“Self Aware”

In a semi-serious conversation with my wife one evening, we laughed about the idea of robots who become sentient and rather than start a tyrannical reign and try to wipe humanity from the face of the earth, begin to act like humans: taking up our stupid fads like planking, Tebowing, and of course, snapping a narcissistic selfie. I loved the idea of creating a robot, so I worked up a sketch in my ever-present Field Notes to nail down the concept:


“Self Aware”  is created from a collection of recycled car and computer parts – only the sheet metal used to form the head is new. The fingers are built from two brands of timing chains, the monocle is an ellipsoid from a BMW headlight, the copper eye, shoulder and neck circuitry and veins in the arms all came from an old iMac used in another project.

Originally, he was going to be holding a mirror, but the thrift-store vintage analog camera completes the piece. I had originally found an old-school Polaroid for this purpose, but it proved to be too heavy and caused the piece to lean and become unstable. The brand name “Instamatic” is not only a nod to Instagram, but hilarious in its own right, as I’d venture that there was nothing “instant” about using that camera!


Abstract Elephant

One of the assignments in our welding class was to create an organic, sealed shape. It could be any shape, just as long as it could be sealed closed and not be a collection of right angles – like a square or rectangle. Everyone in the class ended up with interesting, organic objects, from swirled tubes to rounded bent polygons. My particular piece ended up being a glorified modified triangle – three sides and coming to a point on one end.

Even though I liked how it looked thus far, I was totally a loss about what to actually do with the piece to consider it finished. To that end, I created another, smaller companion shape that I spent a week trying to figure out how to pair with the first. End to end, stacked vertically, wide end-to-end with a twist…it all proved to be little help, because I still couldn’t visualize what the end goal was. Then, finally, laying the pieces on their side and looking at it from a different angle it dawned on me what it was:


The pieces of an abstract elephant had literally been staring me in the face for a week and I just couldn’t see it. I created a third triangle the same size as the smaller one, as closely as I could to a mirror image:


After the second ear was created, it was just a matter of putting all the elements together. I added a curved bar for the tusks, which wraps around behind the trunk and a hook to hang it with, and boom…a modern art elephant, suitable for a wall:

I’m really happy with the way this turned out, considering I don’t ever feel like I “get” modern art. I can appreciate it, certainly, but when it comes to creating it I find I’m always too literal in my thought process.

Cubicle life · Welding

Brought to you by the letters L, j, e, b, and d

One of the first things I wanted to do once I learned to weld was to experiment with creating can letters…the hollow theater signage-style type that typically goes outside of a building or shop. You can buy the machine-made individual letters almost anywhere now, from Hobby Lobby and Target to Crate & Barrel and Pottery Barn, but there’s just something about being able to create them yourself.

My coworkers have been asking me to create something for them ever since I started regaling them with tales of how awesome welding is, so I thought I would try doing custom initials for their offices in brushed steel. Store-bought, these would be about $15-$20 a piece at this size, but without factoring in time or the cost of the welder, the 20-guage steel I would be using would be less than that for all the letters together.

I began by cutting the fronts of the letter shapes out of the steel with the class plasma cutter. Straight lines can be held by using a straight edge next to the cutter, but the rounded shapes are crude at best. I obviously need more practice:

The hardest part was doing the small circles used to create the periods.

Then, having already cut a collection of 1.5″ strips of steel, I began tack welding the wall of the letters to the front plate, bending around the curves of the round shapes and bending at the corners:


The periods presented a challenge, in that perfect circles are tough to achieve with a hand-held plasma cutter. In the end, I used 1.5″ sections of 2-inch pipe for the periods, and then just capped them with the same 20-guage steel I used for the rest of the piece. Besides the benefit of retaining my sanity – which was in question while trying to carve out the circles manually – the added weight of the period helps balance the otherwise top-heavy letters.

After making sure they stand up okay and fit well, I  proceeded to attach the periods to help keep them upright and then filled in the welds long the inside of the letters when possible. I was leaving the back open so the coworkers could see what they look on the inside, kind of a look behind the curtain, if you will, so it was okay if they looked a little rough.

Finishing the fronts off with a course grinder wheel to give them some texture, I then applied a high-gloss clear coat to keep them from rusting and giving my coworkers rust-induced lockjaw.

The finished pieces are a nice addition to their desks, if I do say so myself.


Arizona · Welding

Disc golf practice basket

Even though I have other more pressing welding projects , I’ve been toying with the idea of creating a practice basket for my back yard. Sure, I could buy a freestanding practice unit, but we have a relatively small back yard, so it wouldn’t really be used to its fullest potential. Not to mention, I couldn’t find one for less than $150, and as enjoyable as I find the game, I’m not willing to invest that kind of coin in it.

So, tapping into my newfound welding obsession, I decided to build my own basket. Building it myself meant that I could modify it in such way that it could be hung on the wall in our back yard, as opposed to being on a stand. Not only does this give me the most flexibility as far as maximizing potential throwing distance, but it keeps it up and away from the dogs, who are constantly running around back there.

Using some extra metal that I had in the garage, I fired up the little Millermatic 135 that I picked up off Craigslist a few weeks earlier, and went to work.

Luckily, already had a length of chain that would be perfect for the project, so all I had to was put the pieces together. By the end of the weekend, I had a rough working version of the basket installed on the back wall:

After tweaking the frame a little bit, the time came for final prep work and paint, and now it’s there any time I want to practice at home.