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Keepin’ out the riff-raff.

July 19, 2010

At the back of our building, there is kind of an inset or “hallway” off of the alley that is open for anyone to walk into; there are three doors that open onto this hallway: one from the dock, one from the basement, and one that is at the bottom of the stairs to the second floor.

"Hallway" from the alley

I’m sure that if our BAB wasn’t expanded three times over five years, it may not have ended up so quirky – but it is what it is and we have to do something about it.

As you can see from the existing photo – there is a lot of trash that collects back there. Maybe that’s a four-year-old bag from McDonalds. Who knows.

As we’ve talked with neighbors, we have discovered that our little “slot” off the alley is quite popular, as also evidenced by the graffiti on the walls inside.  Our neighbors to the south tell us that they’ve caught people having sex back there. (What? Couldn’t wait til you got home? How gross.) Even Rikita says she and her friends have used it as a hiding place. And, every time we’re back there, we get the fine piquant bouquet of urine. So apparently it’s quite the rest area.

Alas, we decided that we need to do something about it. A few months ago we thought we should put some kind of gate across it – but that would become one of those “back burner” projects. Sue & I had some general discussions and threw out some ideas – but that was about it. But we also noted the last few times we’ve been over there is that when we have one of those three doors open to that hallway, there is a lot more air circulating into the building.


So over the last couple of months I’ve been searching craigslist for “iron gates” or “steel gates” and such. We REALLY didn’t want to buy new parts to secure our love tunnel – our ongoing spirit for BAB is to re-use and repurpose materials whenever possible. But in our town there are lots of cool Victorian gates and fences, so craigslist has lots of cool gates and with matching prices. I wasn’t eager to lay down $800 for a 200+-year-old pointy gate that was MAYBE used by Pierre Laclede (noted founder of St. Louis), so I passed on all the historical stuff – did I mention this was a back-burner project?

Anyway – in a previous post I stated that our July 4 weekend was very busy. We were about to head out for a full day of pipe cutting on Saturday – when at the very last minute I checked for updates on “steel gates” on craigslist – and a very simple gate – 48″x78″ – perfect size – suddenly appeared, but the post was about a week old. Even though we were about to walk out the door – I called and asked if it was still available. It was! And an interesting addition – the posting mentioned “come see all of our other junk”. That’s BAIT to me!

Their “warehouse” was in some really cool old buildings that are part of the Lemp Brewery grounds. (If you’re from St. Louis, you’re probably familiar with that – others will have to google it.) Well, as soon as we walked in, we knew we were going to love this place and would definitely be coming back. At the entrance, I noticed a sign overhead that read something like: “Welcome to our store – if you need help with a project, let us help you design it. We offer discounts if you are using our stuff for public art.” Well after reading THAT – you KNOW that they have good shit there!

I inquired about the gate; they directed us to it. We checked it out, thought it would work great. But we needed other parts to complete the security gate – our opening is over 7′ wide and this gate is only 4′. So I took advantage of the sign’s message and asked for help. Fortunately, I had my ipad with me which included a) a drawing program and b) pictures of the love tunnel. So I explained our project, did some simple sketches on the pad for some possible designs, and the owner directed us to another building where there was more steel scrap.

A short walk around the corner and we were in another indoor scrapyard. It was neat because we were the only ones there and the sounds of our movement echoed around all the stuff stacked to the ceiling. We found the raw steel stock – saw a very large 4″ square steel tube and thought it could work as a column to hinge the gate on.

We had lots of fun looking at everything – saw opportunities in almost everything we saw – but we had to focus on the gate for now. And we reminded ourselves that we INTENDED to be doing something totally different today – so we had to stay on task. After a few more conversations with the owner, and a few more sidetracks (“Ooooh – look at that 1920’s chalkboard!”), we narrowed our parts & materials down to what we needed, and after three hours, we left with a BAT full of metal parts that we hoped could one day be constructed into some sort of rudimentary lathe, I mean, security gate.

Big Ass Truck with scrapyard parts for gate.

And you’re tired of hearing this – since it was a back-burner project, we just unloaded the truck, now full of sitting-in-the-sun hot steel parts, and went about the rest of the plans for that weekend.

Before the weekend was over, I spent a few minutes documenting and measuring all of the parts. There was a pile of steel angles that I didn’t bother with measuring.


And then we found ourselves suddenly on vacation last week, and Franco was both running out of real projects and getting tired of scraping and stripping paint. So we decided that we could probably get him going on building the gate, even though we were out of town. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the papers where I documented all the pieces, but I had some dimensions stuck in my mind, and I was pretty sure that I could remotely dig up the email that Sue sent me with the existing dimensions of the tunnel. (I’ll stop calling it love tunnel.)

I talked with Franco on the phone Friday or Saturday and asked him if he  was up for building the gate – he was definitely up the change of pace from paint stripping, and we just had to make some arrangements for some welding equipment. Fortunately, someone in Sue’s office had the kind of welder that Franco knew how to use.

So I usually travel with my laptop and remote access and all of my 3D modeling programs. But I don’t plan on spending an entire day using them. That’s what I had to do on Sunday – while the rest of my family was 100 yards away relaxing on the sunny beach of Florida (no oil), I was overlooking them up in our condo designing and modeling our security gate. Yay.

Here’s the design I came up with.

The computer rendering of the proposed gate.

I didn’t have the “scrolls” exactly right in the vertical infills – I just knew they were 10″ wide and Franco wold be able to figure the rest from there. I left the details up to him as well, since there would be some final dimension verifications needed after some initial parts were put in place.

I emailed him three pages of plans, dimensions, 3D views, and some hand-drawn sketches (I even planned ahead and brought a digital tablet with me so that I could “sketch” on the computer) so hopefully he could get a good understanding of the design.

He got going with the prep work on Monday – I asked him to wire brush and then prime coat all of the materials, and then put a first coat of black paint on them before he started construction.

Here’s his progress photo, of everything laid out in the dock area and primed…

Gate parts are primed in the dock.

On Tuesday he started with the welding and cutting. He called at the end of each day with an update. Sometimes he had questions, sometimes just an update. Sometimes just to tell me that quitting time was early because it was so freakin’ hot, and the alley starts getting the blazing sun right around noon and doesn’t stop until, like, midnight.


Then, at the end of Thursday, he texted me this photo with these four words: “You have a gate.” I loved it!

"You have a gate."

What’s really cool is that when you compare the “rendering” above with the finished picture – it’s pretty danged close! We think Franco did a great job. We went by the building today to check it out, and we are pretty sure that the antics that go on in the back of BAB are now history.

But Rikita will probably complain when she gets back in town.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. July 19, 2010 9:45 am


    Can I get a key to that gate? I have a date this week and was hoping to impress her.

    Thank you for your understanding,


  2. Susan permalink
    July 19, 2010 7:45 am

    Very nice! You and Franco are both very talented. You should definitely keep him around. A necessary project, too, from the sounds of things.

    I hope you & Sue had a great time here in our Sunny State!



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