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Posts from the ‘Process’ Category

Quarterly Project: Welding & Malformed Metal Frogs

I haven’t posted in a few weeks about my adventures in learning how to weld. Since my last post, I’ve gotten to try out the plasma cutter and practiced just doing straight lines of welding beads to try and get the form and technique down. Plasma cutter is gloriously fun – mostly used for thin metal to do more finely detailed work. It was a ton of fun – like drawing in metal!

Finding My Niche
In my last class I also decided to mess around with the torch welder a bit. I grabbed some scrap re bar and started heating and bending it… my teacher showed me how to braid re bar, and off I went braiding away. Pretty sure I’m in love with bending and forming metal. My teacher said that I would probably really like blacksmithing because its more about bending and manipulating the metal form. Oh my.. looks like I will just have to take the blacksmithing class next!

Making Malformed Metal Frogs
This past weekend I started on an exciting project. Back in early college, I made these fun little wire frogs for my sculpture class. Over the course of a year, I sold about a dozen of them to various folks. Back then, I’d wanted to make larger versions of them, but the wire became too hard to bend at thicker gauges and I didn’t have any access to tools, so eventually I just filed the idea away. That was almost 10 years ago. And now I’m excited to get to dig this project back up and finally make the giant versions of these little guys I’ve dreamed of for nearly a decade!

Last Sunday I started on a test version just to see what size I want to make them, and to test the proportions of the limbs to the body and such. All I had to use was some pretty thick re bar scrap from the shop, so as you can see this little guy came out a bit malformed so far. Talk about some giant feet! I’m going to go buy some more metal in smaller diameters and try again next Sunday to hopefully get things closer. It’s going to take a lot of trial and error for sure. One of the trickier parts has been cutting all the ends on the arms so that the angle will match up to the body piece it needs to weld to. It’s a lot of “put piece in vice, cut it, take it out, check it, put back in vice, re-cut it, check it, grind it down, check it…” Definitely not anything as quick as just wrapping some thin wire together like the small versions! I’m excited about the challenge though, I think I can get there in maybe a month’s time.

Quarterly Project: Welding Is Definitely NOT Sexy

This past Sunday was my second welding class – and we got to do a bit of welding finally! I’m definitely not having the same awesome “fish in water” experience with this as I typically do with most artsy things. A little frustrating to not feel like comfortable as quickly as with drawing or photography – but we’ve all got things that don’t come naturally for us! So I’m having fun realizing that my vision of being this sexy welding chick is not exactly fitting into reality…

Yup. That is me. And I look like man. Lord almighty, welding is definitely not very flattering, particularly when it’s cold outside and you have no choice but to wear a 3XL leather welding jacket in which you can barely bend your arms enough to do the welding. I went to buy some leather work boots yesterday –  an area of women’s clothing that could really use some help. They make my feet look so immense that I look like Meg from Family Guy. Despite my disappointments in being able to retain a ladylike appearance in any form, I did grow up a tomboy – so really I quickly forget about all that and am suddenly lost in learning this cool new process!

Oh yes, and that helmet? You can’t see anything (and I mean anything) through those things until you make a few sparks – so it’s pretty impossible to actually weld where you planned on.

In the shot above I’m doing some MIG (Metal Inert Gas) welding – which is essentially like a big hot glue gun. There is a piece of steel wire that runs through it, and when you hit a button on the nozzle it comes out and uses an electrical current or arc to melt the steel onto your metal surface. Pretty neat stuff! It took me some practice to figure out how to comfortably hold the nozzle and all, but after a short bit I started to get the hang of it.

(Instructor and one of the other classmates doing some stick welding)

We were introduced to stick welding too – which made me a little nervous. You use two giant positive/negative clamps like you’d use to jump your car. One clamp attaches to the metal table you’re working on and the other will hold a stick of steel that you weld with. Yeah… this just sounded like a bad idea to me. Alas, I did try it – and sucked pretty bad at it – but proud of myself anyway! Really hoping I can do most of my welding with the MIG welder though!

We’ll be starting our first projects in the next week or two. Right now, I’m thinking of making a truck bed extension for Andrew’s truck, so that we can more securely transport both of our kayaks this summer! It’s a pretty basic construction, just an L-shaped piece that fits into the trailor hitch with a bracket or bar on the other end to hold the kayaks. I’m a little nervous about making something functional – but going to give it a shot! Very excited!!

Week 1: Getting Nothing Done!

Week 1 in my 12 month photo project… I got NOTHING done! Hoorah! But I learned a little and decided to try a creative way of sharing my brief and uneventful first week… video diary!!! (Thanks Micaela for the inspiration!)

December Project Status

As promised, I dug my heels in tonight and got to work on this poster! I had a pretty simple idea in mind to do a graphic representation of the phrase “look into your heart” using an eye with a heart in the middle. As you can see – even a super simple idea like that can explode into something totally different once you get going! After doing a few sketches, I decided on one or two options to build out on the computer… then just spent a few hours playing with various ways to arrange the hearts in patterns in the iris of the eye. Pretty much just messing around until something looked cool and gave the feel I was wanting. Below are some of the earlier versions (and most recent version at bottom). Tomorrow I will be adding in some texture and possibly tweaking colors. It’s getting close!










Where the HELL did December go?!?

Yup, I have four days to do this final project. Thanks to the holiday chaos and my new side project for sucking up all my time and passion! Not that I am complaining, certainly grateful for both. But the show over at 12 Months must still go on, even in the event that I might be just a teensy bit more excited about my side project right now and really kind of annoyed by my final project (yup, I am). I was hoping this final one would be a grand thing, a month of sitting and reflecting over the year with cocoa in hand and cats curled up next to me.

Well, obviously that doesn’t happen when you have lots of wonderful presents to buy and a home to decorate and parties to go to and oh yeah like 3 or 4 other side projects you are working on! Instead, that wonderfully should-have-been-reflective final month ends up flying right past you. *sigh* A little sad, but I will not let it get me down. I still plan to take some time very soon to write a novel of a post about all the groovy things I have gained from this year-long journey. But for now, I need to make a few last “Merry Christmas” phone calls, so I am going to leave you with some tidbits of inspiration for my final project! Here are some posters that are inspiring me right now… I’m exploring either an all-type poster or an iconic graphic poster.

By Jon Contino

By Justin Van Genderen

By Katie Daisy of The Wheatfield

By Jon Contino

By Spencer Charles

By Justin Van Genderen

By Justin Van Genderen

By Justin Van Genderen (yes, I’m a hard core Star Wars nerd. This is the most awesome poster ever)

I’m still unsure as to the direction this poster will go in – but for now I’ve narrowed it to these twodirections of type or iconic graphic. I’m going to hunt through some of my old poetry tomorrow night and see what I dig up. Back in high school/early college were definitely some difficult times in my life and I thought perhaps sharing some of the very honest poetry from back then might be a great way to tough on the theme of “Looking Inside”. Damn, I really am excited about this project and wish I wasn’t so rushed. Oh well – will just do the best with what time I’ve got left!



The Tiny Bomber Fleet Arrives!

Better late than never! My tiny fleet of laser cut steel B-17 bomber planes arrived in the mail finally! I’m so happy with them – and might I add, there is just something so marvelous about spreading out twenty tiny planes on your coffee table! The folks at Laser Cutting Company Inc did a great job and were very helpful. I didn’t really have a clue about how to order anything for laser cutting, so I described my project and needs and trusted them on the material and thickness.

The whole process on my end was actually pretty painless – always love that! Andrew suggested I look at old spotter cards on google to find good silhouettes to work from. Back in the day, spotter cards were used in the military as decks of playing cards – so that while the soldiers played in their downtime they could study up on the various angles and profiles of aircraft. This helped them to identify friend or foe. Pretty interesting!

Brought one of the card images into Adobe Illustrator and traced it, (I chose the B-17 because it is a well-known and easily recognized silhouette) then exported the file as a CAD file (something I never knew you could do in illustrator) and it was all ready to go. A week or so later, this adorable fleet of war birds arrived on my porch! Why so many? Well, no special reason honestly… the price for twenty was only $20 more than the price to have one made ($120 for inquiring, curious folks), so I figured I might as well! I’ve still got to put the finishing touches on – adding the map over the front and attaching a chain. I hope to have at least a few of these done to post up tomorrow night. Cannot wait to share! =D

Photo Credit for image of spotter cards RocDornbrook

Waiting, waiting and Side Projects

I know, its not November anymore! Tsk tsk, I am late finishing the project!

Sadly, I am still waiting on my laser cut pieces to arrive in the mail. *sigh* Definitely cramping my creativity over here..  In the meantime, I’ve been trying to finish up another project that I’ve been working on bit-by-bit all year – the ugly duckling desk! I’ve been rooting around for over an hour trying to find a picture of the original desk. Unfortunately, it seems I can’t locate those shots anywhere! Hopefully one will turn up soon. Until then, here’s the story and a few process pictures…

One fine spring day Andrew and I were driving off to meet some friends when we passed an old desk that had been left by the dumpster at my apartments. We drove by slowly, it looked to be solid wood. I debated rescuing it, but decided against it and off we went. Of course, ever since I was young I have been drawn to rescuing things – be it junk people threw out, baby birds that fell from nests, or stray pets that lost their homes. So, as we drove a few blocks further, the rescuer in me took hold! “Can we go back for that desk?!” I said, feeling like a bit of an inconvenience as we had to be somewhere. Without hesitation we did a u-turn as he said “I already knew you were going to want to” and smiled at me. We heaved the old thing into the back of the truck – indeed it was solid wood. It was hideous in color, but in good shape. There was potential.

A few months later, I borrowed an electric sander from a friend and went to work on the old desk. A mess of fine and likely toxic dust filled the air as we sanded the old finish off (knowing nothing at all about refinishing wood, I have since learned you can use chemicals to take off most of that, so you don’t have to subject your poor neighbors to the insane racket of sanding on an enclosed concrete patio. oops). We sanded away slowly, until finally the nasty old orange-yellow finish started to disappear. Underneath was something I never expected… a gorgeous pink-hued wood with some of the most beautiful grain I’d ever seen. That’s right, I had stumbled on a solid cherry wood desk that had been hidden for who knows how long under the wrong finish! What luck!

(Partially sanded, still a bit of the nasty orangey finish in a few places.)

It took months to slowly sand the desk down to where it was ready to be refinished. Working on my monthly projects meant that I probably only sanded it once a month, if that. But finally this fall, the sanding was done. I removed some base boards from the bottom to use for testing finish techniques (planning to replace them with new ones). The first two tests I did were a plain polyurethane coat and then a reddish stain. Neither came out how I wanted. The stain flattened all the color in the wood and just made it look dull and  sad. Hm. This was going to take some real experimenting.

(Top: Walnut Stain that dulled the tones of wood
Middle: Mahogany Stain, you can see the patchiness of absorption
Bottom: Shellac & Burnt Umber Oil Paint Glaze, gave great richness of tones and coloration)

I began researching with fervor the many ways to refinish cherry wood. As it turns out, there are some real no-no’s about applying stains directly to cherry because it absorbs oddly – leaving you with weird, patchy areas and – of course – dulling all the sumptuous tones away. After much research, I finally found a method on American Woodworker that piqued my interest – using artist’s oil paints to make a glaze! I was automatically interested based on the odd-ness of the idea, but it also sounded like it might just work. By sealing the wood first with shellac, and then applying the glaze, the color actually sits on top of the wood – giving you added color while allowing all the rich tones of the cherry to remain in tact! I tested it out and was quite amazed at just HOW beautiful it looked. This was exactly what I wanted! And with that I got busy on the desk.

(Freshly sanded desk, with thin coat of shellac applied)

(Glazing process – equal parts oil paint and painter’s medium from hobby store.)

This past few weeks, I’ve put on the shellac and the oil paint glaze and am currently putting on a few thin coats of semi-gloss polyurethane to make it nice and bullet-proof. I can scarcely believe how it looks, much less that I helped to create this beauty with my own hands. There is so much depth to it that – as the light moves across it when you walk past – you see a rich kaleidoscope of blushing auburn tones so delicious you almost want to taste it! I realize I may sound a bit overly passionate here, but is there any harm in getting carried away with the beauty of a thing? There’s a part of me that wishes I knew the people who threw it away, and that I could show them what the full potential of this little desk could be.

(Finished color, one full coat of glaze and a second coat on outer edges to darken and give an aged look.)

There are still a few final touches to be done – the bronzing on the hardware, the base boards around the bottom – but I expect to have this duckling-turned-swam done by Christmas!

Finally Inspiration Strikes! Let’s Laser Cut!

Eureka I’ve got it! It has taken crap tons of endless researching and thinking and thinking and researching… jumping back and forth from one idea to another… knowing I will be gone over Thanksgiving and feeling the pressure to make sure I get this damn thing done on time. I have FINALLY found an idea that I am excited about! On my daily Pinterest binge, I stumbled upon the idea of laser cut jewelry. It was all thanks to Molly M Designs and her inspiring laser cut jewelry, coasters, and more! Check out her website here! Gracias!

And now for the idea… ******druuuuuumrooooooooooll!!*******

Here’s a rough mock-up of the plan! I’m going to make a laser cut pendant (airplane, bird, wings, something similar) and attach an old sectional chart to the front. I even happen to have one of Andrew’s old charts lying around the house – when he bought a new one and was going to toss it I thought, noway! It just looked too cool and I knew eventually I could make something out of it! Now I’m off to get quotes on laser cutting and PRAY that the turn-around time for that is not super slow! Will keep you all updated on the progress.. Wish me luck!


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