The Idle Minds of Metalworkers

I seem to have an eye for the unnoticed.  I always seem to see things that others miss.   I am also always looking for the backstory.  You know, the reason something happened, or why things are the way they are.

Well I have an interesting one. I call it “The Idle Minds of Metalworkers”

Long ago everything was made by hand.  Metalworkers were out there making all kinds of things. Some of it would have been very boring, repetitive work.   But I think they were still interested in trying to create artistic pieces…

Enter the lowly boot scraper.

The metalworkers could have made it a simple steel bar…but NOOO!

I looked around and noticed something much more interesting had been made.

OBSERVE…  the lowly Boot Scraper:scraper set 2

You could be the only guy in the neighborhood

with the Sphinx on his porch?

These guys felt there was a need to save the space on the porch…so they put the boot scraper close to the wall and carved a “cave” for your toe to go into so the scraper worked.  Imagine the pre planning involved in thinking this through before the base stone was mortared in place.

This one was one is from the Cotswold area in England  (as you notice the stone is different from the rest).  The mud there must have been so bad they redesigned the scraper to have a raised section to get the rough stuff off .

Here are a collection of scrapers, mostly from Bath, and created around the early 1700.  All the scrapers I saw in Bath were cast iron, so they got a little more ornate.  The town has fine paved streets now…but if every door had one of these next to it… evidence that it may have been a little different back then.  We did see some repeats but most were unique to their specific house.

scraper set1

This is one of my favorites.

It is cast iron, and we found it in Bath also. boot 3

But it’s the little things…. the extra blade at the top… the overall ornate design… the one leg, which was set in the stone with molten lead. (very old school).

It just seemed to speak to me.

How about you?

Are you out there looking for the little pieces of art all around us?

Too many people walk by without noticing them.

Not me…. I am looking for them evey day!

Life is too short and there is too many fascinating things in the world not to slow down and take notice.

As always, I  love getting your comments. Or see the pieces of art you notice.

Send them to me at:

steve@stephenzmetaldesigns.com

or just use the form below.

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Accentuating Walnut

It has been a little while since posting anything about my current projects.  Part of the reason is because I am busy on several large projects, and some smaller ones which had to be done by Christmas.

Now you may ask, how do you do several large projects at the same time?

That is a valid question…

There are times when I just exhaust the idea I had in my head and I have to wait for the correct idea to return.  I guess you would call that a creative block.

(My wife calls it procrastination.)

Sometimes it’s a time problem and I have to do some other, more pressing, matter.  (like kayaking)

It’s all frustrating at times, but seems to be part of the creative process I go through as I design and create.

With that being said I want to show you a project I have been working on this past week.

 

A Black Walnut Side Table.

I had a piece of black walnut stored in my studio for about 10 years (talk about a long design process…but that is another story).

It had picked it up from a friend who was cleaning out some old wood.  The piece was about 7 feet long, about 1 ¼ inches thick and 18 inches at the widest.    One end was the fork of a branch and showed a great figured crotch at the joint.

While thinking about the design, I realized the beauty of this piece would be in the walnut and the base only needed to be a complement to that top.

The wood would speak for itself.

I needed the base to be just be simple but still  interesting.

in the forges

heating in the forge

The Build

I decided the legs would be made of 5/8 round steel with upended feet.

Upended feet?         Ok, I’ll tell you.

The process of upending  a piece of steel is as follows.  Heat the metal until red hot and then slam the end onto a flat piece of metal until the ends become thicker and add a feel to weight to the bottom of the leg.   Do that over and over until the end of each leg has thickened.

torching

a little torching is always helpful

upsetting 1

slamming it into the back of a swedge block

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

the ends

The ends were then reheated in the forge to heat a longer area so I could get distortion

to continue up the leg for several inches.  The effect was interesting and I thought it added the right touch to the legs.

 

 

 

 

I then added slight curves in the legs to allow the base to be more secure.  They were connected with small arches between them at the top and the bottom for stability. Simple curved cross pieces were added lengthwise to base.  The simple smooth lines were necessary but not over powering…just what it needed.stands

A metal rim was designed to connect it all together.  The rim was formed to match the curves of the live edges of the wood top.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

wood

I had been sanding and finishing the walnut as the building had been progressing.  I wanted it to show off the natural beauty of the wood. The walnut carries the piece and is just accented by the design of the base.

 

 

 

table finished

I think the finished piece is just what I had in mind.

 

Check it out for yourself and let me know what you think.

You can email me at steve@stephenzmetaldesigns.com

Or use the form/link below.

 

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What Does It Take?

Here is the question for the day.

What does it take to attach a flat plate to the bottom of a post on a handrail?

That may sound like an easy question…and an easier event to make happen.

But for some reason it is not.

The plate needs to be:

Square to the vertical post

Square to the sides of the post so the base is not rotated off center

And centered on the post so the cover will fit over it correctly.

Let me step back and add an explanation.

two pieces

I cover all the anchor bolts on all my handrails as a way of making it look more finished.  And this plate has the holes through which the lag bolts go to screw into the anchor point.

Well, I have delt with it in a number of ways, each with varied success.

So I decided to make a tool!

                 (My regular readers will not be surprised with that statement.)

So here is what I have been using for about 3 years now.  And it works great!photo 4

I started with one of those $3 Chinese knock offs of “vise grips”.  They are perfect for making tools like this job.  I took some pieces of angle iron and mounted them so the tool would grab the end of the post.

Then I determined what was level and square and added wings to steady the punched plate.

I then learned, there needed to be some way to hold the plate in place… so I added small lips to two sides.photo 3

That’s it.  Sounded easy as I typed it out… but nothing is as easy as it sounds.

But I have done all the figuring out.  All you have to do is copy it , and you are there.

tool side

In use, it is very simple:

Clamp it on the end of the post.

Hold the plate in position, and tack it on.

Remove the clamp and weld it up.photo 2

Trust me…it makes the job much easier.

Weld one up and let me know what you think of the design.

 

I would love to hear your feedback.

You can contact me using the comment form below,  or email me at steve@stephenzmetaldesigns.com

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Making Leaves

I don’t know what it is about making leaves….but I really enjoy it!

I had to make about 10 oak leaves for a new lantern.  They were to be the accent over the stained glass side panels.

There is something about cutting them out with the plasma torch and blacksmithing them into a more natural form.  Each needs to be slightly different and yet still be the same.

I just enjoy the process.

Here is a photo of the half finished pieces.

leaves

I would love to hear of your attempts/ successes on something someone else says is “kinda dumb” to enjoy that much.

Feel free to contact me at Steve@stephenzmetaldesigns.com

or use the form below.

Steve

PS.  I thought I should add the photo of the finished piece also…

pam's lantern

A Morning Glory Gate

I recently had the opportunity to work with a client on a garden gate for their home.  I met them after that saw my work on the PBS show “Our State” North Carolina.

You can watch it here at My “Our State” episode

They called and asked if I could do something for a gate in their privacy fence.  Their backyard was enclosed but it needed a breezeway for ventilation.  So we wanted to design a gate to allow the wind to come in and add some security as well.

As we were talking about the design I noted they had planted Morning Glories on the existing gate post.   We decided to make the gate a continuation of the existing garden by having Morning Glories year round.

Oh and one other thing… the cat needed to get in and out of the yard.  A cat sized door seemed to be a fun addition to the gate.

Here are a few photos:

The studio photo:

And one installed at the home:

Let me know what you think at the link    below or at:      Steve@stephenzmetaldesigns.com

Here is the Answer

Here are the 8 table mounted tools from the photo a few days ago.

                                                            How many did you locate?

 

 

 

What A Great Video

Yesterday, I sent up this blog and some folks couldn’t see the video…  ifyou don’t see it below,  then just click on this link:

http://vimeo.com/32786485

SZ

Check out this film from a blacksmith in Finland.

He uses old riviting tools to assist his hot forging.   It is a great idea and his work is very creative.

Not only is it interesting, it beautifully made!