Weaving Hot Metal

Big Projects, Beginning to End, Dirty, Filthy Fun, Exploring New Techniques, Lift, News from the Shop

I am in the final week of my Kickstarter for “Lift”. Please visit the Kickstarter page to see what I’m raising money for and consider passing it along to friends and family. I need your help to make this happen!

This is a project update for “Lift”- here I’ll show you how I’ll weave the metal basket benches.


I have finally settled on a weave pattern for the basket benches!


I’ve gone back and forth with a few different patterns, but in the end the weave that is most like a real hot air balloon basket weave is the winner. I did a test run in the shop this week and absolutely love the result, and I’m thrilled to be sharing it with you.

Below I will show you how I am able to weave hot metal, step by step. But first I want to say thank you to everyone who has contributed to this project. Knowing I have your support as I work to create these sculptures is incredible.

Figuring out how on earth I’m going to weave hot metal is just one of many steps that will push me to navigate new territory during this project. I enjoy incorporating new ideas and techniques into every project I do (Check out my blog entries for each project I’ve made to see other techniques I’ve used). It can be a little daunting sometimes, and the fear of failure is always lurking, but I’m learning to trust my instincts and enjoy the process. The thrill I get when I “crack the code” makes it all worth while.

So here we go!

I tack weld the bars and leave space between each one so I can weave another bar through the gap later. I am using a MIG welder and round mild steel.

In the forge, I heat the bars.

Then bend them and weld in another post.

I pre-bend all these bars in the forge.

Then weld them into place. This starts the weaving pattern and there won’t be much welding after this.

Using an oxy/acetylene torch, I heat the bars of steel. When they’re glowing yellow they are very easy to push around, and I weave them across the new post.

Safety note: If there was ever a good way to burn yourself- this is it. Out of the many  shop injuries I have inflicted on myself, crossing over the top of one hand with the torch in the other as I fumble to heat and bend something, switching hands for leverage, has been one of the worst burns I’ve gotten. So- big gloves, lots of patience, pay attention. It only takes a couple instances of burning off the back of your hand to learn to work mindfully.

You can see the pattern taking shape. Each heat I bend the bars over the post, just far enough past the bottom bar so I can introduce a new post for the next heat. For this test run I am tack welding the posts in place, but for the real piece I will be thoroughly welding them in place to insure the bench is structural.

You can see here the space I leave for the new post.

Then a new post is welded in place, and I heat and bend again. It’s a heat and repeat sorta thing.

And here is the beautiful finished product! This pattern will make up the entire surface of the benches. Once I begin creating them I will show you how I am tackling all the issues of weaving over a curve, and doing this on a larger scale, etc. It’s going to be fun!

We only have 5 days to go with the Kickstarter so please tell your friends and co-workers about this project! I need your help spreading the word so I can meet my goal!!

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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