Posts Tagged ‘metal art’

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.

And the saga continues with the metal art project. The deadline is approaching and therefore the end is near. It has come to a point where I have to address the issue of mounting the structure to the side of the building. This project, along with just about everything else I build, always comes in over weight. Apparently I am not alone when it comes to bigger is better. I few months ago I was taking a machining course at a local technical institute and the instructor had made a comment how machinists always seem to build things overkill and heavier then what they need to be. I guess we all over compensate to avoid failure.

In my particular case my “avoidance of failure” has resulted in a significant amount of weight that will need to be secured vertically. Earlier I had headed down to the church to scope out the situation. With my stud finder in one hand and a tape measure in the other I was able to map out the skeleton of the wall I was dealing with. The original plan was to angle the structure away from the wall at the top right corner for aesthetic purposes. However now that I have a better idea of the weight involved I feel as though I have no choice but to capitalize on mechanical advantage and suck the art work as close to the wall as possible.

This was going to create another issue in that I needed to come up with a way to secure it to the wall. In the original plan I was going to secure the artwork metal skeleton support first then attach all the rays to the base while it hung on the wall. Now the plan is to assemble the entire unit on the ground and then hoist it up onto the wall. I want to ensure that none of the wall brackets are visible therefore I need to come up with an attachment method the will fit the criteria.

Well I decided to build a giant “picture hook” type system. The plan now was to attach a wall bracket that will allow me to just hook the entire structure onto it. So after some time sitting on the shop stool and staring at the base skeleton I decided that some 1 inch pipe, 4 x .250” flat bar, and some gusseting will do the trick. Three sections of 1” OD pipe were positioned into the base skeleton to create a horizontal bar that would eventually sit into a series of hooks. To ensure the bar would handle the entire weight of the structure I built gussets out of .250” plate for each joint. The Silver Beauty then went to town on each seam and the molten metal was laid down. The Silver Beauty has really started to pull her weight in the shop over the last little while. Having a 220 MIG has lightened the work load of the TIG not to mention it is also a huge time saver on projects like this one.

The wall hook was built from 4” x .250” flat bar and consisted of 4 plasma cut hooks welded to a 72” section. The hooks are required to take on the full load and therefore the welds were crucial. To give some added support I created upper gussets on each hook to help prevent them from peeling off of the flat bar. A lower support plate was built in order to aid in load distribution of the upper plate. The 2 were then connected together via 1 ½” angle iron.

So with the support all fabricated it received a couple coats of flat black Tremclad. Then with the supports loaded up along with the base skeleton it was off to the church for the bracket install and a test fitting.

The wall bracket was secured to the wall using 28 lag bolts 3/8” by 5 inches long. 18 of the bolts went through the top support and were secured into a wooden header that split the upper and lower floors of the building. The remaining ten secured the lower bracket to wall studs. Although the load support was not engineered I am feeling quite confident that it’s going to stay vertical.

A test fitting of the skeleton shows I made one minor mistake. I had drilled a couple holes wrong on the vertical supports and there was interference. No big deal, it’s and easy and minor fix. 2 new holes get drilled and all is well.

I can now stand back and get my first glimpse as to the size of the finished project. It does look to be dwarfed by the size of the wall however the skeleton is significantly smaller then the rays that attach to it. So with the “behind the scenes” portion of the job done it’ll be soon time to set up the paint booth and start the finishing process.

Well it’s back onto the metal art project. This time I am entering the final phase of the creative process and need to deal with the center piece. As usual I have no clear direction or vision. The only criterion is that the center piece will need to be large enough to hide the center pivot where all 12 rays come to meet in the center. Other then that it needs to be unique and fall into line with the theme.

The build started off with some larger diameter chunks of pipe and a 2” piece of solid round machine steel. The rest of the center piece somewhat morphed into existence. I am not to sure what I can say about it all. The pictures tell the story and I suspect there is very little a person can’t figure out by just using the visuals. So I will let you browse the images as this weeks post. Any questions just ask.

Yes, here it is again, yet another posting outlining the long drawn out metal art project. By this time I have completed all 9 of the custom rays and so it’s onto the remaining 3 “god” rays. I realize it has been awhile since I initially laid out my original plan so as a recap; the metal structure is comprised of a total of 12 rays. 9 of which are built from 20 gauge mild steel and are all unique and custom. The three remaining rays are all to be built the same as one another and will be constructed from 304 stainless steel 18 gauge sheets.

In my initial mock up I used mild steel rays to simulate my future stainless rays just to help me lay things out. The time has come to trade in the mild steel for the stainless. So off to the metal shop I went with my 3 steel templates in hand to see what I could make happen. I typically resist farming out any parts of my projects. I would rather spend more time, effort, and sometimes money, to ensure that I can do everything in house. In the case of the stainless I had planned to have them shear my triangles for me. Why? For 2 reasons. First one being that the 304 stainless sheets comes with a plastic protector applied to them. Using a plasma cutter to trim my sheets does not work with the plastic protection in place and since I needed to ensure the stainless stays protected throughout the build I wanted to keep the plastic on for as long as possible. The second reason is that since all sides of the stainless rays will be visible I wanted to make sure I would get a factory looking edge on my trimmed sides. The best way to get this edge is with a shear. Well the metal supplier was more then happy to cut my sheets up free of charge, and they should, since I paid a premium for the material.

My initial plan was to leave the stainless rays plain with no design or visual accents. This would have been the quick and easy way to go however it is also kinda boring. So while I was at the metal shop I picked up 60 feet of 304 stainless ½” x 1/8” flat bar. My plan was to put my recently constructed scroll bender to work. Now if you recall I built a scroll bender a few weeks back and after initial testing of the tool it was determined that the dies were not perfectly round and required some touch up. So I fired up the Silver Beauty and started laying down some molten on all the flat spots. After working the welds down with an angle grinder and belt sander I was able to achieve a much more uniform bend. I was able to rework the entry slot of the center die which helped out with nice smooth starts. I would say the dies are as close to perfect as they will get without the aid of computer controlled equipment.

So now that I have the steel and the scroll bender I required a design. I began sketching some flowing lines onto the plastic protective film of the stainless rays. After coming up with a basic pattern I started to form the metal using both the scroll bender and the ring roller.

Once I had all the basic shapes bent I TIG welded the bends together to form a single unit. The rays are getting bolted though the face onto the steel backing structure so I decided to double up the use of the bolt holes by using them to mount the scrolls. Using an old sheet of ¾” MDF I built a jig for the bolt hole placement and welded securing tabs onto the scrolls in the precise location needed.

I was able to work my way through the 3 rays. All of the scroll work, from the 3 rays, are all slightly different however the design is uniform. I was fairly pleased with the end result and look forward to seeing how the stainless rays look when combined with the rest of the structure. Next job is to figure out a center piece.

So I am on the home stretch with finally reaching completion of the 2 remaining custom rays for the metal art project. Up until this point I have been rather unimpressed with my creativity on the previous 7 rays. This time round I finally built something which turned out well plus it gave me more ideas for different projects.

The first of the 2 rays, which is the one I like,  is somewhat of a “strap” theme. The idea was to use different dimensions of flat bar, all with different radius bends, and weld them onto a triangle support structure.

I started off by fabricating a frame that would bolt onto one of the 20 gauge sheet metal rays. I built the triangle shaped support frame so that it would sit neatly in between its neighboring rays.

With the frame mocked up I was able to start with laying down the strapping. I used a combination of 1/8” flat bar which included 2” hot rolled, ¾” cold rolled, ½” cold rolled, ½” brass, and ¾” copper. They were all sent for a ride through the ring roller in order to give them a curve.

As I began laying down one strap at a time I attempted to make the patterns unique and interesting. On a couple I of straps I added some copper highlights by wrapping 14 gauge Romex copper wiring around them. On a few others I welded in some automotive ball bearings and CV joint balls in order to create another dimension. In the end I liked what I came up with. Up until now all the rays have been built rather imprecisely and lacked a precision construction method. I’m not sure I cope well with this type of building method. The strap ray allowed for a little more calculating which resulted in a more refined look. Anyway…the name of the game is diversity so different is good.

The last ray was built using a framed concept. The design, nor building, was overly complicated. The pictures will do the talking.

Using 20 gauge sheet metal I plasma cut out various frames of different shapes and sizes. Then using a combination of copper, brass, expanded metal, and galvanized sheet metal I filled all the frames. I have yet to attach all the components to the actual ray. Again…I am not sure I am all that thrilled with the “framed” concept all on its own. Hopefully it will help to complete the 9 custom rays nicely.

So with all 9 custom rays finished off it is time to direct my attention to the 3 stainless steel “god” rays. Originally I was going to leave the rays plain stainless with no design however I am now thinking I may implement some scroll work. Only garage time will be able to determine the outcome.

So I continue to beat my way through the metal art project. Every time I publish a post regarding this project I complain about how I struggle with the whole job. Well today is finally different because today I am not going to complain, just take note that nothing has changed.

At this point I have completed 5 out of the 9 required custom rays. Well I was able to get my way through 2 more rays. The actual build is not worth elaborating on as the pictures pretty much tell the story. I was able to create a “strung” and “leaf” theme which will hopefully add to the diversity of the structure as a whole.

The strung ray started out with few lengths of 5/16” and 3/8” cold rolled rod bent to give them a wavy look and feel. I then cut out various sections of round and square tubing all different lengths. All the tubing was set up on the mill and cross drilled so that they could be strung on onto the cold rolled round bar. With all the sections strung on I started to twist and place each section of tubing to create a random pattern. As I created the pattern I tacked all the tubing in place along the rod using the MIG.

With the initial strings strung I was able to stand back and notice how bare the ray looked. There was a lot of the background 20 gauge ray visible and I felt that it needed to get busy. Using a 40 grit 4 ½” flap wheel I ground some circles into the ray to help the strung rods blend with the base. In order to create some unity among the other rays I added some copper and brass highlights. The copper and brass not only added to the complete structure but it also tied my 3 strung strings together.

Next idea I played with was a leaf theme. I had envisioned littering a ray full of metal leaves. I started out by welding up some “branches” to attach the leaves to. The branches were bolted onto the ray therefore I would be able to later separate the leaves from the ray for finishing purposes.

With the branches in place I started on the leaves. I made a paper template of a fig leaf and cut a few samples. Using a vise, dolly, and grinder I was able to shape each individual leaf and grind in some veins. It looked like things were going to work out so I went into mass production. I built the leaves from 20 gauge steel, galvanized steel, and from copper and brass sheets. All the leaves got tacked onto the branches with the MIG except for the brass and copper which were soldered in place.

So with a total of 7 rays built I have 2 more remaining, not including the 3 “god” rays. So I’ll do a bit more brainstorming and lug my way through. Soon the creative process will come to an end and all that will remain is the finishing and installation.

So I continue to make progress with my “sun” project. I keep “hacking” my way through the creative process and continue to try and come up with some unique designs for the remaining 6 rays. It has been a struggle and I find myself gaining very little satisfaction as I complete each ray. I quite often find that when I am forced to stare at a project for too long things start to get warped in my head. It makes it difficult to determine what is the right move to make as I no longer see the project in its entirety but instead I obsess with it square inch by square inch. I am holding on to the hope that when all the pieces get assembled they will all blend together and form a unified image thereby hiding all the “small” issues I am coping with in my head.

So for my next ray I decided to build one based on a celestial theme. I decided to build a solar system based on the twelve zodiac constellations. I understand the biblical debate involving Christianity and astrology however astrology is not what this ray is about. It is simply a map of existing stars plus I do not plan to reveal, to the church, how I came up with the design for the ray. If they happen to read this blog posting then I suppose the secret will be out.

I started by making paper templates of the 12 zodiac constellations that would help me layout the stars on a ray. The idea was to jumble all the constellations together to create a mish mash of scattered dots. I was able to lay out all my templates so that they interlaced with one another. Once in place I drilled out all the stars with a ¼” drill bit. I think it came out close to 115 holes. I had kept track of each constellation sequence and labeled them all individually to help me out later on.

So with holes drilled I needed to build my stars. I purchased 2”, 3”, and 4” long ¼” bolts along with 200 nuts. I opted to machine all the hexes off all the bolts and half of the nuts in order to create round stars. Once machined I simply bolted in all my stars, all at random heights, to all my previously drilled star holes. I used the machined nuts as the visible support nut on the top of the ray. The star was then locked down with a regular nut from in behind the ray.

So with the stars mounted I moved onto linking all the individual constellations together using 14/2 Romex house wiring. I used the bare copper ground wire as well as stripped off the neutral and hot wire insulation in order to make use of all the wiring. I wrapped each sequence of stars to create the constellation pattern. To look at the finished result it is impossible to indentify what the pattern is, which is good cause that is what I was going for. I added some brass and copper star bursts and called it done. The star ray, on its own, is not much to look at however when it is introduced into the rest of its team hopefully the contribution it makes will be a positive one.

For the next ray I wanted to implement some expanded metal. I freehanded some “flame” style lines into an empty ray and proceeded to do some chopping with the plasma torch. I cleaned up all the edges and then backed one of the openings with fairly tightly laced expanded metal. The look was a bit too dense so I cut out the expanded metal and replaced it with a section of .250” galvanized steel mesh. The mesh was a little more transparent which was more of the look I was going for. I opted to rivet the entire sheet of mesh onto the sheet metal as I figured the riveted look would add.

To help tie the “flame” ray into unity with the others I added some copper wraps to it using the same house wiring I used on the stars. In the end I was happy with the result. I have been trying to create a mixture of 2D and 3D rays and the flame ray has made its contribution to the 2D sector. So with 5 rays completed I have 4 to go not including the 3 highlight rays. I’ve got a few ideas stirring; some sleepless nights will help me finalize things.

With the main fame and the roughly fabricated “rays” it was time to move on and attempt to customize each ray of the current “sun” project. As previously stated I have continued to struggle with the design and vision since day one. Things are not getting any easier.

The idea is to customize each ray using metal of different shapes, sizes, colors, and materials. I will attempt to make each one uniquely different. I need to ensure that the entire structure will end up having a feel of unity but at the same time things need to have contrast and be different. I want to ensure that there will be plenty on detail that will provoke thought and contemplation however I don’t want things to get weird. Some rays will have my own significant interpretations built into them; others will be left to the imagination of others to help tell the story.

I needed to come up with a color/material palette. I have chosen to use bare sheet metal, galvanized sheet metal, copper, brass, expanded metal, mesh, cold rolled round bar, mix of cold and hot rolled flat bar, as will as different pipes that I have laying around. Using all these materials in different ways will hopefully allow me to create different colored and textured rays. I will take turns sharing all the different materials, and combinations of, on each ray. This will create my consistency and unity. The one big risk that I will run into is that I won’t know if my idea(s) will work until the project is complete. By that time it will be too late to change.

On with the fabricating…I started out with some basic ideas to see how things would progress. Each ray is being built “rough”, in other words, each piece of metal, weld, or cut is going to be done by me flying by the seat of my pants. My intention is to make 9 of the 12 rays far from perfect; however they need to be visually stimulating. I started my first design using a “dented” concept. The work was fairly straight forward, using 1 of the pre-shaped 20 gauge rays I hammered in different sizes of convex and concave circular dents. It took a wee bit of beating but the pattern worked out well. As far as all the hammer marks go I had planned to leave them, they add character.

The next ray I call a “patch” panel. I took another pre-bent panel and drew out a series of patches over the entire ray. Then with the plasma torch in one had and the MIG gun in the other (who am I kidding, I am not an ambidextrous fabricator) I started to cut out the patches 1 seam at a time. I followed the cuts with the MIG welder and tack welded them all back together again. Skill level required was 1 star but even though it was simple to do the overall image is going to work.

The third panel I named “pick up sticks”. The idea was to use .250”, .3125”, and .375” cold rolled round bar and create a jumbled pile of sticks. Since I intend to clear coat the panels I wanted to ensure that I could take the sticks of to aid in the finishing process. I rough welded up some support washers, bolted them to the ray, and then began building my sticks. Since I wanted to incorporate some copper and brass into the mix I decided to metal solder in a few highlight sticks to start to bring some color into the mix.

I am unsure how all these different panels will gel together once installed. Hopefully I am heading in the right direction, time will tell. Until then I need to come up with 6 more designs for the remaining panels.

So I continue to try and find some rhythm with my current metal art project. So far it has been a real struggle trying to find some solid direction. As I prepared to make some progress with the sheet metal I found myself continuing to feel very scattered and unorganized.

I had previously built the 1” square tubing base that was going to support all the sheet metal “rays” of my “sun” It was now time to start to add some form to the structure. I have flaunted my fondness, in the past, for sheet metal gurus and their abilities to envision 3D shapes, curves, and contours. This is a skill that does not come natural to me. As I sat and stared at the base I was trying to calculate how I was going to cut the sheet metal. Well it turned out I didn’t know. There was nothing I could do except clamp the ground of the plasma to the 4×8 sheet of 20 gauge sheet metal and start chopping.

I had built a paper template of the minimum size I needed each ray to be. So I used the minimum spec as a rough guide and then, without measuring, started to cut rays out that were a few inches larger thereby allowing for some overlap. I wasn’t going to get too concerned with an exact shape for each ray until the project started to come to life. So for now I ended up with 12 triangles.

I built a center pivot, on the base, using .500” threaded rod which would allow me to find some placement for each ray. With the 12 sheet metal triangles laid out the sculpture was not providing me with much inspiration or vision. I was hoping that at some point something was going to click and I would find myself gaining some momentum. I think I spent more time sitting on my shop stool staring at the structure then I actually spent physically working on it.

I have developed a technique over the years that have been a stepping stone to help me get out of situations when I do not know what to do. Instead of focusing on what I don’t know I turn my attention to what I do know. In the case of the rays I do not know how to shape or bend them. What I do know is that 3 of the rays need to be significant and stand out among the rest. So I got the ball rolling by placing the 3 rays in their approximate positions ensuring that they were doing the overlapping of their neighbors. I then started to weld up more bracing to help hold the rays in place.

Once the 3 were set with proper placement and proper height I began to bend and shape the remaining 9 rays till I had something that was representative of a 3rd dimension. So I finally started to get some shape going on. It was time to start bracing all the rays so that all my heights would be set and solid. Like I stated in my earlier posting I need to ensure the whole assembly can come apart for both painting and installing. My plan was to use 3/8” threaded rod, along with coupler nuts, to help my set in place all the rays.

Since this was going to be a long term project I needed to get it off the garage floor and into the work shop where I can work. I set up my saw horses and rebuilt the structure in the middle of the shop. I had never measured how wide my work space was in the shop but I can tell you that it is approximately 8.5 feet across. How do I know? Because that is how wide the structure is. It looks like for the next little while I am going to have to perfect the crouch and shuffle maneuver as there is no longer anyway for me to get from one side of my shop to the other in an upright vertical position.

So for now the basics have been done and the next stage will involve having to come up with some unique ideas to customize each ray.