New Tool Alert!

New tool alert!!!  New tool alert!!!

Yes, many of you are just as excited as I am to have a new tool.  Especially one you invent yourself.

Mine sprang from the requirement to make a number of different kinds of leaves for a project I am building (more on that in another post).

My challenge was to make leaves heavy enough to stand up to the environment and still look native and botanically (somewhat) correct.

So I was off, creating something new!

The leaf blanks were started by drawing a number of different shapes and leaf designs on a computer so they could be cut with a laser.  Each of the leaves had to be slightly different to look more natural.

Then came the chore of making all the leaves look alive!  That requited the new tool!

press 1s

I have a manual press which was designed to do a number of mechanical processes (of which I have no knowledge, so don’t ask) which I have now converted to doing sheet metal work.  The press is supposed to exert about 2 tons of pressure when used properly, and can bend a lot of metal if used correctly.

So with my new tool in hand I was to become…the superhero…. Leaf Man!

Yes, I redesigned it as a leaf maker.

God made all the leaves in the world in one day…I quickly learned, even with this new tool, I was not going to be that productive!

 

press 2s

 

I had to start with a redesign of the business end of the press.

I first added round bar sides to the base of the unit, to give me a smooth surface to push against with the press’ arm.

 

I then made a small die which pushed down into that recess and would alter the metal. And thus a leaf was created.  As you can see, the process is not a complicated one but it sure saves a lot of time when you’re cold forging steel as opposed to heated and working on an anvil.  I have a lot of leaves to make, (about 25 for each Hosta) all of different kinds, (the Dogwood leaves are next) and this tool was going to save a tremendous amount of time.

 

Bend leaf s

 

 

 

Here are some photos of a Hosta leaf being formed.  I placed the Hosta leaf in the base and used the rounded dies to shape the undulations and gentle curves in just a matter of moments as opposed to the time it would take to heat the metal and work it with a hammer and anvil.

bend leaf 2s

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The finished plant was welded to the stems and is awaiting sandblasting and color.

hosta 2s hosta s

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here are some of the first Dogwood leaves I made.  I think they are going to be just fine.

leaf bend 1s leaf bend 2s

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

They use a slightly different die, but the operation is the same.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now some of you purist will not agree that this is the proper way to work metal, but it certainly turned out fine for me. If you look at the leaves, I think you will see that it has been a successful experiment and I will be using this press to create a number of other leaves for this project as well.

 

If you think you have a good refinement, or you think this is sacrilegious… I’d love to hear about it.

 

Email me at steve@stephenzmetaldesigns.com

 

or use the form below to write you comment.

Keeping My Eyes Open

In my business details are always important.  And, attention to details is vital to obtaining a quality finished piece of art.

 

Well, that attention to details…and being a very observant person, results in the discovery of interesting things that others just don’t notice.

 

I have, in the past, called this kind of observation “art all around you”.  Finding where beauty was injected into everyday, ordinary things.

 

Enough “Art Talk” what I am here to show you is a crazy observation find from a recent trip to Wales. (yes, the one next door to England).

 

I found a caution sign at a car park…(what we call a parking lot).gate 1

 

It had all the traditional signs indicating you can walk and bike and get by.

3 signs

 

But watch out… they felt there was a need to advise those around to the potential hazard of getting hit in the head…by something that is coming down from above the head…

4 sign

I don’t know why they had to provide advice about the gate hitting your head…but they did.

 

And there you have it!

Keep your eyes open and you will be amazed at what you see…

 

I’d love to hear about it when you do,

 

Contact me at steve@stephenzmetaldesigns.com

 

Or just use the form below.

The Wishing Tree

 

I was excited last fall when I received a commission from Richlands, NC to build a piece of artwork in their downtown area. The idea was to start atree s revitalization effort by adding a point of interest in the park downtown.  They want to bring more people back to the downtown area, and the park was a great place to start.

When I received a call asking if I was interested… of course I said yes. The town manager came up with the idea of creating a wishing tree.  The concept involved a leafless tree with branches reachable from the ground.  The people would take small strips of cloth and write their dreams, their wishes, or their prayers on them. These cloth strips would then be tied to the tree as leaves. They would blow in the wind until they dissolved away.

I first talked about this project back in the fall.  You can read that post by clicking here.

The design process was a lot of fun.  The structure had to be strong enough to withhold the kind of abuse it would receive, yet still appear to be natural and interesting.

I started building the internal frame after drawing the picture of the tree on the floor of my studio. I laid out two x two x 3/8 inch tubing and started welding the square structure together.  As the work progressed, the structure was worked to become round and textured like a gnarled oak tree.  The trunk followed a small plaster model I had made to give me some 3-D guidance. The trunk was sheathed in 16 Gage steel, which was textured, bent over an armature, and welded in place.

Here is my blog showing the roots and the structure moving upward. joint s

 

The branches were another story…

They had to be strong enough to potentially be grabbed and pulled on and yet still light enough to look natural… and they had to be low enough to be reached from the ground by most people.  I started using 3 inch rigid tubing and reduced the sizes down smaller and smaller ending up with one inch tubing with steel ball bearings welded into the and give them a nice smooth rounded end.

 

It took a few tries, and some consultation with my art director (my wife) to get the design right. But I finally had it finished and ready to go to the sandblaster.blasting s

After bringing the two pieces back from the sandblaster, I started working on the finish.  Originally the idea was to rust the entire structure and seal the rust with a clear coat. But I decided to use a metal dye which would color the metal brown color give me some optional color with heat and sanding.  The finish it turned out fabulous and the sanded areas did bring out the texture of the trunk.

kids s

 

We invited small children from the local preschool to bring leaves over and embed them in the cement foundation for extra texture… and it was a wonderful morning of laughing and being part of the art.

 

The tree was later mounted to the base and dedicated by the town.

ribbons s

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The occasion was a fun time for all. The day involved about 60 adults, and about 60 children from the local elementary school. They received the honor of being the first ones to have their wishes and prayers flying on the tree.

tree kids

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here is a 5 min time lapse video of the whole process… you will be tired after you watch it…but it is fun to see.

Overall the project was exciting to use as a test of my imagination, and my skill…AND how much weight I could pick up and move around shop!

The next time you are driving through eastern North Carolina and would like to see the tree, go to Ventors Park in Richlands, North Carolina and check it out. Open the little green box and write your wish on a piece of cloth, tie it to the tree and let it go.

 

It is the first phase of the park revitalization and I’m excited over watching the process in action.

You can leave comments with the form below …or, as always, email me at steve@stephenzmetaldesigns.com

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North East Themed Wall Clock

 

Here is a quick look at a wall clock I just finished.

It is for someone from the north east who wanted to remember his earlier days.

clock s

The piece features a warm sunset positioned inside a compass dial with a silver star on the NE point.  The large curves are accented with rocks curving down into the surf at the bottom and maple leafs curving up to flying birds at the top.

 

I think it is a good execution of the of the idea.

 

I would love to hear you thoughts,

Send me an email at

steve@stephenzmetaldesigns.com

or just use the form below.

 

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The Cat Table

I have a friend who is a cat lady.

No! not the kind you are thinking of!!!

She is not crazy, or old, or disheveled.

She is just interested in helping animals and has a great caring heart.

I was tasked with making a entry table for her home. An entry table is the one in the foyer where the keys and purse land as you walk into the house.

She let me decide on the design and, of course, I thought it needed some connection to cats!

cat table1s

My idea came out as a collection of cats with their tails up in the air holding up the tabletop. But a little experimentation showed I would be a need some sort of legs to aid in holding the tabletop.

I drew the cats on the computer and had them water jetted by Nash at Accurate Fab. in Wilmington. Those guys did a great job. The seven cats were all perfectly hunched down. I welded their tails on to finish the look.

cats 3s

But look closely and you will see something different… right in the middle of the cats is a small mouse hiding in plaine sight.

mouse 1s

It was a fun project and turned out great.

 

As always:

I would love to hear your comments or observations.

Use the form below or email me at

steve@stephenzmetaldesigns.com

 

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The Edging Stones are Growing

As many of you may know, a while back I started working on some edging stones for my backyard.

 

Now my backyard has a lot of flower beds and while thinking about the stones, I realized this was going to take a while. I have tried to make one a day for the past month or so…I have ended up with 12 so far.

 

But that is not so bad because they’re about 16 inches wide and they are first going to be placed around the most important flowerbeds “The most visible ones”. Then when you look out at the garden, you will see the stones and not notice the old brick edging. Then as I get more and more I’ll continue on with the areas not seen as much.

 

Well I brought home the first 12, and laid him in the backyard to let them cure even more (it really need about 30 days to make the concrete totally hard).

stone 2

I have taken some iron oxide (which is in item which you can buy at the lawn and garden stores) and started the ageing process. Iron oxide is used to raise the iron level in your soil, but it’s also will permanently stain concrete rust red.

 

But the idea of having a rust red concrete blocks in my yard is not what I’m looking for… I am just looking for some sort of accent for the details in the stones.

I’d like to eventually cover them with moss, or something of that nature, to make them look old, but the goal right now is to make the design stand out.

 

The thing about iron oxide is that whatever that dust touches, the concrete is going to turn red.

stone1

So you have to be very careful with it. What I do is I take little bit in my fingers and sprinkle it on to the spot I need the color, then take a small spray bottle and spray water on that spot to activate the iron oxide i.e. start rusting the concrete.

stone 3

I’ve done all 12 of them because the first trial version went pretty well.

I hope it works out well and we’ll see as the days go by as it rust and becomes more permanent.

 

I will fill you in later as it happens.

 

As always, I am open to your ideas, comments or suggestions.

Contact me at the email address steve@stephenzmetaldesigns.com

Or use the form below

 

A Day in the Life

 

A little while ago I bought a time lapse camera to record some of my work while it was in progress.

I have been playing with it for a while now and have made a short film I would like to share.

I call it…

“A Day in the Life of “The Wishing Tree” Maker”

How in the vain of total disclosure, this is not a total day.  It is half a day.  But that does not sound like an interesting title….

”Only HALF a Day in the Life of The Wishing Tree Maker”

 See, it doesn’t just flow off the tongue…does it?

Anyway,  check this one out.  It is a lot of fun.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rSiGGHDFYfk

 

As always I welcome your comments or questions.

 

My email is steve@stephenzmetaldesigns.com

Or

Just use the form below.

 

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