All posts by Mike Kilmer

We’re in USA Today! Loving Impact 100

Renaissance Man and Impact 100
Photo: Ben Twingley/[email protected]

We never got around to sharing this article about our beloved local Impact 100 (a loosely-knit, female-only philanthropic movement, where thousands of women writing $1,000 checks adds up to millions for communities across the country), whom we were blessed to work with recently welding and installing a handrail in conjunction with the Council On Aging.

Check out this article by Troy Moon, which is published in USA Today.


A Simple Explanation of Welding

Welding is probably the best know method of joining significant bodies of metal together.

Soldering is also a well-known method of joining metals, but the “joint” (join point) is weaker because the metals being joined don’t actually melt, making it more applicable in electronics and fine art or jewelry-making than structural work. It’s not infrequent that we use silver soldering in some of our projects around the shop. Brazing and Riveting are the other two forms of metal joining with brazing being similar to soldering (in that the work pieces aren’t melted) and riveting is done by drilling holes in the work pieces through which bolts are passed onto which permanent heads are created on either side.

English_-_Gun_Shield_-_Walters_511414Joined metals are at the foundation of modern civilization and here in Pensacola, on the Gulf Coast, and nationwide – if not worldwide – skilled welders of various specialties are numerous.  We wanted to add a simple explanation of the different types of welding for our friends and customers who are interested in learning, want further clarification or would like a reference resource. We want our clients to have as much of an understanding of the processes and methods we use so that the quality of our work and our attention to detail won’t go unappreciated (or unshared).

As far as the broad categories of welding go, Arc Welding and Gas Welding are the processes most common in small to medium sized metalwork or welding shops like Renaissance Man (as opposed to Energy Beam, Solid State or Resistance welding which are more likely to be found in large commercial production facilities).

Arc Welding is the process in which a power source is applied to an electrode, creating an electrical current which arcs through the air, connecting with a base material located at the weld point, exciting the molecules of the work metal to be joined to the point at which the molecules between the distinct pieces of metal become merged.

Gas Welding simply uses heat from a gas flame to excite the molecules of the work metals into a joinable temperature. Gas Welding is less popular – especially in industrial applications – than it was in the past, and the join points are less durable than with other weld methods, but the methods, tools and materials are relatively attainable and it remains a popular and sensible approach to pipes, tubes and repair work.

Common Methods of Gas Welding

Oxy-Acetylene Welding

The most common gas welding technique in which a blend of oxygen and acetylene gas are feed into the welding torch and ignited, creating the highest flame temperature from gas fuels. As fuel gasses go, acetylene is expensive and an unstable gas, requiring specific handling and storage procedures.

Oxy-Gasoline Welding

In cases where fabrication is cost-limited, pressurized gasoline can be used to fuel welding torches, particularly in situations where acetylene canisters cannot be obtained. Particularly in developing countries and poor areas, a common practice among jewelry-makers is to weld using a torch fueled by hand-pumped gasoline.

MAPP Gas Welding

Methylacetylene-propadiene-petroleum (MAPP) is more inert than many of the other other gas mixtures, making it safer and more popular with hobbyists and recreational welders (who also need to consider the issue of storing the materials). MAPP can also be used at very high pressures, allowing it to be used in high-volume cutting operations.

Butane/Propane Welding

Butane and propane are heavier gases which can be combined or used individually. They, like MAPP, are less expensive than acetylene and easier to transport, but have a lower flame temperature. Propane torches are more frequently used for soldering, bending and heating.

Hydrogen Welding

Hydrogen can be used at higher pressures than other fuel gases, making it especially practical and common in underwater welding. There is also hydrogen welding equipment that works by splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen (through electrolysis) as the fuels sources to be used in the welding process. This type of electrolysis is often used with small torches, such as those used for jewelry making.

Common Methods of Arc Welding

Electroslag Welding

Electroslag welding came into practice in the mid-1950s. It’s a fast welding process employed to join large materials such as thick steel plates. The plates or materials are usually arranged in a vertical position, as the Electroslag weld is designed to weld at this angle without causing distortion to the welder. The name ‘Electroslag’ was derived from the use of water filled copper areas within the device, which were included and designed solely to prevent melted ‘slag’ from pouring into other areas as it liquefied.

Flux-Cored Welding

Flux-cored (“flux-core”) welding was created and put into use in the early years of the 1950’s. Its purpose was to give another option to the popular use of ‘stick welding’. The Flux-Core process is mostly used for projects that require fast speed as it is an automatic form of welding. Many construction workers use this process on the job because of the speed and the ability to use flux-core welding in multiple situations on various materials. Flux-core and stick welding are our go-to methods for many outdoor projects, as wind can be a factor. Being in Pensacola, right on the gulf coast, a lot of our railings end up being on waterfront balconies. And yes, it gets breezy.

Gas Metal Arc Welding

The process of Gas Metal Arc Welding (GMAW), created in the 1940’s, is another automatic welding process. This method consists of the use of a welding gun which automatically feeds the weld metal through the gun for use. The weld gun also automatically distributes a protective gas as a shield from the natural elements. This process saves a lot of time and is best for a large quantity of welding work. It was originally developed for use with aluminum metals. Today, this method is mostly used by those welders in the automobile repair and manufacturing industries.

Gas Tungsten-Arc Welding

Gas Tungsten-Arc Welding is considered to be one of the most difficult and time consuming of welding processes used today (along with Plasma Arc Welding). This is because it requires a great amount of focus and skill due to the small area of space between the ’arc’ of the flame and the material being welded. Usually, small strips of metal that do not contain much iron are welded with this process. Though it is difficult, it produces extremely strong high quality welds when done correctly. Welders manufacturing bicycles and aircraft, both commercial and military, use Gas Tungsten-Arc Welding often while many other welders will never come across this process. Very little change has been made to this process since its release back in 1941.

MIG (Metal Inert Gas) Welding primary form of welding we use in the shop, Metal Inert Gas Welding is a process of welding that uses a gas to shield the weld metal. The gas keeps the metal being welded from being effected from natural elements in the environment, such as oxygen. This allows the welder to operate at a continuous rate, making the process fairly quick. Operation of the equipment does not require an extreme level of skill by welders, however, the equipment used in MIG Welding can only be used indoors due to the gas involved in the welding process. MIG Welding was originally released in the 1940’s but underwent many upgrades until being perfected in the 1960’s.

Plasma Arc Welding

Plasma Welding is very much like that of Gas Tungsten-Arc Welding (GTAW). The two processes are often compared because they basically work in the same fashion, only using a different type of torch. This method was developed in 1954, though even today, it is still being improved upon. Plasma Welding also requires more concentration than GTAW because of the smaller arc and precision of the weld. In Plasma Welding, the electrical current is passed through an extremely small nozzle which passes through the protective gases, enabling extreme accuracy when welding small areas. Plasma Welding can heat metals to very extreme temperatures which can result in deeper welds. Like GTAW, this welding process is generally used in the aircraft manufacturing industry.

Shielded-Metal Arc Welding

Shielded-Metal Arc Welding (SMAW) is also referred to as ‘stick welding’. This process is known to be the most popular and widely used processes in welding today. The first form of SMAW was created in 1938 but the process and equipment continues to undergo upgrades. It is a manual welding process that is very simple and inexpensive to operate. The results often are not as ‘neat’ as other methods and molten splatter is a common occurrence. Stick welding is mostly used by construction welders working on steel structures and other industries that require welding but do not have large budgets.

Submerged Arc Welding

The Submerged Arc Welding process can only be used properly on materials containing high iron contents, such as stainless steel. The device used in this process can be automatic or semi-automatic making it a fairly fast welding process. While it is a fast process, the electrical arc must constantly be covered by ‘flux’ in order to protect the metal from the atmosphere during the welding process. This cover also prevents any welding spatter which makes it safer for welders than some of the other forms of welding. The process is named after this need to be ‘submerged’ in a flux cover.

TIG (Tungsten Inert Gas) Welding

Tungsten Inert Gas welding is much like the process of Metal Inert Gas (MIG) welding. The main difference between these two forms of welding is that TIG uses a tungsten current form, while MIG uses a metal electrode. Because TIG uses tungsten, it requires an additional filler placed inside the welding device as tungsten does not melt in the welding process. Tungsten is unique as it can be heated to a higher temperature before melting than all other metals. Tungsten Inert Gas Welding is usually used in industries that work with stainless steel. We use TIG welding a good bit around the Renaissance Man shop.




Featured in Article on Success Through Persistence

Trish Taylor of Taylored NLP

This is kind of cool. How many welders get featured in articles by Life Coaches?

And Trish Taylor (Taylored NLP) uses Neuro-Linguistic Programming as a primary method in what might be considered customized behavioral modification. It’s pretty interesting stuff and we’re really happy to have Taylored NLP and Miss Taylor’s work here in Pensacola.

Check out the article for a short, fun read.


Maintenance Tips for your Aluminum or Steel Fence – Perfect Children’s Outdoor Chore


Cleaning an aluminum or steel fence is so easy most of the time even a child can do it. Typically it takes little more than a water house and a soft scrub brush with the option of a bucket of warm, soapy water. So…


  1. Water Hose
  2. Soft Scrub Brush
  3. Warm Soapy Water (optional)


Putting some attention into your steel fence once a year should be plenty often. Try to keep and unmaintained foliage away from the metal, as it will hold moisture against it, hastening potential rust and deterioration.


Most of the time you can clean your metal fence by simply spraying it off with a water hose. If you do come across tough stains or areas that need a little scrubbing, the following procedure should clean the surface.

  • Step 1: prepare a bucket of soapy water by filling a bucket with warm water and mixing in a metal-safe cleaning solution (one that won’t increase chances of rust development – just ask at your local hardware store – we like Pensacola Hardware).
  • Step 2: Dip the soft bristle scrub brush in the soapy waterand scrub the soiled areas of the fence.
  • Step 3: Rinse by spraying off with a water hose.

So when the kids are looking for that little bit of extra allowance, or trying to make up for breaking the cookie jar, “To the yard, kiddo!”.


Aluminum and Stainless Steel Cable Rail on Waterfront

Aluminum & Stainless Steel Cable Rail
Aluminum & Stainless Steel Cable Rail

A custom balcony or stair railing can always add beauty to a building or home and the Renaissance Man team enjoy elaborate and ornate projects, but sometimes the location itself emanates such beauty that the design goal is simply to add a safety feature with as little interference as possible, which is most definitely the case on this project.

Aluminum & Stainless Cable Railing
Aluminum & Stainless Cable Railing

Pictured here at the Preisser Residence, facing the Gulf of Mexico are two balconies on a stately three-story home embraced in a wreath of semi-tropical foliage.

Cable Rail Tension Ends
Cable Rail Tension Ends

We used an ultra-smooth, comfortable aluminum framework with a black finish just glossy enough to catch the sun, supplemented between the posts with stainless steel cabling that is stretched tight at either end and passes seamlessly through precisely placed holes at the mid-posts, secured by bolts visible only by a thin steel collar and softly rounded divot. The measurements echo the geometry of the stair and balcony planks.

Measurements Echo Structural Geometry
Measurements Echo Structural Geometry

A design like this is not only a near-transparent safety feature, but it is also virtually maintenance-free; corrosion/weather resistant and easy to clean. Click on any image for a full slideshow tour of the completed project.

Steel Cable passing through Mid-Rails
Steel Cable passing through Mid-Rails
Meeting of Cable and Aluminum Bar Designs
Meeting of Cable and Aluminum Bar Designs
Cable Rail Secured with Divots
Cable Rail Secured with Divots
Cable Rail Secured with Divots
Cable Rail Secured with Divots – Detail
Wreath of Foliage
Wreath of Foliage
Geometry Matches Structural
Geometry Matches Structural
Catching the Sun's Light
Catching the Sun’s Light
Soft Corners
Soft Corners
Near Transparency
Near Transparency

A Vessel Designed to Sink, Still Afloat

DSCN4171Realistically, many of us will not be diving down into the Gulf of Mexico to explore the Renaissance Man crew and Frank Patti’s latest endeavor, but it’s not too late to see this magnificent project in person because she’s docked behind the Joe Patti seafood market from now ’till Mid-June. It’s already received a bunch of attention from local press, and locals have been requesting as many memorial plaques as we can keep up with. Some of the plaques may even even end up being mounted under water.

DSCN4163Here are a few photos we snapped, but especially with the beautiful weather, we hope you find a few minutes to check out the project for yourself down on the waterfront. In case you don’t know, Joe Patti is at the southernmost point of A Street, where it intersects with Main.

It will be interesting, for those who do dive the reef, to see how the colors look under water as opposed to above. Pensacola BeachImagine sitting down for an underwater cocktail with friends at this miniature Florabama. Might even run into a mermaid or merman out looking for a hot date, but be careful if you ever want to walk again, ’cause love can be tricky and you may end up with a tail in place of legs. Pensacola Beach Water TowerBut if you can keep the old heart from getting the best of you, you may want to suggest a submerged virtual tour of the area including a visit to Pensacola Beach, a historic walk – or swim – through some local history including some ghost ships, the five flags which have flown over the city and maybe even catch a blue angels air show before calling it a day (or night).

DSCN4269DSCN4260As you may know, you can click on any of the images to the side and above this writing to view a slideshow of the project and of course we appreciate your comments, questions, confusion and even voiced resentment – we know we know – a lot to be jealous of but Renaissance Man Inc has been years in the making and not everything we get to do is quite this cool.


Feel free to contact us if you’re interested in finding out about purchasing a memorial plaque, or contact Emerald Coast Keeper directly and we’ll get you set up.

Call Sava Varazo at (850) 712-9566 to Request a Memorial Plaque.



A Tree Grows in East Hill

So, you have a particular spot on your lawn where nothing seems to grow. How do you address that in a creative and artistic way?

You call Renaissance Man.

Homeowners on 10th Avenue did exactly that, and the resulting steel tree blends beautifully with their existing landscaping.  Most people can’t tell that it’s not real until the see it up close.

It stands approximately 12 ft tall and was crafted by our amazing crew of steel pipe. It has a hand-painted finish and an interior irrigation system to water hanging plants.

A few sentimental items were included such as the owners’ initials “carved” into the bark, custom wind chimes and a copper wire bird’s nest perched on a branch.


Collaboration with Frank Patti on The Joe Patti Memorial Reef Project

Frank Patti, Jr.
Frank Patti, Jr. poses with the stainless steel Joe Patti sign.

Frank Patti, Jr. (of the Patti family) has a really awesome shipyard on the northern end of Bayou Chico, in which he does things like making two of the most powerful tugboats in history. So we’re pretty psyched to be collaborating with Patti Marine Enterprises, along with the Emerald Coastkeeper organization, in what is turning out to be one of the most interesting projects we’ve done yet; an artificial reef, decorated by original Kevin Marchetti sculptural stainless steel figures.

Kevin and Frank Discuss the Sinking
Kevin and Frank Discuss the Sinking

The structural framework of the “Joe Patti Memorial Reef” consists of a 175′ barge, donated by Frank Patti, Jr., which will be sunk at a location 41/2 miles southeast of Pensacola Pass in 55 to 60 feet of water – easily accessible even novice recreational divers. The unique aspect about this project will be the structures welded to the deck, which will bring more marine life. The images will encompass area landmarks and personal plaques, telling the story of iconic people, places and history of our beloved Pensacola. Divers will see replicas of the Joe Patti’s sign, the Pensacola Beach Ball and Beach Sign, the Blue Angels in formation, the Five Flags of Pensacola, and other area landmarks like the FloraBama, and they are selling memorial plaques, so you or your idea can also live on in perpetuity (see details below). All structures will be cut from 3/8″ stainless steel and welded double continuous to the deck. The steel module is 175′ long, 80′ wide and 10′ deep with large and small openings cut into the deck to enhance all types of marine life.

The 175' Barge
The 175′ Barge, still above water.

Frank Patti, Jr. developed the concept for the aging barge which has been used as a floating work platform for the past 20 years plus. Frank Patti, Sr. acquired the barge after it was used to repair the Pensacola Bay Bridge which had been damaged by the tug and barge accident in 1989. Frank Jr. hauled the barge out of the water twice for repairs, but decided a third time would be meaningless. Instead of scrapping the structure, he decided to do something significant. He wanted to honor the Patti family, who are legendary in the marine and fishing industries, and incorporate other landmarks that are synonymous with the area. Sava Varasso, of the “Coast Keepers”, is spearheading the project and donations from individuals that will help fund restoration projects, such as sea grass and shoreline restoration, and monitoring of impaired bodies of water.

Ready for Your Plaque
Ready for Your Plaque

Initially, a basic 2-foot-by-3-foot plaque costs $600 and a custom one costs $1,000.
After the first 40 plaques, the cost will be higher, though how much higher has not been determined.
People and businesses who buy plaques will receive a year Emerald Coastkeeper membership. For details or to order a plaque, call Sava Varazo, Coastkeeper director, at (850) 712-9566.

What other area landmarks or organizations to you think should be represented on the reef?


Historic Cast Iron and Rivoted Steel at the Maitland Art Center

Antique Steel and Cast Iron Metalwork at Maitland Art Center
Antique Steel and Cast Iron Metalwork at Maitland Art Center

The Renaissance Man team have completed antique metal restoration work on another recognized Florida State Historic Site. The Maitland Art Center was founded as an art colony in 1937 by visionary American artist and architect, André Smith (1880-1959). Their slogan is Discover, Engage, Inspire and we were honored and thrilled to be engaged for the restoration of their wrought iron entrance gate. The Art Center is one of the few surviving examples of “Mayan Revival” or fantasy architecture in the Southeast, and is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Antique Metalwork in the Pensacola  Shop
Back in the Pensacola Shop

It is, as they say, a small world and those who are involved in Florida’s historic art and architecture are a closely knit family so it ended up being though our work with the Pensacola Lighthouse Museum that Casey Jones of the Art Center was able to track down a shop with the experience to handle the restoration of such a valued historic landmark as not only a fence and gate of André Smith’s design, but an element of the center in which his life’s work was culminated.

Antique Metalwork Restoration in Progress
Restoration in Progress Back at the Shop

For this project, Kevin ended up transporting the historic metalwork hundreds of miles back to the Pensacola shop for the restoration of the historic riveted steel and cast iron fancywork and gate. The metalwork needed to be first sandblasted, then treated with two different compounds. First a tannic acid treatment for rust removal, and secondly a bath of phosphoric acid, which transforms the iron oxide  created by rusting to iron phosphate, which creates it’s own protective coating on the iron and steel.

Finally the historic metalwork was ready to be primed and painted in colors matching the original. The re-installation was assisted by Maitland Art Center’s own Mike DiSimone, who had been so helpful on the initial trip, that Renaissance Man asked if he would be willing to lend his skills in the projects completion.

We’re including a few more images of the antique steel and cast iron metalwork here as well as some additional pics to give you an idea of the magnificence of this historic location. Click on any image for slideshow and comments are always welcomed.

IMG_0561 IMG_0550-2 IMG_0537 IMG_0587 IMG_0585 IMG_0584  IMG_0577 IMG_0575 IMG_0566 IMG_0565 IMG_0563 IMG_0526 IMG_0517 IMG_0516 IMG_0515



Antique Wrought Iron Restoration at Pensacola Lighthouse Museum

Pensacola Lighthouse Interior Lenses
Pensacola Lighthouse Interior Lenses

Recently we were contacted by Matt Kuehne of the Pensacola Lighthouse Museum and asked to do some evaluation and potential restoration of the antique metalwork on the lighthouse.

Renaissance man has done quite a bit of restoration and repair of antique wrought iron metal work over the years and we were particularly excited by this project because of it’s historic significance… not to mention the romance of all things nautical.

The first stage in the process of a restoration project such as this is to identify the type of metal which we are working with. All irons and steels are simply iron ores with different carbon content and the level of carbon in wrought iron is very low. Its fibrous appearance is because of the oxidized metal impurities, or slag in the iron. Antique wrought iron work is usually identifiable by a lack of welding at the connections as compared with steel. By the time welding was invented wrought iron had gone out of style in favor of the stronger modern steels.

Wrought and Cast Iron Stairs at Pensacola Lighthouse
Stair Treads

Back in 1859, when this lighthouse was built as a guiding beacon to ships near the Panhandle’s coast, the stairs were probably fashioned from iron ore processed in a bloomery, where the hot iron would be fashioned into sheets or rods of different sizes and shapes after having been drawn from the smelting oven. The iron would then be re-heated until glowing red hot, held with heavy iron tongs and worked gradually into shape with a variety of pounding, shaping and turing tools.

Antique Metal Restoration at Pensacola Lighthouse
James & Kevin at top of Pensacola Lighthouse

Antique wrought iron is actually more similar to cast-iron than steel and though not as strong as steel, is more resistant to corrosion. But 150 years of salty, humid air will certainly take a toll and unfortunately the metalwork in recent years had been poorly maintained and we identified many issues to be addressed. After confirming that the lighthouse material was in fact antique wrought and cast iron, we made a priority of repairing the broken railing sections in the crows nest at the lighthouse’s top.

Damaged Antique Metalwork
Damaged Antique Metalwork

The next phase was to identify all of the issues weakening the metalwork on the lighthouse and propose a strategy to the lighthouse keepers. Significant problems were found at the joining of the antique cast iron stair treads and the brick lighthouse walls, where the limestone in the mortar between the bricks caused condensation which lead to significant rusting.

Antique Wrought and Cast Iron Stairs
Antique Wrought and Cast Iron Stairs

The approved recommendation included a full scraping and removal of loose rust flakes and chunks, and a rust treatment with a tannic acid-based rust neutralizer, followed by weld repairs and replacement of any metalwork that was beyond repair. Finally we treated every inch of the metalwork with a coat of red rust preventative oil-based primer and a topcoat of an oil-based black enamel.

With proper maintenance the restored antique wrought and cast iron metalwork at the Pensacola Lighthouse should hold up for at least another hundred years.