one tough cookie.)
What attracted you to this field?
My father was a metalworker so I’ve been around it all my life. I started welding when I was 8. Most new railings are made from hollow aluminum tubing. They expand and contract. I work in a material that not only lasts, but ages well. I can walk away from a job knowing that 20 years from now, it’ll still be standing.
What’s changed in the field since you started doing what you do?
The technique is the same. Installation has changed slightly. Railings and gates have to be really stable. We set them deeper than we used to.
What job are you proudest of?
(Pointing to an elaborate interior wall partition patterned after a stained glass window) I’m very picky, into detail and enjoy working freehand. This partition involves intensive welding, grinding and shaping. I like sculpting. This piece will be exceptional.
What’s your dream project?
This wall partition priced at what it is really worth.
Why does what you do matter?
I love old historical ironwork. In places like Jackson Ward (a Richmond, VA neighborhood boasting some of the best iron fences and porches outside of New Orleans), I can take down sections of railing and sandblast, repair, and replace something unique. I take pride in what I do and know that what I build or repair will be enjoyed and appreciated for a long, long time.