Your brains, Fezzik’s strength, my steel. And a wheelbarrow and a holocaust cloak.

So, like I said a while back, this is a process. Life doesn’t slow down to give you a chance to get all your projects done, and occasionally lets all the water out of your budget to do them.

windowOne project I’ve been trying to figure out how to do with zero funds is turning this awesome window (snagged on sale for $15 at Community Forklift, which if you’re in the DMV and haven’t been there and you dig this stuff, go immediately because it’s fantastic) into… something. What I would really like to do is weld a long, low frame similar to the end table frame I made and make the window the top of a coffee table, which is a thing we could really use. Our living room currently contains a sofa, two end tables, two small armchairs, a shelf with some tchotchkes on it, and some piles of random… stuff. It’s like we got 80% of the way towards unpacking and setting up in here, and then just never got round to finishing it off.

On the other hand, the financial situation in our house has gotten unexpectedly precarious. At this point, it’s sort of up in the air whether we’ll be able to stay in this apartment, so I’m not really sure whether to keep nesting or, you know, start packing. And I definitely don’t have the money to get studio time at the Art League, or rent a rig. (Obviously I need to take up some cheaper hobbies.) So I’ve been casting about for temporary alternatives that would be as close to “free” as possible and wouldn’t be completely hideous. Maybe this will motivate me to learn how to nail two pieces of wood together. Money is really stupid and annoying, you guys, at least when you don’t have any.

Dreams in Steel

I was in a “yes” mood when a friend suggested I take a metal sculpture class with her. At the time I signed up, I was just looking for occupations while I took a break from theater work. By the time the second class rolled around, my relationship had just dissolved like wet Kleenex and my life was in the process of complete collapse.

metal table

My first welding project.

In that horrifically sad time, I discovered that nothing in my life was as soothing as welding. The heat, the intense concentration, the sheer pyromaniacal joy of using a torch to melt steel — it all gave me the boost of confidence and satisfaction that I needed to survive.

My first project was this metal table, custom-built to fit over the arm of my sofa. I designed it specifically for the apartment my not-yet-ex and I were living in, where the end of the sofa butted right up against the entryway, leaving no room for a table on that end. I feel strongly that every seat in the living room should be accompanied by a spot to put a drink, so I started this.

Now, of course, having given up some of my furniture to move in with the ex, I no longer have enough furniture on my own to furnish an apartment, and my lovely roommate has almost no furniture at all. So the original point — saving space — is kind of lost, but it’s still a sturdy little table. I measured everything very conscientiously and yet there are still imperfections, which is a lesson about steel I still have yet to really get my head around — when it’s hot, it will shift and settle in totally unexpected ways.

my first welding projectBut I caught the bug. Now every time I can’t find or afford a piece of furniture, I think, could I weld that? I’ll certainly never buy an end table or a metal shelf again. Although the raw steel can get pricey when you’re buying larger pieces of welding steel. Continue Reading →

Bring me your rusty old metal crap

So I’m going to the Community Forklift on Sunday. It’s basically an architectural salvage yard in Rockville. I’ve been there once before and it’s like Disneyland for architecture and DIY geeks. I’m going this weekend specifically on the hunt for salvageable steel to work with in my metal sculpture class.

This is the second semester I’ve taken the metal sculpture class, because it is basically the best thing ever. Like, life-changingly exciting. For my next project, I’ve got several ideas sketched out, but I need to take my instructor’s advice and actually try to mock them up in cardboard and pipe cleaners before I get out the torch.

Last week’s class was great, because it was basically just a free-for-all with the scrap shelf. Grab some bits! Weld ’em together! See what happens! I started out with a concept of a tea cup from what looked like part of an exhaust from a car, and it kind of turned into this insectoid alien life form. I didn’t save it, because it was pretty rough, and the metal can be reused by other people (though if it hasn’t been snapped up when I get back on Monday, I may yet rescue it from the scrap pile), but the kind of insectoid jointed shapes I was making with steel rod were pretty cool, and something to try out in a more finished piece. (Yes, pictures next time. I was too buzzed after class to remember to photograph things. Taking pictures is one of the things I’m still working on getting the hang of, blogging-wise.)