One of my favorite things to do is go to the scrap metal yard. There are mountains and mountains of metal and bins filled with all kinds of treasures. It’s almost like Christmas when I look in each bin to see what it holds. The metal is all separated by type of metal aluminum, stainless and steel. Sometimes when I go to the metal yard I have a specific idea of what I want or need for a piece and on most occasions I find that perfect treasure! On other occasions there are random piece of scrap metal and I brainstorm on the possibilities in the metal and decide to get it.
The studio is an 800 sq. ft garage and I have a lot of tools that allow me to do just about anything to metal; bandsaws, welders, benders, shears, and grinders. I also have quite a large collection of salvage metal that I store there as well and recently I organized all the metal by type of metal. This allows me to just go and play with different textures and types of metal.
The plasma cutter is what I use to cut out most of my designs. It works like a dream (if you are dreaming of cutting through metal) and cuts through metal like butter it is the “toy” that is the most fun. But it does require a lot of time to clean up the metal after it is cut.
The grinding is where the metal gets all cleaned up from the plasma cutter and it’s also where all the textures come from. The grinders are like paint brushes, because I use them in different ways to add the textures and finishes to the metal. There are several different heads on the grinders that allow me to get a different texture depending on the desired effect. It’s all in the wrist!
I use a MIG welder to do all of my welding. I can weld steel and aluminum because I have two different guns. I also use two different tanks of gases, Argon and a tri-mix of gases.
Coloring and Finishing
One of the last steps is the coloring, this is probably one of my favorite parts of the process. I use a couple of different patinas on the steel pieces. The patinas react with the metal in a chemical process and I can use a heat to change the color. I also use solvent dyes to get brighter colors on the metal and mix other colors to get the desired effects.
Once I have the piece done I take it to the powdercoater who puts the pieces on a rack, and then sprays on a clear glossy powder and then bakes the piece in a 400 degree oven for about an hour. The powdercoating protects the piece and adds a beautifully gloss finish.
Another process I use for a finish touch is Resin. Resin consists of a two part polymer compound that creates a thick gloss coating on the metal. It is a very durable and resilient material that produced a high gloss finish. Using resin allows us to keep the vibrant colors of the dyes intact and also it allows us to essentially glue dissimilar metals together. This process really is complex because I have to mix up the resin and apply it immediately while using a heat gun to get rid of all the bubbles, the other hard part is ensuring that there is no dust or bugs in the air that will fall into the resin. It takes about 48 to 72 hours for the resin to completely dry. It’s a lot of work but the end result is almost a glass like finish and it really makes the colors pop!