Introduction: Realistic Metal Log With Love Birds Sculpture
Hola my dudes :) I got the inspiration for this project, a lovely little welded love bird statue, from a good buddy of mine. While time consuming, this particular art piece is a total blast to make. From each hand-done bead run to fiddling with the silverware for the birds, every detail is completely personal and unique.
Better buckle up. It's gonna be a bumpy ride :D
Step 1: Things and Stuff
All the junk you need-
Pipe (next step helps with sizing and whatnot)
Grinder (I used both an angle and a belt grinder, but everything works fine with an angle grinder)
Grinding Disks (wire wheel, grinding disk, flapper, and cutting wheel, optional)
PPE (personal protection equipment)
Welding Machine (process of your choice, but I like mig)
Cutting Method (oxy-acetylene, plasma arc, or cutting disk)
Per Bird- 2 forks (stainless steel, uncolored)
- 3 spoons (stainless steel, uncolored)
Welding Machine (I'd suggest tig for these)
Step 2: Pick Your Pipe
For our first trick, we'll choose our pipe. This step really sets the tone for the rest of the project. Whether you choose a tall thin pipe or a short fat one will determine how many birds you can fit on said pipe, and how much welding you'll have to do. Here, I chose a nice fat pipe measuring about 5 inches tall with a diameter of about 4 inches. The wall thickness is a schedule 80 (roughly .35 inches thick) I believe, but this would work equally well with something a little thinner.
As you can see, I got my hands on some nice scrap. This one even has a nice torch slice in it :D For something like this, a few flaws don't change a thing. The edges are rough and the whole thing is super rusty, but it's nothing a little time with my buddy the belt grinder won't fix.
You can take a layer of rust off with a grinder or wire wheel, and I'd suggest going over the rough edges to smooth and even them out for a better cap fit up.
Step 3: Cut You Some Caps
Okay, so here, I have pictured some scrap 1/4 carbon steel with some neat little circles traced on it. This is where we cut out the caps, or ends, for our pipe. It will be hollow (which will save on some weight), and this keeps things from getting caught inside the pipe. It also improves the general finished look of the whole piece.
So, I traced my caps. As you can see, I marked out which cap goes with which end of the pipe. Here it was a little bit redundant to mark it out, but if you happen to get a pipe that is somehow warped or remarkably uneven on one end, it helps to remember which end goes where.
I will take thirteen seconds here to note that soap stone is really bad for this. Use paint pen. It doesn't rub off and will be covered or ground off later. Learn from my mistakes ;)
Here you get a little bit of artistic freedom. I cut out my caps with a standard oxy-acetylene torch setup because it's what I had handy. If you prefer a plasma arc cutter, go for it, and if you really hate yourself, this could be done with a cutting wheel on an angle grinder. All up to you.
Step 4: Grind Em Down Real Pretty
This step here is exactly as easy or as difficult as you make it. I personally didn't take it too seriously. My pipe was pretty dang close to circular on both sides and my cutting wasn't that rough, so I brushed the edges with the belt grinder just enough to take the slag off.
If you'd like to spend the time to take down the edges more for a neater fit up, that's another fun artistic decision. I'll just leave it here that this all works out just fine if you're lazy like me.
Step 5: The Set Machine Up
Now that we have all our pipe bits ready to go, it's time to set up the machine. Now, the sheer amount of welding you're about to do will wreck the tip of gun (if you use a wire process like yours truly), so make sure it's good and clean to start with.
Purely because of speed and cleanliness, I did the majority of this project with Gas Metal Arc Welding. That being said, if you have those magical Tig hands, or a particular proclivity for SMAW (a.k.a. stick), go for it.
The machine I had close by liked to run hot, so I ran all my beads at around 17.4 volts and 192 wire speed. Every person welds differently, and most of y'all will probably know what it takes to get a pretty bead, so go with what you know.
Note: In a later but very similar project, I ran my beads much hotter and much wider. While it did cut down on time because I had wider coverage on each bead, the spatter was much higher.
Step 6: Fill in Any Holes
Up above, I said that it didn't matter if your pipe was a little messy, and I meant it. Mine had a nice cut taken by the previous owner, but it's nothing a little wire won't fix. Run over whatever holes or slices you have and grind them back down smooth.
Yes, you could theoretically leave the holes or slices if they're small enough because they will get covered later. However, you're only going to get one shot to cover this pipe. Mistakes are not super noticeable, but here I wouldn't cut corners.
Step 7: Stick on the Caps
Now that your machine is up and running and you've got your proper PPE (wear your safety glasses, kids), go ahead and tack on the caps.
Step 8: Finish Off the Caps
Now that both sides are tacked into place, go ahead and weld away. Much like the 'Fill in the Holes' step, this one is only as hard as you want it to be. I like to run beads all the way around the pipe to make sure it all fills evenly and won't droop on me later. But it's all up to you, friend.
Step 9: Grind Your Caps Down Real Pretty-Like
This bit only takes a few minutes and does have a fairly profound effect on the end product. If the edges where the caps were stuck on are not ground smooth enough, your final piece will have bulges all the way around it exactly where that underlying bead is. If you're down with that look, so be it, but I chose here to grind them nice and flat in most places.
Step 10: Start Doodling Your Knots
And now we get into the fun part. To make this log look the most life-like, we'll draw on the knots first. There are a couple ways to do this one, but no matter what they'll look unique.
One way is to simply draw circles. Start with a tight little circle, then draw a slightly overlapping one on the outer ring, and another on that outer ring and so forth, welding continuously. It can be as big or as small as you'd like, and you can build them up by drawing on a circle, letting the puddle freeze, and drawing another directly over the previous circle.
Another way to get interestingly flavored knots is to start with a nice dot. Strike and let the puddle grow there until it builds a bit, then get outta dodge. Once that's frozen, restrike and draw another dot on top of the first, or a circle around it. These can be built up the same way as the others and you do have a bit more control over where your knot is going to lay and it's shape.
Whichever way you want to do them will work. I like to do a mix of both because it gives out a nice varied pattern.
Step 11: Add Some More Knots
Alright my guys, time to go a little crazy. This is the first step that makes every log completely unique. Start placing your knots, but do them everywhere. The best way to make this thing realistic is to do all sorts of varying sizes. Don't worry if they look huge and awkward at first, and don't be afraid to draw partial knots on the edge to make it look like a cut log. After all, no tree grows uniformly and they are rarely cut precisely between all the knots.
So have fun and put them in all the places. I've found you get the most fun looking logs from placing more rather than less, but you'll have an opportunity to add more in about 2 steps.
Step 12: Throw on Your First Bead
Now that you've got your knots, your guidelines, drawn on, go ahead and run your first bead. Typically, I like to start at one clear end and run a relatively straight bead up to the other end, or a knot. Whichever comes first. But your log, your starting point, so go ahead and choose where you want to start. Since you're working around a circle, you will eventually come back to that beginning point.
Note: I didn't bother cleaning after I put on my knots. This is never going to be a structural piece and to that end it doesn't really matter if there's some dirt in there. We will do all kinds of spring cleaning at the end, so brushing after every bead is sort of a waste of time.
Step 13: Start Stacking Dimes
Once you've gotten a few beads stuck in there, you're going to have to start maneuvering around your knots. As you can see,the curves can get pretty dramatic early on, but worry 'knot' (D: Sorry). The curvier your beads are, the more fun your bark is going to be.
Now that you've got a feel for what this is going to look like, now is the time to start adding more knots, if you so desire. Through this process, I nearly always do. Without fail, I start and find some spot that's a little too bare. On the bright side, until you finish, you will always have the opportunity to continue adding knots as you turn the pipe.
Step 14: Now We're Getting Somewhere
Here I've got my pipe about 1/4 of the way covered. You can see how I worked the beads of my bark to go around the knots in the most realistic way I possibly can.
This is also where I would note to take into account the coming knots. In the picture, you can see how I drew my beads on around the lower knot, curving on both sides. If you don't pay attention to which knots are where, you'll end up with a nice curve on one side and a completely flat, awkward looking strip on the other side.
Note: this thing is 'piping' hot (okay, I promise to stop now. Welder's honor). I didn't have a big enough pair of vice grips to quench it, so I actually worked on the birds while my pipe was cooling. It's all up to you if you want to tough out the heat, but I figured it might start to droop if I didn't let it chill for a minute.
Step 15: We Made It!
As you get close to the end of your pipe circle, be prepared to have to make really fat beads or super thin ones in order to get a clean finish. As you can see in the photo, I elected to do the fat method, drawing big circles to widen my bead to fill the gap between two other beads.
Step 16: Boo Cleaning
This here is probably the least fun part of this whole project-cleaning. In the interest of time, I like to save all my cleaning for the end and hit it with the wire wheel on my angle grinder. During my first foray into this, I did clean each bead, only to dirty it back up in about two seconds and have to do it again.
So clamp it, clean it, and be proud of your mostly finished, super shiny log.
Step 17: And a Little More Cleaning
Aight, so here we shine up the caps a little bit. The belt grinder got them sort of clean, but it's time to clean them up a little bit more. I took a grinding disk and worked around in a circle, then over it again in lines. For kicks and grins, I used a flapper disk to take off some of the grinding marks.
Note: here, it looks a little prettier if you run your flapper disk around the very top edge of the bark. It kind of smooths the beads (which can have rough starts and finishes) into the top.
And that's that. You're done with the log. If you want to stop here, you have still accomplished a super cool metal log that weighs more than it looks. My pictured finished product has two birds seated on it, and that was purely my choice. If you want to continue, I've got the bird process laid out below.
Step 18: A.K.A. Birds PT. 1
Now we get into the really artistic part. As I said earlier, per bird, you're going to need two stainless forks and three stainless spoons. Now, in that first picture, I've got the spoons and forks pictured as I bought them.
DO. NOT. GET. THOSE. FORKS.
They are so cheap that they don't even melt nicely. At Wal-Mart prices, they are the 4 for $.88, and they are actually too cheap. Spring for the 3 for $1.50. Slightly less cheap.
So, I've got them all laid out on my work table, and I'll explain in a step or two why I've cut the stems the way I have.
Step 19: Bird PT.2-Electric Boogaloo
I've got the side, front, and top view of each bird posted above. It's up to you how many, if any, birds you put on your log.
Step 20: The One With the Other Machine Set Up
I said earlier that I used hard wire for the majority of this project, but here's where the minority comes in. Due to my lack of stainless wire, I ended up just tigging these birds. I did use some stainless filler of the 1/16 variety to help. Because I don't hate myself and didn't have a good way to hold pieces together so I could weld them, I used a foot pedal (boo lift arc), and ran between 39 and 45 amps.
You don't need magic tig hands to make this part work, but be very wary of your settings. Too cold and the pieces won't fuse well, but too hot and you'll burn through instantly. There's a thin line of balance there, and it's always good to practice before you do this for reals.
Step 21: Chuck VS. the Bird Beaks
I chose to do two birds with their beaks touching like a kiss, so naturally I made one a tiny bit smaller in spite of using the same size of silverware as my 'female' bird.
First we make the heads with beaks. You'll need three spoons for each bird. Go ahead and cut off the stems of the spoons, but do not discard the stems. They will later be your tail. Cut two of the stems maybe a quarter of an inch long measured from where it narrows after the bowl, and the third one maybe half an inch long.
Turn the spoons so the concave sides (where your soup would go) are facing each other and the cut ends of the stems are touching. If it looks super awkward, shave off some more of the stem until you think you have a good proportion of beak to actual head. Repeat this step with any other birds, remembering that to make them look smaller or larger, you have to leave the stems shorter or longer, respectively.
Note: Because of how the tail will lay in, it would benefit you greatly to make sure your bottom spoon has a longer stem and therefore protrudes farther out that the upper one will. If the two spoons are even, the next few steps may be a little bit harder.
Once you've got them the lengths you want, go ahead and weld them. For these guys, don't stress too much. If you get through and the whole head is too big or looks too small, you can always bend them more open or closed to get the shape you want. So weld em on, bend em up, and grind em smooth.
Note: I would avoid grinding the edges of your spoons. They can get really sharp.
Step 22: Spread Your Fork Wings and Fly
Every bird needs some wings, so pull out ye olde forks (2 per bird) and let's make it happen.
To make these dudes, you'll need the end of a steady table or an anvil or a really strong friend. Go ahead and bend your fork handles in towards the concave side of the fork (or the top of the fork) at at least a 90 degree angle. In a few minutes, you may need to bend them a little farther.
Next, take your weird forks and, as pictured, grind them off at an angle. Mind that you designate one fork to be your left wing and one to be your right, otherwise you might grind them both the same way and have one upside down wing.
Once you've got them good and ground, go ahead and take off the stems maybe 1/4 of an inch after your bend (and yes, keep the stems). This will also change depending on the bird size. For my bigger birds, I like to leave a little more of the stem on so the wings protrude more. A little less and they stay more tucked in.
Now that they're ground at an angle and the stems are gone, you're good to weld. I like to pin the two stems together in one continuous line, tack them, slide the whole thing into the appropriate beak and bend the wings or beak until I get the look I want.
Step 23: Girl, Look at That Body *aah*
You can see here where your third and final spoon on each bird will go-between the fork tines. I liked the angle it sat at when the spoon arced between the top and second fork tine. Go ahead and chop off the stem (if you didn't already to use for the tails) maybe half of an inch from the bowl.
Slide your spoon head between your fork tines, making sure to line up the spoon stem with the two joined fork stems. The way the spoons curve generally dictates that the spoon stem sit under the fork stems, but make sure that it touches them in some way-that's your weld point.
Step 24: Chase Some Tail
I keep telling you to keep the stems from your random silverware and this is what for. I like to use 3 stems per bird to make the tail, and yes, the length does help with sizing. This is solely personal preference, but I like to put the plainer stems (if you have any) on the 'female' bird. The fancier ones (if you have any) go on my 'male' bird because male birds are always the more flamboyant ones. If all your stems are the same, disregard this entirely.
Regardless, there is still a tail to be made. As I said earlier, I like to use 3 stems per, but you can do more or fewer as you please. Anyway, go ahead and lay them out the way you want them, and weld those suckers together. It's going to be nearly impossible to secure them all separately to the body, and it saves much frustration to only have to worry about one piece.
As y'all can see, I went ahead and stuck my tail to the *bottom* spoon of the head. I put bottom there in italics and asterisks because I have screwed this step up before. Make sure you know which end is which, and make it happen. You'll see with the next steps that if you do not go ahead and weld on the tail, it becomes increasingly more difficult to put it on neatly.
Note: You can either angle the tail down and then weld, or bend it after, but birds' tails rarely stick out straight back, so having it at an angle will help with the realistic factor.
Step 25: Sticking It All Together
I threw in another side view picture just to refresh your memory, but now we get to put everything together.
My tried-and-true method of putting our three sections together is this-weld the tail to the bottom spoon of the head first and at an angle. Birds' tails never stick straight out behind them, so I have angled mine down slightly.
Once you've gotten the tail secured, go ahead and slide the wing and body piece into the head, setting it as far in or out as you like. The best place I found to weld here is sticking the bottom of the wing to the bottom spoon of the head.
Ta-Da!! You got a bird!
Note: You can't tell, but on each of my birds, I decided early on which side of the bird would be facing the front of the piece. Once you decide which one is going where, you can follow my footsteps and hide all your tacks. That is, make sure whichever bird has its right side towards the front of the piece has tacks and welds only on its left side, and vise versa for the other bird. I've found it just makes the whole piece look a little bit neater.
Step 26: Now That We've Got Birds, What Are We Gonna Do...With Them?
If you've made it this far, never fear-the end is in sight. All that's left to do is attach your birdies to your log. Since the pipe is steel, I moved back to my mig machine, cranked it up to about 20 volts, and shot the bird really quick. And I mean really quick. There's a fine line between fusion and burn through, and here you've got to find it.
In the interest of hiding my tacks per last step, I only tack the birds on the back side of the piece. Unless you're planning to toss the piece into a work bag (do not advise), this will hold perfectly well.
Step 27: For You Dreamers and Over Achievers
The possibilities of what you can do with your newfound bark skills are endless. From vases to wild, uneven logs, to whatever your heart desires, you can now make art happen.
So go :) Make art happen.