rusted gate
Photo: Richard Leo Johnson
For use outdoors, iron is hard to beat. Cast or wrought, the malleable metal is strong, nontoxic, doesn't burn or rot, and is impervious to insects. No wonder it's long been a favorite for railings, fences, planters, benches, and gates, to name just a few.

There's only one problem: When exposed to moisture, iron — along with its close cousin steel — rusts. Given enough time, every bit of the hard metal will dissolve into red dust.

The fight against corrosion never ends, but it can at least be reduced to an occasional skirmish. One veteran of the rust wars is Bob Bernard, a blacksmith in Savannah, Georgia, who keeps busy rescuing the ornamental metalwork that abounds in his city. He has no end of customers. "The air here is saturated with salt and humidity," he says. "On some days, you can literally watch the rust form on bare metal."

On the next page, Bernard shows how to get an old wrought-iron gate looking like new, a project that took just four hours over two days. To keep it fresh, go back once a year to touch up any dings with some primer and paint. Then every five years, he says, sand it and put on a fresh coat: "Keep the coating intact, and the iron will last indefinitely."

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