When doing random abstract industrial steel sculptures, there is nothing I like more than a glossy, hard, durable paint finish. It seems to add to the aesthetic of the steel composition. So with the solid lines and the presence of great strength comes a clear, bold and definitive finish in a eye catching color.
Industrial Sculpture Welded from Scrap
I like how the random pieces came together in this orange industrial welded steel sculpture to make the perfect centerpiece. This is not only an interesting way of incorporating mechanical hardware into art, this be a way to clear up metal odds and ends I have accumilated.
Years ago I had found a seatless metal chair curbside on trash day. This past winter, I finally got around to utilizing it in sculpture. The circular foot rung caught my eye first and I proceeded to free the ring from its bondage. It became the frame work of the piece pictured above, the Upcycled Arc Welded Steel Circle now listed in my Etsy shop.
Angular View Showing Reflective Surface
Another view showing the reflection from the surface of the brushed steel accents. These capture the attention and draw focus to the duality of the glossy red ring and flat black mesh background.
With the VOC concerns around solvents in general, oil based paint is getting harder to find. In fact most locations only have oil base paint for rust preventative finishes. Because of the EPA regulations they name these products rust preventative and don’t even use the name paint in the product name. Also, the number of colors available for these pants is rather limited now as the waterborne paints are taking over the market. I like to use these on my metal sculptures and I preferred to spray them on to get a smooth finish. When I use the sprayer I can mix colors to any shade or finish I want. I deliberately mix up too much paint because I have found a way to recycle the alkyd resin that makes up the adhesive of oil based paints. With this, I can add the oil to a dry pigment of my choosing and reuse it to paint other sculptures.
Let Sit So Pigment Will Settle
The process to do this is extremely simple and straightforward. After you have spray applied or brush applied your alkyd paint, The remaining paint simply gets thinned more so with a volatile solvent such as VM&P Naptha or Acetone. Then you allow the mixture to set a week or two and the pigment will sink to the bottom. You can pour off liquid portion and filter with cheese cloth if necessary. Or, you also can leave everything together while the more volatile components evaporate. If need be, you can speed up evaporation with a shop crock pot no longer used for cooking to drive off solvent.
Separated And Concentrated Alkyd Medium
The photo above with the dark reddish brown liquid demonstrates what a clean alkyd medium will look like after pigment separation and solvent evaporation. The manufacturers somewhat pre-send the pains so this alkyd medium undoubtedly has less volatile solvents and it already such as heavy mineral spirits etc. even with additives is still comes out as a fairly viscous liquid.
Testing As A Simple Varnish
I found a piece of pine scrap wood and just simply get up some paint thinner in a brush to apply the Alkyd oil as a varnish. It really does not need to be thinned as this mixture has some thinner already on it. I purposely overthinned first coat so wood would absorb it. Then I brushed on straight Alkyd on top. Interesting that when applied, it seems nearly colorless. Next, I will attempt to disperse a pigment into the Alkyd oil.
As a metal artist, it might be tempting to feel that you have to weld and braze everything that you joined together. I would like to say that is not always the best case. There are a number of cold connections that can be used to join metal satisfactorily for decorative purposes. You could even incorporate The fasteners as part of the decor. One main advantage of using cold connections such as rivets and nuts and bolts, is that you can paint separate modules separately and assemble without worrying about masking or any other challenges or difficulties in painting. Take for instance the metal panel in the top photo the total sculpture weighs about 8 pounds in the rivets show no sign of giving .
Two Finished Modules Ready for Assembly
In the above photo,you see two modules that have been pre-drilled and painted. In this sculpture I will be using pop rivets to join the two modules and they will be hidden from display. This allows me to make a clean professional connection without a visible weld bead or spatter. Also, I was able to carefully paint each module separately and no masking tape was used.
Heavy duty Rivets and Gun
Normally when using rivets most people think of aluminum pop rivets. The modulesin this sculpture where rather heavy. I used steel rivets instead. These are fairly substantial difference as can be seen in the photo above. They are meant for holes a quarter inch in diameter and they have a grabbing power of up to 3/8 of an inch. The heavy duty rivet gun requires two hands to operate and a little white bottle captures the pens as they snap off. I am very happy with this operation as it created a very rugged and secure way of joining fairly heavy pieces of metal together. I will be doing more of this in the future.
There are many ways to score randomnuts,bolts, gears and such. But certainly one of the best and most fun is industrial surplus suppliers. Many of them sell used parts and equipment at reasonable prices. The score I displayed above comes from an operation called Equipment Resale out of Fort Wayne, Indiana. Although it is 106 miles from home, its well worth the drive. A couple weeks ago, I went there and was thoroughly impressed with the abundance of selection!
Small to HUGE Bolts and Nuts
Just to illustrate the sheer range of nuts and bolt sizes, I seen some bolts more than 2 inches thick and weighing every bit of 20 pound s a piece! Obviously structural bolts for bridges and buildings. They have sizes all the way down to the commonly used sized found in most home improvement stores. They charge by the pound so take a bucket.
Gears and Sprockets
Along with an impressive selection of nuts,bolts, and related hardware, they also stock machine gears,sprockets, chains, and pulleys. If not for art, you may find enough here to build your own machinery! The gear in the picture is in their entrance area and stands 6 feet tall. Probably, it is 6 to 8 inches thick and weighs a few tons. Most of the money I spent in my first haul was for the gears I got. They charged me flat fee of $5. All the bolts and fasteners I got were just $13.
Industrial Desk Organizer
My first creation was this Industrial Desk Organizer. The center piece is a huge hex nut about 5 inches across. It seems to add a substantial solid quality to this functional sculpture. I also plan to be making some shelf brackets and door pulls in the near future. I am open to suggestions for my creations.
On my first installment of Treasures From Trash, I talked about the wine rack/table I found in a local dumpster. I discussed how I burned it to remove the woven material and cut the metal to separate the ring panels. In the photos, you will see that the empty frame consist mostly of straight rods. I cut this frame to gather the rods and had a pretty decent bundle. Well they ended up being used in the sculpture above. It is mid century with a industrial chic twist. I roughly laid out the rods in a crisscross pattern and arc welded the rear to conceal the welds.
Welded on Accents
I felt that the composition needed some simple accents to develop interest. I cut 6 slugs from some thick walled small diameter pipe. I welded them strategically near the center of the composition and felt it was well balanced.
Mounted Any Way You Like
I often make wall pieces that can be mounted in more than one configuration. This rod artwork is particularly suited to mount either horizontally or vertically. To see dimensions and shipping options check out the link to this item in my Etsy shop.
One this about living where I do is that we have community dumpsters. As a metal artist, I often look at new metal stock and visualize metal art compositions. Other times I pass a dumpster and see a discarded metal object and I snag the opportunity. I am not sure if this was a magazine rack or a wine bottle holder. Feel free to comment if you know. All I knew was there was already a bunch of perfect rings that were screaming for a new lease on life.
Removing Woven Material
Once I acquired this item from the dumpster, I was already designing wall decor in my mind. With that in mind, I saw no use in keeping any of the woven top featured in photo above. Now I could have used a grinder or hammer and chisel to break through. It was pretty warm out and thought all that labor was little bit much.
Into The Fire Pit!
I had some old bills and documents. So I put the woven table upside down in the fire pit and then the bills as kindling. Poured kerosene until the a paper was soaked and the woven material was damp. I lit it with a min torch. The woven material was gone in less than 2 minutes.
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Metal On Fire
Aside from looking completely awesome, this fire served three useful purposes. One, I got rid of a stack of papers that cluttered a shelf in my dining area. Two, I wanted to remove the woven material from the metal frame without using cutting tools. It is fact made from a plant based fiber material and was quite dry so it combust rapidly and easily. Third, there was a flat black paint on the metal frame. The heat breaks down the larger organic molecules in the paint into smaller ones. This makes the paint and any primer underneath easily removed with a wire brush. Although fire can be very dangerous if misused, it is very handy when working with steel and other metals with high melting points.
Ring Panels Removed
Afer everything cooled down I had only a metal framework to deal with. It turns out I have useful patterns and components for a few artistic creations. I got my 4.5″ grinder out and began to cut the welds joining the ring panels to the rectangular frame. Despite the number of cuts, the rods are only 1/4″ to maybe 5/16″ thick so this process went by quickly. I found myself with two ring panels roughly 17 inches wide and 26 inches long. My next task was to take a wire brush to the ring panels.
Most of the paint came off but there is some residue. That is of little concern, since I only need an electrical connection for arc welding. Once I get the accessory pieces welded and joined on, I will repaint this flat black again anyways.