Archive for June, 2012

So with the metal art project officially completed it was time to move onto and address some of my own projects that have been getting neglected. First order of business involves making some progress on my outdoor fireplace. I purchased a Heat N Glo Montana outdoor wood burning fireplace about 4 years ago. The fireplace itself is only comprised of the firebox and therefore the surround needs to be created. Last year I actually made a bit of progress and built the steel base for it and then framed up the basic structure. I got so far as to get the unit mounted and installed onto by stone patio. Once I got that far it ended up getting wrapped up in a blue tarp and that is how it sat for the winter.

Well this is the year when this project will see completion. There are no plans for me to follow in regards to building the surround. I have read the installation manual for the fireplace 6+ times to ensure that I understand all the building and safety codes involved. I then proceeded to design my own unit. Part of my design involves building a steel pergola type structure that will hang off the front of the fireplace chimney section. The idea is to simply give the structure a slightly different feel by adding another dimension and building material.

I sat down and AutoCAD’d a basic design. I used the dimensions of the fireplace to base the size, and angles, of the pergola in order to keep things looking proportional. So with the plan in hand it was off to the metal yard to pick up some flat bar and cold rolled steel.

In order to ensure that everything was built evenly I opted to trace out the exact template onto an old garage door. Since the project would involve multiple bends I would be able to compare the arcs I put into the metal to the template. Next I dragged my homemade metal bender out from the corner and proceeded to run a 7 foot length of 5”x 3/16” flat bar through it. The bending was easy and I had no issues creating an arc to match my template.

Next it was off to the band saw where the 30 degree angle was set and a set of 8 support arms where trimmed up. The arms were all cut from 4” x 1/8” flat bar. I would be lying if I said I cut them all to perfect length the first time. Because I was dealing with an arc; 4 pairs of the 8 arms needed to be cut at different lengths. Welding a scrap straight bar onto the 2 outer arms helped me to be able to cut the remaining arms to length.

Next it was time to start rolling some 5/8” cold rolled solid round bar. I was incorporating 3 arcs all on a different radius therefore as I needed to roll each arc tighter as I moved towards the center. I was fairly impressed with myself and my ability to get all the arcs bent as close to perfect as possible especially when using a manual machine.

Next all the previously built support arms had 5/8” holes drilled through them in order to allow me to thread the cold rolled round bar through their centers. I suspect I spent close to 2 ½ hours rough assembling the structure and clamping it in order to prepare it for welding. It was crucial that all the dimensions were set precisely as the purpose of the pergola was purely visual. I often find myself eyeing up structures and construction everywhere I go to see if they were built square, straight and even. It’s important that I know, in my own mind, that the pergola is symmetrical and spaced evenly. When the sun is perpendicular to the structure I want to see my shadow lines hit the ground evenly.

So with the final support plate fabricated and drilled and with the unit structure clamped down it was time to start pouring on the molten metal and hope the pergola doesn’t twist itself up from the heat. Between the Silver Beauty MIG and Miller TIG the welding was completed in an evening and the structure suffered no noticeable warps.

Another couple hours were then spent getting the unit ready for paint. The Silver Beauty MIG really throws down the splatter and so time was spend removing all the little weld marks. Everything was either ground or sanded smooth. The edges and corners all got their sharp edges taken off and then prepped for paint.

Next I moved onto the previously wood framed upper portion of the fireplace surround. The steel pergola was going to get bolted to the top section. Using some scrap 2 ½” angle iron I had in the shop I cut and drilled out some bracing for all the front vertical studs. The idea is to bolt the pergola on using ½” hardware. I confirmed everything was going to work by bolting up the pergola to the chimney frame.

Next, and final step, was to get some paint on the unit. I set up the pergola in the homemade paint booth and bolted it to the chimney section thinking this would be the best way to prime it. Turned out the angles were all wrong and I couldn’t get the paint gun in some of the tight spots. I opted to just lay the pergola down on the lumber frame and use the frame as a bench. Since the frame would never be visible the overspray didn’t much matter. Using my Iwata HVLP gun I laid down 2 medium coats of primer. The top coat was going to be a flat black. My local paint supplier sold me a flat black kit made by SEM. The kit comes with the paint, reducer, and activator and was exactly what I was looking for. With 2 top coats sprayed on it confirmed that the flat black texture was what I was going for.

So with the pergola section designed, fabricated, and finished I can now focus my attention to the fireplace outdoors. It’ll be time to pull out the wood working tools and start ripping sheets and pounding nails.


So the day had arrived where I was able to move into the final phase of the metal art project. All the fabricating and painting had been completed and the time had come where all that was left was the install.

 When I initially took on the project I did not anticipate the amount of work that would be required to actually get the structure hung on a wall. I, like usual, always underestimate the weight of my projects. My original plan was to simply bolt it up however the project morphed into something a bit more complicated. I needed to devise a plan to be able to build the sun on the ground and then hoist it up into place.

 The plan started with coming up with a way to hoist the structure 10 feet up onto the wall. Since a crane was not in the budget I needed something that was safe, simply, and cheap. I decided to use leverage to my advantage and therefore coupled a 55 gallon plastic drum and a 10 foot section of 4” C-channel together to give me a point to hoist from.

 As you can see from the pictures the C-channel was carried up onto the buildings roof and then lag bolted to a 9 foot 4×4 length of lumber. You can’t see the 4×4 since it is covered by the tarp. The tarp was there as a way to keep me dry in case of rain. Anyway…with the channel bolted to the 4×4 the 55 gallon drum was strapped to the opposite end of the channel and supported with 4 wheel chocks to ensure stability. The drum was then filled with water, approximately 350 pounds worth. Performing the simple leverage math the channel would provide approximately 1400lbs of lifting capacity…should be plenty. A chain hoist was then hooked onto the end of the channel and hung over the edge of the building to allow for rigging to the sun skeleton.

 Next I built an unstable platform to allow me to build the sun structure without stepping all over the courtyard bushes and plants. With the skeleton hung, the platform built, and all the rays prepped it was a simple matter of starting to bolt the complete assembly together. 1 ray at a time the project started to take form. After an hour of work the unit was complete and the hoisting into place could begin.

 The chain hoist and the support C-channel had no issues accomplishing the task. The metal structure needed about 5 feet of vertical lift in order to be able to perch itself in its final resting spot. With a bit of wrestling and grunting the structure finally got hooked into its wall support brackets. The entire ordeal took about 4 hours to accomplish, not including all the prep work and planning. My home brewed engineering looks to have worked out.

 So for the first time I was able to stand back and see what I had accomplished over the past few months. I hadn’t yet to seen the structure as a whole since I never performed a test assembly before the install. I think the project turned out a success. I have a very hard time seeing it in its entirety and can’t help but see all the individual components that I spent many hours staring at in the garage. The response from the lady who contracted me to perform the work was very positive. I think she liked it and was happy. The project certainly took on a different direction then what was originally discussed however this was also to be expected.

 In the end I am not sure metal art is one of my strong points. I learned lots throughout the entire process however I feel as though I struggled with much of the creativity. I was happy to be able to make use of my paint booth and enjoyed building the scroll bender and putting it to use. I am pleased to see this project come to a close and I am eager to move on. Next job on the list is to finish off my outdoor fireplace that has been in the making for 3 years.

So the deadline is coming up for the metal art project which meant it was time to get to the painting. By this time all the fabrication has been done, the support bracket that will hold the structure has been installed, and what remains are the painting, clear coating, and installation.

This project was going to allow me to give my homemade collapsible paint booth a try for the very first time. So early Saturday morning I trekked into the garage and set the booth up. My original plan was to hang the booth from the ceiling and create a series of brackets that will allow 1 person to easily, and quickly, set up the booth. This is still my plan and I even have most of the brackets fabricated however the current metal project got in the way and I have yet to install the ceiling brackets. Even with the paint booth collapsed and resting against the wall I was able to set it up on my own in about 40 minutes. I am pretty happy with that.

During the previous few months I had spent time collecting the supplies and equipment required to complete my first HVLP spray job. I researched a HVLP gun to the best of my abilities. Researching any type of equipment that one has no experience using is always a difficult thing. To help relieve some of my confusion I decided I would talk to a bodyman I know from the premier body shop located in the city. This particular shop deals with all the factory repairs on the Porches and BMWs in the city. Well it turns out that I was able to purchase a used Iwata W-400 gun off the head painter for a decent price. From what I read about the gun, and Iwata in general, is that they are well respected guns that perform very well.

Next it was onto the paint. I needed primer, base coat, and clear coat. I headed over to a local automotive paint supplier and talked with them for awhile before deciding on using a Nason line of products. I wanted to ensure that I got something that was easy to spray as opposed to good for the environment. I stayed away from the ultra low VOC water based paints and went with something a bit more “old school”

So with the gun and the paint collected I continued to make the collection complete and got a hold of paint strainers, gun wash, mixing cups, along with all the other odds and ends required. Not sure if was missing anything however time will tell.

So with all my panels prepped it was time to start laying down some paint. I was really unsure if the airflow going through the booth was going to be excessive and therefore end up blowing my paint mist everywhere I didn’t want it. I was also unsure as to how well the booth was going to filter the overspray. I decided to use the base of the sun project as the guinea pig since the finish would all be hidden therefore some failure would still be acceptable. Well I am pleased to say that the booth worked out fantastic. The airflow may be a little strong however it really didn’t affect the spraying at all. The flow was enough that I had absolutely no mist to contend with while painting. The cross flow was great. My exhaust filter was now shaded grey indicating that it was obviously doing some of the filtering. When exiting the booth there was a very slight haze visible in the garage but not much. I wasn’t expecting the booth to catch everything and I would say the amount that finds its way into the shop is well within my expectations.

So with the booth passing its initial field test it was time to start cranking out the work. I spent two solid days plus an evening getting through all the art pieces. The painting went well however far from perfect. I took some time setting up the HVLP gun but still need lots of practice. The clear coat that was laid on all the rays had flaws such as the occasional run as well as some dry spray but in the end it didn’t affect the purpose the rays need to serve.

So as things sit all the rays have been reassembled and laid, protected, inside the paint booth. Onto the final stage which will include installation. I am unsure exactly how I am going to hoist the project up into its final resting home against a wall 10 feet in the air however I’ll problem solve that when the time comes. I guess that would be now.