Amazing Sundial

I found this sun dial on our trip to the UK this summer.

It was about 15 feet up on a building… but then I am always looking up to see the stonework on the buildings…,

When it first caught my eye, I thought it was a great stone carving and it was… Moses and the Ten Commandments,  the gold sun and the Latin reference to God …but as I checked it out, I noticed that the (real) sun would move around the corner of the building as the day progressed.

There needed to be a second sundial on the other side of the corner to continue the clock. The second one was restructured to be accurate in the afternoon.

sundial s

Amazing!

 

It’s the little things that make art so much fun!

But, as you know, you have to stop and look around to find it.

 

I would love to hear your comments. You can use the form below,

or email me at steve@stephenzmetaldesigns.com

 

 

 

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Quality Art is Smart and Beautiful

I was recently at the Lenior NC sculpture festival. There were about 50 sculptors presenting about 140 sculptures.

The show has been going for 39 years, and they say next year will be even greater.

I had one piece entered in the show. It didn’t win, but it was purchased…and I kinda think that’s a win.

But I love celebrating quality work wherever I see it, and I saw a number of great pieces that weekend.   I also love art which shows ingenuity and craftsmanship…I call it smart and beautiful.

I met artist, Eric Isbanioly, a North Carolina artist, and was fascinated that he had created a coffee table.  It was very well crafted and very interesting.

elemental joe

You may not know without being told, the base of the table is a model of the coffee molecule. (It is a coffee table isn’t it?)

Eric named it “Elemental Joe”. There is even a little chemistry information on the website for those interested.

You can see more if his work at sTableMolecule.com, or email him at ericisbaniolydesigns@gmail.com

What People Will Go Through For Comfort

Here is a couple examples of exotic steps done for the purpose of making a bike seat comfortable.

They both come from England. Give them a look to see if you can justify all the engineering.

Number 1

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All those springs and extensions make the seat bounce a little more… why not add some cushion to the seat!

But it did look cool in its day, and it still works!

The owner let me ride it and I must say, it was better than if there were no springs… but still kind of stiff!

 

Number 2

And now here is a historical one I shot in a museum.

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This one is really involved,  and apparently, it cannot be used by short people.  Rube Goldburg could not have designed it better.

So I made a diagram to help the mechanically challenged out there.

bike seatStep 1:  the bottom of seat post # 4 is attached to bike

Step 2:  rider’s butt is loosely attached to seat #1

Step 3:  bike hits a bump creating upward pressure on post #4

Step 4:  that upward pressure is counteracted by butt weight at #1

Step 5: upper seat post #2 reacts by moving down on the pivots       attached to seat post #4

Step 6: as a result the spring attached to #2 stretches and allows the sear to travel downward

Step 7:  Butt at #1 feels less of the bump referenced in step 3

Not bad for 18th century engineering.

Lots of interesting things in this world…I just happen to find the weird ones.

If you have a comment send it to me with the form below,

or at Steve@stephenzmetaldesigns.com

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Wild Looking Bikes of the UK.

The Wild Bikes of the UK

As you may know we spent a month in the UK this past summer. We had a wonderful time and were exposed to many things we had not seen before.

One of the interesting things I noticed was the number of bicycles used in the UK. I am a bicycle rider so it was especially interesting for me to see the volume of people using human powered machines.

As you can see by the photo below, (taken at the train station in Bath, England) a lot of people use bicycles!

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So, you know me, I started looking around for interesting looking bicycles. And trust me there were a bunch of unusual bicycles to photograph.

      Here is a selection of interesting ones I thought you might be interested in seeing…

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As in many cities, moving goods for businesses is often done on bicycles here is a perfect example of a bike made to carry cargo.  The front wheel linkage engineering is a little involved….but I guess that is what you need in order to get that box to carry your supplies.  And it makes it cooler too!

We saw a lot of these cargo style bikes, this one in Scotland. Slightly different still doing the same job.

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And they all were used as advertisement as well.

DSCN0859asI guess this was the original DUI vehicle… from the country side of central Scotland. The name says it all.

 

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Of course people always make variations and use them to their own needs. This one had been converted to carry two small children.

 

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I loved this bike. It flashes back to the big wheels of old… which were almost impossible to ride efficiently. But with the smaller wheel, it was written all over town.   And the pretty basket is a plus also.  I would love to find one of these for sale. I think it would turn some heads in the neighborhood.

 

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I call this one the industrial bike. It had a huge basket on the front to. They had to shrink the front tire in order to make it fit. Then to top it off, the kickstand has to be added to the front to balance out that big box so that the bike doesn’t fall over.

 

 

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This one was a lot of fun. I walked up to buy ice cream from this man and found him very interested in talking about his bike. It is a real bicycle that he actually rides to work with ice cream in the cooler. He mentioned that it probably weighs 200 kg which may be in my estimation about 440 pounds.

He did mention that he lives downhill from where he works, which makes his ride home much nicer. 

 

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And finally, a bicycle built for two.

                                      As long as you don’t mind the skeleton…

 

I am always looking for interesting things, and I found a lot on our trip to England. So I am sure I’ll be showing you more .

If you have any comments, you can use the form below…

or you can email me at steve@stephenzmetaldesigns.com.

 

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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.

 

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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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