ElementFe is my trade name for the Guemes Island blacksmith shop; designing, forging, and building handcrafted forged steel and iron furniture, gates, railings, candlesticks, spoons, kitchenware and all manner of repair and fabrication.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

The Slabaugh garden arch gate is up, lacking only details on the latch to be called completely done.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Finished dimensions are, 11" tines, 18" crossbar, 48" handles.
Sure works great.

This is a garden tool I made, to loosen and aerate the soil deep down without having to break my back with a shovel...yes, the thrill is gone after all these years!
Since the tines need to be strong, I drilled heavy hollow tube all the way through so they could be welded on both sides.
The tines were forged to rough shape using the mechanical hammer, finished a bit by hand then rasped with an old horseshoeing rasp- when steel is orange/red, it can be shaped just like wood using rough rasps.
People ask, "how do you do that" a lot, and my standard answer is, "I cheat."
In this case, how do you grind that nasty edge to a smooth graceful profile? The hard way is to attack it with a grinder and hope you can straighten it out.
The easy (er) way is to bevel each side back to a fair curve, not worrying at first about the ragged edge, then the raggedy stuff comes off quite quickly.
Here's the cutout, it's pretty homely at this point, reminds me way too much of the Christ Of The Ozarks statue- but when it's bent it should be fairly sweet and nicely proportioned.

I tried a few techniques to cut the plate- a normal oxyacetylene torch won't work on Stainless- turning up the heat with my wire feed welder made the nicest cut, but it was about an inch wide and used up wire and gas, so I switched to gouging technique with my old stick welder.
This actually worked out well, since I had a box of horrible old rods that I've been too lazy or stubborn to throw out.

I made a sheet of cardboard and in the spirit of the marble sculptors began carving away everything that isn't the form I want. My main challenge is that it looks really funny, it's hard to believe that when it's all formed and folded that it will come out as a graceful shape.
Here's the place where it will stand, and fitting the bowl that water will pour from to the cutout.

For the fountain at the church, the main part is cut from a sheet of fairly heavy (1/4" thick) stainless steel. Once the shape is worked out in sketches, the next step is to make a full size pattern. Most drafting programs do this pretty effortlessly, but it takes me less time to just do it than to learn how to use a new drafting program, so here it is...

Forging the point, then flattening and shaping it, last photo shows Joe's special method: splitting the end that attaches to the wood shaft.

My son Joe said to me after dinner, "Dad, could we go out to the shop and work on a sphere project I have in mind?"
My mind began going over what you have to do to form a sphere, but when we got there he really wanted to make spear points- much simpler proposition, though there are a number of steps to follow to get a usable one.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

A stand for a glass bowl birdbath.
Top ring, 16"- 35" tall.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Here are some brackets to hold a foldaway ladder in a custom home here on Guemes Island.
First I had to lay it all out on sheet steel- I do a number of projects that look fairly free form that actually have to be laid out very accurately so that bolt holes line up perfectly, so time spent getting that just right is never wasted.
The blanks were cut with a torch, then cleaned up and drilled. The surface was then textured at an orange heat (the blacksmithing look) and they were welded together.
Finish is wax applied at a smoking heat, which gives the steel a durable black surface that (unlike paint) doesn't hide the hammer texture.

My nephew Zander Woofenden is into (among many other things) sheep shearing in a big way.
His rig is driven by a large electric motor, which needed a fairly sophisticated adjustable bracket to mount to his portable fencepost (a chunk of 2x6).
He spent a few hours last week with me, designing and building a suitable contraption. It's difficult to see how it works, but the short version is that a motor sits on a frame that adjusts up and down, the motor drives the long power shaft that runs the shears.

Just a little snap of some steel brackets I made for a house on Guemes Island- I ground the crud off of each one so that paint would bond better, then when the backsides got welded there were some nice heat colors.
These colors are used for judging heat when tempering cutting tools, also. Tool steels are at their hardest at a very light brown, striking tools reach a good compromise of hardness and toughness in the purple tones.

This gate controls access to Guemes Mountain trails- open to hikers, closed to motor vehicles.
One of the caretakers called a few weeks ago to tell me, "something terrible" had happened to the gate- when I got there, this massive construction was bent in the middle...but not a mark was to be seen on it! We suspect Uri Geller, or perhaps UFOs...
We pulled the post upright, an excavator tweaked the gate back to the correct level, and I took the oxyacetylene rig and reworked the lockbox (a box for the padlock that makes it virtually impossible to use common tools to get in).

The gate is curved to fit into the doorway, which makes for a graceful shape, but the real reason for this is that on one side is a stanchion protecting the gas meters and on the other is a fire escape ladder- interference with the ladder wasn't an option, so I needed to figure out how to design the gate so that it would wrap around the gas meters without sticking way out into the alley.

Also shown are the hinges, and the steel that covers bolt heads on the lock plate when the door is closed.

Last week I made a security gate for Adrift Cafe in Anacortes- Nicole wanted something pretty that would keep items stored in the alley doorway secure at night.

The panel components are cut precisely to length on the large bandsaw, then in order to consistently place the holes a "story stick" is made- pictured is welding a stop on one end of a piece of scrap metal, this piece is then carefully drilled so that a center punch can be used to mark the exact location of the holes on each component.

Once the components have been carefully center punched and marked, they can be drilled on the drill press- first a small pilot hole, then the full sized hole, then a small bit of reaming to ensure a snug fit.

Checking welding settings on some scrap material, and here the frame is laid out and clamped to the table, all dimensions are carefully measured before assembly, then it's checked for square and most importantly the diagonal measurements are checked- this assures that the assembly is precisely square.