Welding Projects: Mastering the Art of Metal Sculpture
My dad hated his job but he loved his profession and
his unique talent that made him good at what he did. Perhaps you feel the same
way – perhaps you hate your boss and/or coworkers, your working hours, your environment
or your commute. But, like my father it probably isn’t welding that you hate –
you may realize as he did that working at a job you don’t like can lead you to
believe you hate your entire field when it is really other environmental factors
that you loathe.
If this sounds familiar let me tell you a little more
about my dad. He took the talents that made him good at his profession and
turned them into his hobby. This hobby eventually led to self-employment and
gave us all a father that was happier and around much more often.
Now, my dad was an accountant and his hobby and
eventual job was financial advising (I never said it was an exciting hobby!),
but if I were asked to find an equivalent in the welding industry it would be
making metal sculpture.
We all know someone who has some junkyard art, ie. a
mailbox made out of tractor gears or a robot lawn ornament made from recycled
kitchen utensils or even a cowboy weenie roaster (google
image that last one for a laugh). People like recycled metal sculpture
because there is a romance to wondering where and by whom the metal was used. Plus,
a creative and well-thought-out piece can be as intriguing as any oil or pastel
The first step is to decide which type of ornaments
or sculptures you would like to create. What is often novel are items that are
ornamental and functional – like unique house numbers, artistic garden gates or
ornamental boot scrapers.
In the case of metal welding, the possibilities really
are endless. Besides the many varieties and thicknesses of metal, the metal can
be cut, shaped, colored or polished. Once you master the art of metal sculpting
you can also mix mediums and use concrete, wood or stone with your welded
After deciding what sub-genre of art to make you will
need to make a detailed pattern on paper and gather materials. Remember that
you can buy junkyard metal at a discount and that generally clients will get a
kick out of discovering what comprised their specific work.
Look for pieces of metal that are no more than an
eighth of an inch thick otherwise you may run into difficulty as an amateur
sculptor to shape the metal.
Most sculptors use a torch or die grinder to cut out
the metal. After a piece is cut you will need to polish and smooth the edges with
a metal wheel grinder. The final step is to spray it with an acrylic coating
that will give it a glossy finish and will protect it from rust.
As you progress, take classes, talk to other
sculptors (ArtMetal, an online forum and
social network for metal artists, is a must if you are interested in the field)
or read books you will be able adjust your techniques and undertake more
Many professional sculptors who have training in art
rather than welding outsource their electric welding work. This is an
opportunity for you to either cut outsourcing costs and sell cheaper items at a
greater profit, or pick up some outsourcing work from a sculptor you admire who
doesn’t have the skill you possess.
If you are still interested, a quick search of your
area should find some classes on making metal sculpture (classes like this one)
or you can order videos and books
that give you step by step instructions on planning, troubleshooting,
completing and selling your works.
The products you create can be sold at craft fairs
and flea markets, small retail shops and online. As you gain popularity you should
also begin to take customized orders from neighbors and fans.
While I can’t promise that learning to make metal
sculpture will lead to self-employment as it did for these two men, I can
promise that it can be a way to make a few extra bucks and that it will be
challenging, fun and may even teach you to love welding again.