Progressions in Form

When I started my own shop I had only a handful of basic rudimentary tools. My first shop space was pretty bare-bones, a garage behind a guy’s house in New Jersey that he rented to me for a couple hundred bucks a month.  There was a single 120V electric outlet and one bare-bulb light overhead.  But it had a window and a concrete floor and you had to go down a narrow driveway to get to it, so I thought my tools would be safe.  The first thing I bought was a MIG welder – a type of welder I’d never used before (I learned on and only ever before had used a “stick” welder) but which seemed perfect for what I had in mind and the limitations I faced.  It ran on 120V and the specifications indicated it would be fine for light and medium thickness steel.  On the MIG buying trip I also got an oxy-acetylene cutting/welding torch because it’s very useful and, frankly, pretty bad-assed.

Project number one was a work bench I welded up so I wouldn’t have to kneel on the floor.  I’d picked up a hack-saw and a cut-off saw, so I could cut off straight pieces of metal for my early projects – which were therefore necessarily angular in form, such as these wine racks.

One of the great things about working with metal is its malleability, and soon I wanted to explore designing beyond straight lines.  I ordered a manual bender and a ring-roller from an on-line tool catalog and made some projects using the new forms possible with those tools, such as this sconce and these candle holders.

Cold-bending metal is fun and interesting and lends itself to predictability and repeatability in form.  Near-perfect circles of various circumferences are one of the key design elements in several lamps I’ve made, and long even curves were employed in forming the top for the Tiki Bar.

When my first anvil came along, I was excited to explore the possibility of non-constrained curves and bends.  Through just hammering the metal cold on the anvil I was able to create the elegant curved lines for the legs of the side table shown below, as well as the swoop for the Bridge Headboard and curved legs and cross bars of the Bundle Media Stand.

Curvy Side Table 2 Tier

The next stage in form seemed both obvious and quite daunting – blacksmithing. Heating metal until it becomes clay-like and almost infinitely shapeable opens up a whole new world of design possibilities. This would involve entirely new skills, tools and equipment that I did not have.  Hooray!  I set to work building a coal-fired forge, got a bigger anvil and some new hammers and am experimenting with all new shapes and forms.