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Getting the look of Corten steel with different materials
By: Bob Buchanan
If you have surfed the photo galleries on this site or chatted with me about metal, you may have noticed I’m a big fan of Corten steel. Corten is the trademarked product from US Steel that develops a really nice patina when it is left uncoated. As a result it gives off a weathered and rusted look without actually corroding. In fact, the outer rust layer provides a protective outer “crust” – a sacrificial layer that protects the rest of the material. It also provides a uniform industrial look and finish.
On the other hand, Corten is not the best fit for certain applications. We were able to use it for the Artistic Forge at Purdue because the sculpture is under cover and not exposed to the elements. But it was not a good fit for a recent project in Indianapolis. Fortunately we were able to achieve the look of Corten using different materials and treatments.
The project: B Spot restaurant at IronWorks
If you’re a foodie you were probably excited about the opening of celebrity chef Michael Symon’s new burger joint in the IronWorks at Keystone building this summer. Next time you’re there, take a close look at the custom metal planters around the patio area.
The architect for the space wanted the planters to have the rusted look of Corten. The only problem is that these planters sit outside on concrete. With Corten we would run the risk of rust bleeding down onto the concrete patio when it rains. So we suggested an alternative: making the planters out of carbon steel and then giving them a paint finish that looks like Corten with a patina. This alternative looks great and will hold up well to the elements. Plus, it costs less than Corten!
The bottom line: be flexible with the materials you spec. Your fabricator may have a solution that will work better in your application, giving you the same look with different materials.
By the way, we did some other pieces for B Spot, including the custom guardrail for the outdoor lobby (which we custom fabricated to match other rails on the building). The place looks great – and the burgers are fantastic!