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

 

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Giant Helmets!

Over the past month I have been working on something totally unheard of before today.

A four foot wide fire helmet.

front s

No we don’t have big headed firemen in the area. (well we might, but that is a different story)  but we do have firemen with an imagination.  And as you know I love people with imagination.

The Beulaville NC fire department has been in the process of remodeling their fire house for a while now.  As the build was coming to an end they started looking at the asthetics of the building.  The new stucco was on and looked great.  The additions matched with the older building.  The office areas were nice.  But something was missing.

The discussion turned to the door awnings.  One of the officers of the department took a small foam helmet off a car antenna and cut it in half.  In doing so he was able to show his idea of how the awnings should look on the building.

Yes. the awnings over the doors were going to be big red fire helmets.

And he said “I know just the guy to do it”.   Thank you Patrick, I have had a great time building them!!

The process was an interesting challenge.metal one s

I started with a real size helmet.  It had ribs, a brim, and a shield identifying the unit.  Then I noticed the shield was held in place by an eagle.  So there was more to the idea than I first thought.

Bending the steel pieces for the ribs was something I farmed out to an ironworker who was able to bend the tubing for the ribs of the helmet on a special roller.  They were then welded into the helmet ribs.

I started hand cutting the shape of the shield from 16gage steel using a plasma torch.  It turned out to be about 3 feet tall and 2 feet wide.  It was braced and its’ attachments to the ribs was worked out so that it could be sent to be powder coated and hand lettered.

The design of the eagle was a challenge but came together beautifully.  He attaches to the top of the helmet, and the shield is held in his beak.

All the pieces were sent to be powder coated “fire engine red” (what other option was there?)

two s

They were installed the other day.  I think they will be the talk of the town at all the fire department meetings in the area.

As always,  I would love to hear your comments,

use the form below

or email me at steve@stephenzmetaldesigns.com

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More Carved Stone

(OK maybe not Carved Stone… But close).

I have a backyard with a number of flowerbeds… In my brain, if you make a flower bed, you work hard for a little while and it is done.  If you have a lawn, you work hard every week.  So I have made flower beds from the beginning.

The trick to a nice look with your beds is to have sharp, clean borders.

I achieved it with vintage bricks which I salvaged from the demolition of downtown Jacksonville.  (no surprise to anyone who knows me)

Well, the bricks get knocked  around and run over by the lawn guy

               (no I don’t cut the grass myself anymore, so some of that introduction doesn’t work anymore…)

So I decided to design and cast my own edging stones.

I have tried this on a smaller scale with edging for the herb garden around my pizza oven.  Here is a photo.

small stones

I wanted a bigger stone for the beds,  one that would be further in the ground and hold more mulch behind it. 

First, drew out a design and got it approved by my art director (aka. wife).

drawing small

 

 

 

 

I carved the design from plaster.  It is a whole lot softer to carve than wood or any other material I know.  And if you screw up just add more plaster and start again.

plaster

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next came the process of making the mold.  The “Smooth On” company ( yes, that is their name) has a number of “rubber” mold making materials and will gladly explain it to you on their web site. 

I bought a gallon mixture of mold making stuff, mixed it as directed, and poured it over the plaster piece…                                   waited one day…   and ta da  it worked.

I have been casting one piece a day for about a week.  I made a rolling cart, which is my version of a production line.  The mold and a new casting is on one side, the newly cast, one day old piece on the other.  After they are out of the mold for a day they are gently set aside to cure for another day.cradle 2

 

So far so good.

But remember, I have a lot of flowerbeds so this may go on for awhile….like maybe a year….i guess I should do the math and really see how long it will take.

As always I would love to hear your comments or suggestions.

You can use the form below or email me at

Steve@stephenzmetaldesigns.com

The Arbortech Pro

My new wood grinding wheel has arrived!

Arbortechphoto

It will replace the old “Chainsaw” version you see here:

blade 1

blade 2

 

 

 

 

 

The old one worked well but it was scary to use some times.  It always wanted to dig in and gouge more than I wanted.  It took a lot of technique to get it to work and produce the results I wanted.  After a day of carving my hands were pretty sore and tired due to the need to control the grinder with a lot of force.

The new one will still have to be controlled as safety is always the concern when you have a tool spinning at 10,000 RPMs.  But the Arbortech is made to work smoother and cleaner.

I cannot wait to get a project going with the new tool.

Here is an example of a bowl I made with the grinder:

bowl

You can see another bowl I carved by clicking here.

I get burls most of my burls from a local sawmill and tree trimmers I know.  Here is my current collection:

burl 1 (10)

The Metal turtle head at the bottom of the photo is not a burl….it is a metal turtle head!

I am currently working on this one,

bowl

It is Oak wood, and about 18” x 36” x 7”tall.

I have been drying it for over a year to keep it from cracking.  It was hollow to the point of being 2 to 4 inches thick when I got it.  I ground it down to a uniform 2 inches to start the drying process.  Later I went to about 1 inch…

Now I have the Arbortech!  Who knows what will happen!

I’ll post some photos when I have it finished.

 

If you have any ideas drop me a line at:

Steve@stephenzmetaldesigns.com

or use the comment box below.

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What is it Supposed to Be?

OK everyone.  Especially all you wood people out there…

 

Here is a piece of wood I collected on the New River several years ago.

It is a trunk of a cedar tree, about 3 feet long.  But as you can see it had lived an interesting life.

tree 3s

The piece was blown down by the weather and had hung itself up on a swampy bank.

 

We cut it and brought it home for future use…that future is now.

 

 

 

 

 

Here is a top view showing how the tree wraps around itself and then returns toward top of the tree.

 

 

 

Here is a side view

tree 2 s

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And the other side

 

tree 1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What should it be.

I would not mind carving it… or slicing it into a slab of some sort…

 

I tried to listen like George Nakashima…but for 2 years it has not talked to me.

Maybe it will say something for you to hear.

 

If you have an idea

Email me at steve@stephenzmetaldesigns.com

Or just use the form below.

 

I am waiting for ideas…

All the Photos

I just received an email from a reader of my blog.

She was pointing out I had not posted all the photos of my recent “The Art of Nature” coat treeshow.

I uploaded …

(sorry, that is a lie. I don’t know how to do that stuff… I sent them to my web manager and she did it for me)

… the photos on my web site, but she reminded me to also get them into the blog.

The collection was well received and there are only 4 pieces left from the original 9.

4 are sold and one has been adopted by my wife for our home.    (the ultimate approval indicator)

I am planning to recreate slightly altered versions of the sold pieces.  I never want to make the same thing twice.  I want each piece to be unique…and I also I don’t like making things twice. (did I say that already?)

I want to do new things and create unique pieces.  There are exceptions, but that is where I am going.

Each piece is designed around native southeastern wildflowers.  It is a blast to research the designs and then figure out how to interpret those designs in steel.

I hope you enjoy seeing them.

As always, I would love to know what you think.

You can use the form below or email me at steve@stephenzmetaldesigns.com

   Oh right, I almost forgot the link for the photos …see them here.

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Almost Over

There is only one more week in the run of my one man show,

“The Art of Nature”

anvil2

Yep, I’ll will be taking the photos off the wall and removing the pieces that I get to keep.

If you did not get to see the show… go NOW!

If you are too far away you can see some great photos by clicking HERE.

I also was written up by Christopher Thomas in the Jacksonville Daily News and you can see his article by clicking HERE.

But the fun part will be to deliver the pieces I sold.  I love the idea of knowing my work is in the hands of someone who loves it as much as I do.

And being able to deliver them and see that reaction again will be a lot of fun.

red anvilAs I said before, I now get to do the recreating, and redesigning of the pieces which sold.  I never want to make the same piece twice.  So each piece I make can be unique in the world…or… unless you are a Si-Fi believer in a parallel world on the other side of the sun…the only one in the UNIVERSE!!

I think it is nice to ponder (yes I used the word ponder, I am from the south) something in your possession as being the only one.  The only table, the only piece of artwork, the only handmade wallet even.  Things created by hand are almost always going to be one of a kind.  There are processes to make reproductions, and they are fine.  But having something which is one of a kind, is special.

Being able to know the creator of an object is special too.  That is why I love to go to shows where people sell their own work.  You can talk to the creator,  ask them about their ideas, their technique, their joy of creation.  If you do, you will receive some of their creative joy and excitement.  You will also  be rewarding the craftsman by allowing her, or him to share that joy with you.

I am off to a new project, making an outdoor tree about 9 feet tall…but I’ll tell you about that another day.

In the mean time, ask a craftsman his thoughts on a piece you like… you will probably make his day by giving him a chance to share that love with you.