STEEL ISN’T JUST SLEEK. . . IT’S ALSO RESOURCEFUL AND IS A MATERIAL THAT ALLOWS FOR A GREAT DEAL OF DESIGN FREEDOM. A STRONG METAL WITH MALLEABILITY, STEEL IS USED BY ARCHITECTS, CONTRACTORS, AND ENGINEERS FOR A VARIETY OF SOLUTIONS AND FAST TURNAROUND FROM MILLS AND FABRICATORS. THERE’S ALSO THE ADDED BENEFIT OF STEEL’S FIRE RESISTANCE AND THE FACT THAT IT IS A LIGHTER MATERIAL THAT HAS LESS OF A FOOTPRINT THAN OTHER CHOICES. BUT ALL OF THAT ASIDE, STEEL IS AN AESTHETIC HOME RUN FOR CONTEMPORARY MOUNTAIN LIVING, HONORING THE ELEMENTS, PROVIDING DURABILITY, AND QUITE FRANKLY, MAKING ANY BUILDING STAND OUT. BEND, OREGON, IS LUCKY TO HAVE SOME OF THE BEST CHOICES AROUND WHEN TRYING TO SOURCE RAILINGS, GARAGE CABINETS, OR SIDING FOR A PROJECT, INCLUDING BALDHEAD CABINETS, BRIDGER STEEL, BEND STEEL SUPPLY & FABRICATION, AND THE BLACKSMITH, ORION FORGE.
The King of Craft
There’s an old blacksmith saying that goes, “For by the hammer and hand, do all crafts stand.” The adage comes from a story whereby the King of England called all the guild masters together to determine the most important craft. As each tradesman stepped forward, each answered that his tools came from the blacksmith. When the king called the blacksmith forward, his response was that he forged his own tools. And so, it was decreed that the blacksmith was honored as the most masterful because every trade was propelled by his skill. Bend’s Orion Forge is no exception to this long lineage of skill and technique.
There’s no denying that there is a mystique to the glowing forge and that we’re all intimidated when we hear the hammer slam down on the anvil. A smith’s shop is visceral, loud, and typically houses a collection of tools that could date from yesterday to a hundred years ago. The energy of the craft is palpable for any visitor, but Hunter Dahlberg, the owner and blacksmith at Orion Forge, has a shop with a little extra edge to it, a collection of past, present, and future.
“I was living in New Mexico ski bumming and my closest neighbor was a smith. I would walk by on my way to work at a roofing company, always curious about it. So, I asked if I could work for him and I started learning. And then a few years later, I came back after mountain guiding and traveling and asked if he would teach me. We had always stayed friends and smithing was always in the back of my head,” explains Dahlberg.
“I was living in New Mexico ski bumming & my closest neighbor was a smith. I would walk by on my
way to work at a roofing company, always curious about it. So, I asked if I could work for him & I started learning.”
–Hunter Dahlberg, Owner, Blacksmith, Orion Forge
Dahlberg moved back to New Mexico and apprenticed with his neighbor, had a brief stint in Arizona, moved to Bend, and completed his master’s degree in Education before opening Orion Forge. Once he opened his shop in Bend, Dahlberg began making furniture and was showing pieces in galleries around Central Oregon. But as his work developed, his workspace expanded, and his tool collection broadened. His expertise and capacity enabled him to bring a little of that education back into his life too, as Dahlberg leads blacksmithing classes from time to time and also schedules one-on-one instruction for an hourly rate.
“Just about the time I was finishing up my master’s was about the time I decided that I wasn’t going to go into teaching and that I was going to try to start up my own business in Bend. I had a shop out in front of my house when I was in Arizona but it wasn’t until I moved to Bend that I had a proper space and started messing around, making furniture regularly. I sold some furniture here in town. I made a little bit more money so I could buy more tools. I could put more into the shop little by little, making it better, allowing me to progress, build bigger things and do more,” shares Dahlberg.
These days, Orion Forge is the first choice for metal work that is truly organic, artistic, and pays homage to the traditional craft. Dahlberg’s medium is at the core of many cultures, architecture, and planning. A blacksmith, unlike anyone else, is able to create a solution or a tool for the solution, and also give it a design.
“People who find my shop want steel. It’s architects, contractors, designers, and homeowners. Everything though, is a challenge. It’s all custom, designing for a space, a client, a project. Everybody and every project is a little different. Also because we’re forging, not fabricating,” says Dahlberg.
Forging means to make or shape (a metal object) by heating it in a fire or furnace and beating or hammering it. Hammering out heated metal requires strength, technique, and time. And it requires sweat equity. The texture and shine of the finished product show off the power of the process. You can see the visual weight of the gate and the refined angles of the railing. True to blacksmithing’s tradition, the detailing is rich and textured with finished work revealing the hammer blows and other marks of the craftsman.
“There are metal fabricators here in town who do amazing work, really classy, high-end work. But we differ from them because we’re doing forged work; that’s the difference. We try to educate the customer or the contractor, whomever we’re working with, that our shop uses different techniques of joining elements of a project than just welding. There is a difference when we join two pieces of material together. Where there is an intersection in our bars, joining each section together, chances are, they are going to look different and have a little bit more detail than a fabrication shop could provide. I’m not dissing on fabrication shops. We’re just a different aesthetic,” says Dahlberg.
Dahlberg says there were murmurs of an artistic bent until he discovered blacksmithing. “I got into leather and making things with my hands; pretty much anywhere I lived I would have small projects going,” says Dahlberg. But blacksmithing awakened something in him. “I remember having the moment where I thought, ‘Oh, hey, this is something I need to do.’ This is something that was awakened, you know, and then it has just continued to blossom.”
But the history of the craft isn’t for everyone’s palate, especially when the price tag is finally attached to the project. Dahlberg says, “A lot of times folks will show up saying they want this and that. And I have to explain the process, say we’re going to join things traditionally, when we attach the price tag, they say no and choose fabrication because it can be easier, faster, and more affordable than blacksmithing.”
“People who find my shop want steel. It’s architects, contractors, designers, and homeowners. It’s all custom, designing for a space, a client, a project. Everybody and every project is a little different.”
–Hunter Dahlberg, Owner, Blacksmith, Orion Forge
Dahlberg says it is hard to focus on his artistic pursuits, particularly sculpture, when there is so much demand for functional iron work. “There are artistic opportunities in every job, even when limited by the building codes,” says Dahlberg. His creative eye is inescapably a part of his work. His projects often use traditional ways of joining metal, like tenons and/or rivets. He includes salvaged finds and pieces with happenstance patinas. Or often he takes hours to work the material through successive steps to age it by heating and waxing to find the exact look of the metal that needs to be in someone’s home, for a centerpiece hearth, backsplash, or bar.
“I know my work is built well because I put my day’s effort into each piece; generation after generation will see the same thing,” says Dahlberg.
It’s in the Garage
“There’s been a trend lately for the garage to become another room of the house. We are designing sets with flat-screen tv cabinets, refrigerators, and sinks, making it a nice space to spend time. It’s not just a place to throw your
junk any more so there’s been a move to make it more high-end.”
–Peter Fleming, Chief Operating Officer, Baldhead Cabinets
Deep in the garage of many custom homes are the finest displays of craftsmanship the world has to offer—finely tooled works of steel that are their owner’s pride and joy. You hear the integrity of their construction as their doors close smoothly and effortlessly. You see the elegance of the design as you eye their sleek lines. You feel the craftsmanship as your hand brushes across the metal surface.
WE’RE TALKING ABOUT THE CABINETS.
Working out of a 55,000-square-foot facility in Bend, Oregon, Baldhead Cabinets Company has brought a new level of quality and craftsmanship to a section of the home that has not seen it before—garage storage. These are as close to custom cabinets as you’ll find in the best kitchens. Each one is built by hand. “We have 35 employees, not 3,000, so we’re by no means a mass-production shop but we’re definitely not a mom-and-pop shop either. We represent the highest of the high-end in our industry,” says Peter Fleming, COO of Baldhead Cabinets.
“There’s been a trend lately for the garage to become another room of the house,” adds Fleming. “We are designing sets with flat-screen tv cabinets, refrigerators, and sinks, making it a nice space to spend time. It’s not just a place to throw your junk any more so there’s been a move to make it more high-end. Of course, the reality is that you still store a lot of stuff there so that has led to the desire for high-end cabinetry.”
Make no mistake, Baldhead Cabinets are a cut above. As Fleming goes on to explain, “Over the years we’ve found that investing in top-of-the-line, high-tech machinery has been a valuable asset. Everything is done in-house here in Bend—from laser cutting to powder coating. Having everything under our control with this type of machinery allows us to keep an extremely close eye on timing and quality control.”
Baldhead Cabinets are more than just attractive, however. The steel construction is geared to withstand the harshest treatment and still maintain an uncompromising aesthetic. Likewise, their functionality is carefully thought out. From drawer cabinets, to tall storage lockers, to custom corner designs and tv, mini refrigerator, trash and recycling bins, they are testaments to the value of custom design.
“Everything we do is by our skilled staff of 35 people here in our Bend workshop. Some of these craftsmen have been with us for well over 20 years, “explains Fleming. That kind of consistency is always the foundation to long-term success.
But there is more to the story than just the quality of the product. Customer service plays a key role in Baldhead’s success. Most of Baldhead’s projects are not in the Bend, Oregon, area so maintaining an exemplary level of customer service requires extra effort. It starts with a conversation. “We try to get an idea of what the customer is looking for and have them send pictures and measurements. There’s a lot of back and forth,” explains Fleming. “Depending on the size and complexity of the project, we occasionally do onsite consultations.”
Although it’s not always necessary, it’s important to understand the level of commitment Fleming and his crew are willing to make to ensure things are right. “We’ll offer to fly out and consult in person. For the bigger projects it’s really worth it,” he says.
A recent project approached this scale and serves as a good example of how onsite consultation can be such a valuable approach for Baldhead Cabinets. The client had recently remodeled a large detached garage on a property on the northern coast of California and was looking to create a one-of-a-kind workspace for him and his sons. With a collection of cars, bikes, and other outdoor gear, the cabinet project began to expand…and expand. “We started the design process and as we were working back and forth, the project got bigger and bigger and bigger. Finally, I said ‘Hey, why don’t I come down; we’ll meet in person and I’ll take some final measurements to make sure everything turns out exactly the way you want it,” Fleming explains.
He was immediately struck by the beauty of the location but that also became part of the challenge. “It was further off the grid than we’ve ever gone before. He’s ordered about 120 linear feet of cabinets and we had to get all that up a pretty steep, dirt forest road. It was a real challenge to get that substantial amount of material to that remote of a location in a timely fashion,” he recalls.
Installation is a big part of the Baldhead story. “None of our competitors really do installs, let alone deliver $100,000 worth of cabinets to a house that’s off the grid down a dirt road and completely take care of everything start-to-finish. It’s one of the things that sets us apart,” continues Fleming.
The knowledge that comes from this level of experience is another factor in the Baldhead success story. Fleming explains, “We can pretty quickly get a feel for a space and what the client is looking for and from there offer our 20 years of experience to helping design a space that is going to not only work well for them but look good as well. Many of our clients are guys that are looking at this as being the garage they always wanted and therefore they want the best of everything and they want it done right.”
In this day and age, a lot of what Baldhead offers seems to be from a bygone era. “People are sometimes shocked when we say, ‘Hey, we’re going to be there in four weeks on September 8 at 8:30am.’ and then we’re able to fly across the country and show up at 8:30am on Monday morning.” Fleming adds, “Most of them think we’re crazy and that it’s not going to happen—that we’ll actually be there when we say we’re going to be there. Keeping our word and how that helps us build relationships with our clients is super important to us.”
Building a superior product and backing it with exceptional customer service is generally a winning combination. For the craftsmen at Baldhead Cabinet Company, that product promises to bring a new level of organization and aesthetics to a space that has become a big part of our lifestyle. At what point does the garage become the destination itself? That might depend on how close you are to placing an order with Baldhead Cabinet Company.
“Each project is unique. Every project requires teamwork between us and the customer; each is its own challenge. Whether it’s a $10 million Big Sky retreat or a wainscot for someone’s man cave, they are all treated with the same respect and involvement.”
–Steve Collins, National Sales & Marketing Director, Bridger Steel
When a company champions two priorities over everything—manifesting creativity and offering unparalleled customer service—the result is not just success, it’s Bridger Steel.
With service available in all 50 states, this high-quality manufacturer of metal roofing and siding has completely changed the game for the building industry by empowering the client with as much information and education as they can. Bridger Steel works with homeowners directly, as well as builders and architects.
THE ONLY THING MORE VERSATILE THAN BRIDGER STEEL IS STEEL ITSELF.
Used in nearly every exterior application of a residential design build, steel can be used as roofing, siding, and fencing. Interior use of steel is a newer trend that’s only added to rustic and industrial designs to include accent walls, bathrooms, kitchens, bar islands…the virtuosity is nearly endless.
Bridger Steel, founded by Dennis Johnson over 20 years ago, has always chosen one tactic over everything: empower the client, no matter the size of the project or if an order is made. Bridger Steel chooses to educate the client on as much as they possibly can before any decision is penciled.
“Each project is unique. Every project requires teamwork between us and the customer; each is its own challenge. Whether it’s a $10 million Big Sky retreat or a wainscot for someone’s man cave, they are all treated with the same respect and involvement,” explains Steve Collins, Bridger Steel’s National Sales & Marketing Director.
One thing that enables Bridger Steel to be so site-specific is the fact that their company model has evolved to working with local distributors, such as Ridgeline Metal in Redmond, Oregon. Building considerations vary from climate to climate, geography to geography, city to city and to ensure the most successful outcome, Bridger Steel maintains relationships with local experts and companies.
“Our teams learn many aspects of geographical challenges. Along the coastline we need to help homeowners understand how saltwater may impact the longevity of their roof, and this often comes down to specific addresses, rather than a broad understanding. Each home, each building is unique. It may be in a valley prone to high winds, or on a northern slope with heavy snow loads. Every single property comes with its own challenges, and it’s the job of our product specialists to walk through these with the owners or contractors until a suitable solution to their needs is found,” says Collins.
Bridger Steel has over 200 employees across its eight locations. Currently they are in Helena, Bozeman, Billings, Rapid City, Casper, and Kalama, Washington. New Denver and Sioux Falls locations will be opening soon. Sioux Falls gives Bridger Steel easier and improved delivery to the western Great Lakes, and Denver to the Southwest and parts of the South. With these new locations, Bridger Steel has the capacity to provide quick turn-arounds for everything available west of the Mississippi River.
The greener building trend is no doubt here to stay, and everything in the building world is beginning to reflect that. According to Collins, “Green building and responsible building are becoming less voluntary and more often are now required in many states.”
Metal roofing and siding is a great example of a green product as it contains recycled materials, can be 100% recycled at the end of its life, and allows for easy installation of solar panels or rainwater collection systems. Collins says that the only price difference you may find would be due to a steel panel’s origin. Sometimes poorer quality steel makes its way to the U.S. from other countries. This can sometimes lead to lower pricing, but for the most part, steel made and manufactured in the U.S. is green in nature and should not be different from one panel to another.
“Honestly, the biggest change I see is in the standard of responsible building practices. Most people are unaware of the benefits or the requirements in some cases. Our team works with contractors, architects, and building associations to understand the local building codes, requirements, and then offer options to the homeowners,” explains Collins.
With a variety of products available, from corrugated roofing, standing seam siding, box rib fencing, to various interior metal wall panels and accents, Bridger Steel is able to expound upon modern and rustic styles with complete ease. Steel easily blends with and accentuates materials like wood and board-form concrete. Bridger Steel offers over 25 product profiles and kits with more than 100 colors and finishes. But really why it all works so well is not the design team at Bridger Steel but the design ideas that the client comes in with.
“We stand apart from other companies because we love working with people who are just discovering what a beautiful design element metal can be. You don’t need to know everything about metal when you begin talking to us. You just need an idea, a dream, or a vision.”
–Steve Collins, National Sales & Marketing Director, Bridger Steel
If you take a look at the Bridger Steel website, you can easily become overwhelmed by the amount of information available. It’s the ultimate one-stop resource for a novice or an engineer to plug in their general info and be offered the sky as far as options and opportunities to execute the final product. Their mission and business plan inherently stand behind this frank and honest foundation with every customer who walks through the door.
“We stand apart from other companies because we love working with people who are just discovering what a beautiful design element metal can be. You don’t need to know everything about metal when you begin talking to us. You just need an idea, a dream, or a vision. And we’ll jump right in and engage in the design process with you,” says Collins.
Bridger Steel’s panels are made locally at one of their Northwest locations with the highest quality bare steel and paint systems offered in the industry. Panels have been engineered to achieve the best UL ratings for superior protection against nature’s most challenging climates from seaside to slopeside. The bottom line is that Bridger Steel’s siding and roofing panels look great and can last a lifetime versus traditional materials that may only last up to 20 years. Steel will never decrease in strength, is often less expensive, and is maintenance-free. And if the perks could not get better, going with steel can help save a homeowner a significant amount on utility costs by keeping structures cooler in warm weather and warmer in cold weather.
Bend Steel Supply
unique design & organic materials
“We do a lot of railings but right now we’re working on a custom wine cellar door that’s magnificent. The door to the cellar is tempered glass weighing somewhere between 850 and 900 pounds.”
–Jon Fay, Bend Steel Supply & Fabrication
Integrating unique design and organic materials into your architecture will inevitably lead you to finding more than one use for metal in your home, office, or possibly a sprinter van. From galvanized steel, recognizable for its waves and curves, to weathering steel, zinc, and the beloved patinas of copper, metal makes a dramatic impact, one that can stand the test of time, and every lifestyle.
Three years ago, Jon Fay came to Bend, Oregon, with his family, looking for the right business opportunity.
“It was very odd. When I moved here from Alaska, I was going to super for a construction company. I rebuilt Air Force runways after college and traveled all over the United States, but I needed to make a change for me and my family. After an encounter on LinkedIn I did something out of the ordinary and took over a failing business called The Truck Works, and changed the name to Empire Truck Works LLC. I was used to running construction sites and planning, basically,” explains Fay.
Fay says he went for it and began making changes left and right to correct services and an aging business representation. Two years into the business, the transformation has been bold and adaptive, and more importantly, very effective for the demand in Bend’s ever-expanding landscape.
Out the door, Fay has been reshaping the goals of Bend Steel Supply & Fabrication by adding fabrication to the business last year. Fay’s changes have been as dramatic as Bend’s growth, going from two employees daily to now numbering eleven. Bend Steel Supply & Fabrication is part of a 10,000-square-foot facility that shares a home with Empire Truck Works LLC, incorporated with a full steel yard on the premises.
Bend Steel Supply & Fabrication focuses on residential design, working predominantly with higher-end finishes. But the list of clients shows off the versatility of the business. “Just last year we completed the Trampoline Zone/Pickleball Zone. It’s a 60,000-square-foot, four-story building with hundreds of feet in guardrail,” explains Fay. “We are currently working on a K1 racing facility for go-karts that will go up to 40 mph. This indoor racing facility is the real deal.”
From 18-plex apartment buildings to interior assets, Fay says he sees requests for everything. “We do a lot of railings but right now we’re working on a custom wine cellar door that’s magnificent. The door to the cellar is tempered glass weighing somewhere between 850 and 900 pounds. We’re making the swing hinges for the glass panels. The cellar itself is built out of brick,” says Fay.
With all the stock and tools for fabrication, BSS&F can source a six-inch piece of square tube, build custom railings, or CNC cut, making BSS&F an easy solution for a wide range of building projects. Their ability to cut up to 2-inch plate and trace custom designs makes BSS&F a go-to choice for unique, one-time projects. They can take a spec drawing, even a hand-drawn piece of artwork and cut it out of metal, for an exact rendering in the metal medium.
“We’ve been in the business of providing steel for over 20 years and Bend Steel Supply & Fabrication has stocked the Central Oregon community. We’re lucky, nothing is more than a day away for stock.”
–Jon Fay, Bend Steel Supply & Fabrication
The size of BSS&F and its accessibility has given the company a unique role as the ideal solution for smaller projects, mom and pop shops, and endless custom job orders. “We’ve been in the business of providing steel for over 20 years and Bend Steel Supply & Fabrication has stocked the Central Oregon community. We’re lucky, nothing is more than a day away for stock,” says Fay.
Fay certainly does see projects big and small, and sometimes ones that are very specific to their location. “We had this woman recently come in with her custom RV, which is a camper built into a Ford pickup. She needed a back bumper retrofitted to her rig so she could store and access her boat rack to work with a swing hinge for her tire. We built a magnificent platform bumper for her,” says Fay.
BSS&F’s certified welders provide CNC, plasma, architectural railings, ornamental iron, structural and custom gates, stairs, bike racks, board and boat racks, and fire pits. If you’re in the market for raw steel for your own project, BSS&F has a variety of steel, sheet, expanded, and metal from which to make your selection.
They will also special order anything from bundles of rebar, raw steel, or steel mesh to square tubing and sheet metal. The added bonus of working with BSS&F is that they can cut, drill, or weld any portion of steel to suit your exact needs with their in-house fabrication services. BSS&F keeps a wide array of mild steel, stainless, and aluminum in stock. They do stock secondary steel and aluminum, sold by the pound or sold by a rounded-down measurement of a drop piece (“Blue Rack”).
Their range of cutting services include a CNC table (that can handle 1 ¾-inch cutting capabilities), chop saw, band saw, drill press, plasma cutting, torch cutting, circular saw, and down to a MAG drill (portable). If MIG, TIG, or other welding services are required, BSS&F has a mobile unit operated by their team of certified welders to visit and work on your job site.
Incorporating metal is raw, industrial, and yet warm and familiar. Metal’s texture, reflection, and earthiness all create a sense for the grounded, while honoring a heritage of work ethic and maintaining a sense of simplicity. Steel especially embraces all of these elements, and rare to many design features, serves both the aesthetics of luxury and efficiency. Whether you’re working with alloy, carbon, plate, or sheet, Bend Steel Supply & Fabrication is the place to make your design come to life.