Life · Welding

Building a better dog barricade

One of the major sources of stress in our house is the fact that we have so many animals, and more specifically, that some of those animals don’t play nice together. Even more specifically, the big bulldog and the cats.

Right now, a baby gate in the kitchen portal keeps the dogs in the back of the house so they have access to a door leading to the back yard, and the cats in the front part of the house and the bedrooms. This baby gate was originally a temporary solution, but it’s turned into a long-term solution and has been in place for far too long. It’s begun to show its age: the cheap plastic pieces have begin to break, the handle requires more effort than it should to lock and unlock. I actually bolted the spacer bars that keep it in place right into the wall, just to make sure it can withstand the impact of a running bulldog who doesn’t seem to care that he’s running into a fence.

My wife and I decided a nice full-size metal gate would be the way to go…not only would it look nice, but it would be strong enough to withstand the dogs and be tall enough to keep the cats from going over it. After doing some research online, we discovered that the types of gates that we would even consider installing into our kitchen started about $1,200, and that was way outside of what we could spend.

That’s why, when the opportunity to take a welding class came along, we thought it would be a good way to kill two birds with one stone. Not only do I get to learn a cool new thing, but in the end we get a fancy new gate built just the way we designed. So, even before I took the first class, I had begun putting together ideas about how the gate could look and function. Did we want it to accordion fold, so it was flush with the wall when it was done? Or a Dutch door, so we could pass groceries over it easily? I started working on designs: 

KitchenGate
An early iteration of the accordion design, as seen from the front room looking into the kitchen.

In the end, we decided on a simple single-panel gate that mounted on special hinges that allowed it to open from either side, and be easily removed from the frame if we needed to move furniture or something through the space. So, on March 19, as I was running out of welding classes, I began building the frame, and adding a few of the purchased pieces of scrollwork that had come in. The tall pickets had been ordered, but hadn’t come in yet, so I began putting in the elements I could: GateTall Several of the straight pieces in the photo above will be replaced by the decorative pickets when they arrive, but for now I just needed to have something to anchor the scrollwork to. GateDetail   While there are elements of the scrollwork that don’t line up exactly, I’m okay with that. There will be much more scrollwork added, so any asymmetries will be much more difficult to spot, so it’s not the end of the world. I just need to get this project done and make sure it’s safe for the animals and people in our house.

Welding

Going Steampunk…kind of

The whole Steampunk movement that’s going on right now isn’t really my thing, other than having an appreciation for how creative some people are when designing their devices or costumes. Personally, I like my technology streamlined and clean, but whatever floats your boat, I suppose.

That said, I wandered through a salvage yard today, looking for gears, sprockets, chains, etc, anything that could convey the idea of Steampunk. I’m not sure what I’m going to do with them yet, but after soaking the pieces in Simple Green, then giving them a good scrubbing to get the rest of the grease off, I think I have a few workable pieces that I can begin to tinker around with.

Gears
Pieces of Hondas, Saturns, and BMWs, oh my.
Welding

Jurassic Park Lite

Dinosaurs

After completing my Stegosaurus sculpture, I decided that I wanted to try another dinosaur sculpture…kind of a companion piece. I knew I wanted this one to be much, much larger, and give me the opportunity to have some more fun with the construction and the treatment of the metal.

I figured a Brachiosaurus would be large enough.

Because I was under a time crunch, I purchased the piece of rebar that would become the spine from a pretty limited selection of rebar at the Home Depot. The shop where I usually get my meta for my projects, Industrial Metal Supply, has more options and better prices, but are clear across town and I didn’t have time to make the trip before my the lab, so I ended up with 10 feet of half-inch rebar strapped to the top of the car.

The problem, I discovered with half-inch rebar, is that it’s too thick to shape using the bender we had in the lab. I could either get slight bends or really drastic folds in the bar, but nothing like the sloping curves I was looking for. I decided to try heating it with a torch and bending that way.

ApatosaurusHall

While it did technically work, I was really unhappy with he result, and in the end, had to change the sculpture into a smaller dinosaur, simply because I couldn’t get the bends in the rebar right to give me the correct proportions I was looking for. While the finished project is a fine Apatosaur, it’s not the monster I wanted to end up with, so I may work up another one with smaller gauge bar, or figure out a different method of construction.

One of the best parts was that the instructor in the class liked it so much he made me set it outside in the hallway while he went around and gathered up instructors from other classes to show it off.

The jewelry-making instructor snaps some pictures while the welding instructor looks on.
The jewelry-making instructor snaps some pictures while the welding instructor looks on.
Arizona · Welding

State of Arizona Wall Art

Outside of the normal project list from my welding class, I decided that I wanted to try doing an electrical piece. Having previously come up with an illustration that I thought would look great on a coffee shop wall, I wanted to incorporate it into a welding project somehow.

StateLightLogo

After creating a box by folding the edges of a rectangle in and welding the corners, I cut the Arizona state outline out with a plasma cutter, then finished by removing the star over Phoenix. Distressing the sheet metal with multiple applications of a mixture of Hydrogen Peroxide and vinegar seemed like the best way to achieve the deep rust I was looking for without needing to purchase any kind of acid or harsh chemicals.

After getting the surface as textured as I wanted it, I epoxied a Dioder LED light set onto the back of the steel so it would reflect off the polished copper sheet that was bolted on last.

Unlit
Detail of the rust.

In low light, the LEDs shine brightly, highlighting the copper.

 

Illuminated, over my desk
Illuminated, over my desk

The piece is currently hanging in my office. If I had gotten my ducks in a row before the Practical Art Summer Group Show deadline, I would have submitted it to the competition…I think it could have been pretty well received. I guess there’s always next year.