I seem to have a never ending list of projects that I have agreed to complete for others. I enjoy helping out and I like the challenges that these projects present me with. However sometimes the projects get overwhelming and I find myself sacrificing my family responsibilities in exchange for getting these little jobs completed. I figured that if I am going to spend my time doing a job for anyone it should be for the wife.
Over seven years ago I had assisted my wife’s elderly grandmother in moving out of her apartment into an assisted living complex. This meant that many of her belonging needed to go elsewhere as there was little room in her new place. One of the items that needed to be disposed of was a suit valet that belonged to my wife’s grandfather. He had died many years earlier however his suit valet remained. When the decision came as to what was to become of it I was instructed to disassemble it and dispose of it, which is what I did. I know nothing about suit valets and I suspect the one I tossed was nothing special except for the fact that it belonged to my wife’s grandfather. In his working days he made a living as a family physician and used the suit valet to hang his suit jacket on everyday. How could I toss that out? Well I did except I kept one small part which was the coat hanger portion. The hanger was made of wood and was finished with stain. The hanger was worn in certain areas and polished smooth from years of use. It had both character and history attached to it. Anyway…I kept it and hid it for 7 years thinking that one day I will do something with it. Well it is my wife’s birthday coming up so I thought that this year was the year the hanger was coming out of hiding and something was going to be done with it.
So I actually spent months of frustrating brainstorming coming up with bad ideas as to what to build with the hanger. I suspect my wife shares the similar trait that her grandfather had in that she picks out her clothes the night before. So I figured what better use for his hanger than to incorporate it into a suit valet for his granddaughter. So this is the basis for the build.
Typically suit valets take up floor space and are more tailored towards men. Well I decided to make a wall mount female version of the valet. I wanted to blend together something that represented both my wife and her grandfather into one. I had the hanger; that was the easy part. I needed to build something that would actually be allowed to live in the house, this is not easy. I took my wife’s love for yoga and decided create a Lotus flower theme coupled with the hanger to fabricate a valet that would be worthy of wife’s approval. For those who may not understand the yoga and lotus flower connection you can read about it here http://www.yogapoint.com/articles/lotus.htm I started to read the article however my attention span is too short to support an article without any pictures of shiny metal.
The plan was to plasma cut all the individual Lotus flower leaves out of a stainless steel sheet. Mount them so they are suspended off the backing plate and then pretty the whole thing up with some stainless steel accents. The wooden hanger was originally mounted on the suit valet from the bottom side. The top of the hanger, the part where the hook typically goes, was clean and untouched therefore I wanted it to remain so. A hook needed to be fabricated and wrapped around to the top of the hanger from the underside. Finally a second hook would be required to rest the hanger on.
I started with a picture of a lotus flower enlarged to the proper size. I laid it on my stainless steel plate and used a Xacto knife to cut out each flower. The knife left a scribe line in the stainless that allowed me to free hand plasma cut out each individual leaf. With each leaf cut out time was spent at both belt sanders to clean up all the edges.
The stainless leaves were then assembled to form a template for the backing plate. Once I had a rough shape created I plasma cut the 1/8” mild steel backing plate and cleaned up its edges. I had picked up some 1/8” 304 SS solid rod that I thought would work well as accent pieces. I created some supports to hold the rods and TIG’d them onto the backing plate.
Something you need to understand about my wife is that she knows colors. If something doesn’t match then you had better look out. I would have to run for an umbrella because it would rain stress and anxiety. I went through 4 different shades of brown until I found, what I think, was the matching shade. This was the riskiest part of the whole project. The paint I used was a textured spray bomb that left a sandy and gritty type finish.
At this point all the leaves had .400” spacers glued to the backsides using windshield urethane. The leaves were then urethaned onto the backing plate. Now that I had something concrete I was working with I was able to manipulate the SS 1/8” rods into some “greenery” to give the whole project some contrast and balance.
Onto the hanger. Don’t know what to do. I started cutting things, bending things, welding things. Then I started to throw lots of those things in the garbage. I finally stayed simple and trimmed a section of stainless steel sheet out that got wrapped to the underside of the hanger. I then bent 5/16” SS round bar to use as the hook portion. It wasn’t overbearing or obtrusive. I think it worked out well.
The hook for the hanger needed to also fall into the simplistic category. I spun out a peg on the lathe using 6061 aluminum and then put it trough a 4 stage polishing finish.
So there you have it. Garage time well spent, I think. Her birthday had come and gone and the “valet” has found its new home on the wall next to the closet. She has put it into service and and small part of her grandfather lives on.