Daily Grind

Dirty, Filthy Fun, The Giving Tree

I could probably title all my posts this, since grinding metal takes most of my time. But this week is fitting for the title, so I’ll just use it now. I’ve been grinding tree branches all week and I’m almost finished.

The picture shows half smoothed out branches and half fire scale covered branches (silver and black). The fire scale happens when metal is “hot rolls”, which almost all steel is and this heating up process gives the metal a blackened skin, black oxide. For folks working in the welding industry they have to grind this surface off to prevent the finishing from either not sticking to the metal or possibly chipping off. For me, since I place this already hot rolled steel into the fire, I end up adding layers of fire scale that are very thick and rough. So all this black oxide has to come off or the texture will be inconsistent and the powder coating finish I plan to use could possible just break off in chunks.

Some more technique jabber: Finding the right way to remove the fire scale has been a pain in the butt. Using a wire wheel on an angle grinder only buffs and polished the scale. So I use a worn down cubatron disk on an angle grinder (a 36 grit flat disk would work too) to knock the scale off, being careful not to push into the metal. Then I use an 80 grit flat disk to smooth down the texture I just left with the cubatron disk. I am careful to use long strokes and now apply too much pressure. This way the grinder doesn’t leave short little “hey she used an angle grinder on this part” marks. It takes forever, but the product is smooth and that’s all that matters.

Design changes: I met with Russell Etling from the City of Gainesville yesterday morning to show off the sculpture’s progress and get some feedback on installing a hand rail down the center of the bench so visitors to the Senior Rec Center will feel comfortable sitting down and standing up from the bench. Cutting the horizontal line of the sitting area in half with a hand rail gives me knots in my stomach. But building a bench that is not inviting or safe for users is a worse alternative. This is a tough call, but I think Russell and I came up with a good plan that adheres to the lines and flow of the sculpture. Stay tuned to see what happens.

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I create large metal sculptures for public art, smaller items for you and your home, and teach hands on metal workshops in Gainesville, FL. Visit LeslieTharp.com