This was a fun project, a combination of braze welding, mig welding and woodwork to reclaim this giant wire spool wheel that my scrapper dropped off, he didn’t even bother to call me and just stopped by because he knew I’d love this thing, and I did, still do, love it to pieces..
This wire wheel made it all the way from Madison Wisconsin, before making it to my studio, it was carrying just shy of a ton of 1.5″ pressure pipe that was wound on this giant spool.
I already knew exactly what one half of this wheel was going to be used for so I got to work and made the security cage for my bench space to keep my welding equipment behind a second set of locks.
And here’s a short video of how this security cage works, a simple but very strong rigging consisting of three blocks (the technical name for pulleys) with a 90 lb counterweight tucked away behind my loft.
I still had another complete wheel and all the wood from this spool though. All the perfect elements for a set of benches.
I enjoy the deliberate process of drawing a design out, making the cut list, cutting the metal and all the other prep involved with fabricating projects. Each moment of time you don’t rush equals 4 moments of post welding time spent cussing at the fact that you should have prepped it properly in the first place.
So I measured out all the salvagable steel and wood to determined what size benches I could make, I knew I wanted the finished height to be 18″ tall, after some calculations, I felt that 15″ deep would make a great fit and the amount of reclaimed materials dictated these benches 42″ (3′ 6″) long.
Time to get to work, I cut out all the steel which consisted of pieces of 1.5″ x 1.5″ and 1″ x 1.5″ box tube, taking extra care to leave the existing weathering on the steel. Then I started drilling, when using proper technique and using cutting fluid, you can use the same drill bit to make over a thousand holes. I’m keeping count on my 3/8″ bit and it’s well past 400 holes with only slight signs of wear.
56 holes total to make all the mounting points for the 14 bench slats on this project.
I then cut all the wood down to size, placed that off to the side then welded the frame together.
Here’s a picture of the bench set with slats resting on top, nothing is assembled or finished.
After the frame was welded together, I stress tested them by applying pressure at their worst possible angles and they held up great, being aware of how the most bizarre things can happen to furniture during its lifespan, I didn’t feel great was adequate for a portfolio item. I decided to add an, “I beam” structure to tie the legs together, at this point, this bench frame is beyond strong, these benches can take years of abuse and remain strong and viable. Even if the wood was destroyed, new slats could be easily installed thanks to the consistently spaced mounting holes.
Now that the frame is really strong, time for a different kind of fun, using a brazing torch to add bronze accents into the corners and having fun dragging the bronze across the surface of the steel, watching the steel merge with the bronze is a really neat process to watch firsthand. While this bronze does make the weld stronger, the frame is already amazingly strong and I’m able to put aesthetics in the forefront instead of function which is warm change of pace knowing it’s foundation is strong. Here’s a shot of me adding some of these accents into the furniture.
After wrapping up fon with bronze, it’s time to shift into finishing, the part where you really have to slow down and watch everything all at the same time. At this point even bumping a piece against the wrong thing can be a small disaster since clear coats are drying. Here’s a picture of the first coat of protectants immediately after it was applied, I scheduled this intentionally on a Friday so I could leave for the weekend and not be tempted to touch things or mess with them, at this point, the best thing that can happen to them is to be left alone.
As a side note, the second picture has an example of my braze welding, and I took these pictures in the dark, like really dark, both pictures are a 125 second exposure on a joby tripod, the reason the brazing example is see through is that I placed it down half way through the exposure, just to play around with it, it was so dark you can’t even see my hand that placed it there. Pretty neat!
The clear coat on the steel is Penetrol, it’s an oil based paint relaxer that works amazing as a metal clear coat, after multiple coats are applied, the luster of the steel really comes out and has a glossy finish, never to rust again. The wood slats have been treated with a combination of tung oil, boiled linseed oil and marine varnish. This combination works great for the outdoors and wood can last outdoors with this treatment. While we can put a man on the moon, we still don’t know how to maintain the luster of wood when it’s kept outdoors for more than four seasons, so annual maintenance is required if this becomes outdoor furniture which it’s capable of being, the steel won’t rust anymore thanks to the clear coat, the wood will stay beautiful and maintain all the markings during its life with annual maintenance and all the hardware used is stainless steel, that’s actually the only new thing on this project, the screws, I even used reclaimed bronze & copper wire for almost all the accents.
The rest of these images are of the final bench set after clear coats have dried and passed all QC tests. These benches are strong, reliable and will provide years of enjoyment for their new owners.
Thanks for reading about these benches. These are for sale in the Portland, USA area.
300.00 for one bench, 500.00 for both.
If you’d like to use these as outdoor benches, I’ll be happy to provide a hands on consultation for the wood treatment by coming out to the benches and applying it myself the first year as a courtesy to follow up with you and show you the details on how to apply this yourself in the following years OR we can talk about me continuing maintenance.
Thanks for reading.
More to come.