Hope Abounds!

As with all good projects, what seems like it shouldn’t take long to whip out, winds up consuming 10x more time than expected.  This project was no exception.

It began with my wife wanting the word HOPE in a fancy script and translated into metal that could be hung on the wall of our home.  Immediately, this project screamed WATERJET ME!  The one thing I’ve learned with waterjetting is that the more continuous the path, the shorter the cut time and the less the finished part will cost.  And at $2 per minute that the pump is running, designing the part with the fewest starts and stops to cut holes is a significant cost savings.

After playing around with different fonts in CorelDraw and nothing really hitting the mark, a search for a good script was necessary.  After a quick search on the web, I found the script below designed by José de Wal.






I contacted José and she allowed me to use her design for this project.  If you have any need of logo design, I highly recommend José, she’s a great pleasure to work with.  Just go to http://www.jose-design.nl/ to see what she’s working on.

This design is elegant, and that is what makes it so attractive.  However, some of the sections are so thin that waterjetting them would not be practical.  Minimal adjustments were made to thicken these areas and the first examples were cut.  One aspect that I didn’t anticipate was how linear CorelDraw would interpret the curves.

After talking to the folks at TechShop, this is a common problem encountered when using vector graphics with CNC machines such as the waterjet or vinyl cutter.  They had a plug-in that “smoothed” the curves and allowed the .dxf file to be taken to the FlowJet software and subsequently cut on the waterjet machine.

This project turned out well after much finessing of the files and process.  If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask, I definitely learned a great deal about the whole process from data creation, to file conversion, to cutting on the waterjet.


Gift Boxes


Giving gifts is one of the greatest pleasures in life.  Some of the best gifts are the simplest gifts and sometimes, the container is much more than that, but part of the gift itself.

20150820_165503The dove, sometimes seen as a symbol of peace, was chosen as the icon for the top of these boxes.  Purple, the color of royalty, was selected to be intertwined with the dove icon to create an elegant, but simple presentation piece.

These dove medallions would have taken prohibitively long to create using traditional methods, but were very easy for the waterjet.  Just create the line art using Corel Draw, convert it to a file format that the waterjet software can accept (.dxf), set the machine up and away it goes.  It’s not quite THAT easy, but pretty close.

Here’s a short clip of the waterjet at work, enjoy!

Tea Anyone?

Always keeping my three year old niece in mind, my wife ran across a child-sized cast iron patio table and chairs at a swapmeet we recently attended. After evaluating the set to make sure there were not fractures or missing fastener bosses, the haggling immediately began. Before I knew it, we were carrying the set for what seemed like hours the approximately 1/8 mile to the truck.

The first task after disassembly and inspection was to remove the old chipped, white powder coating and prepare the metal for painting. With media blasting being the go-to paint removal method, the work of removing the thick rubbery material began. After several HOURS of very slowly removing the powder coating, only a small section of the table top was clean.


dsc_0052After doing some research, acetone was suggested several times as a removal agent. Acetone can be purchased by the gallon at Lowe’s and isn’t terribly expensive (approximately $20 per gallon).










Next a suitable container was needed to allow the parts to soak in, but not so much volume that would require many gallons of acetone to have to be purchased.  After much searching and wandering around the hardware store, these large cookie sheets seemed the most economical place to start and the components fit snuggly inside allowing for little wasted volume.







After placing the components squarely in the center of the cookie sheet, the acetone was added, completely submerging the parts.






dsc_0056It soon became apparent that acetone evaporates quickly, especially on hot summer days, so after making sure everything was submerged in acetone, aluminum foil was used to cover the cookie sheet and crimped snuggly around the entire perimeter.





dsc_0057After just 30 minutes of soaking, the old powder coating was lifting off nicely from the cast iron.







With virtually no effort, the powder coating can be peeled away.

This soaking and peeling process was performed three times to maximize material removal and reduce the amount of hand labor later.  Some areas were very stubborn and required media blasting to remove.




After media blasting to completely clean the components, they were primed with PPG DP-40 epoxy primer and painted with a high quality finish.  Hobbly Lobby is a great place to peruse when looking for the unusual and that is where the umbrella came from.  This umbrella is a typical personal rain umbrella with the handle removed and two-piece pole added.  After careful assembly, it was ready for my niece and her dad to hold those wonderful Saturday afternoon tea parties.



Gas Pumptastic Wall Hangings

Why fret about what to buy someone for Christmas when you can make it! These two wall hangings were gifts for my dad and brother. My dad had made quite the hobby of restoring gas pumps in retirement and there is very little art that would be appropriate for his pump collection area. I made the same for my brother as a striking likeness of his little girl holds a prominent place pointing at the pump.

The red background is ordinary luan, the type used under engineered flooring. The silvery background is galvanized steel similar to that used to make heating duct. The lettering and artwork is vinyl sign making material cut on a CNC vinyl cutter.






Gate Keeper

With This project was the most fun I’ve had in a long time.  My mother-in-law wanted a gate for her driveway/lane and looked high and low for something elegant, but that wasn’t going to break the bank.  After a fair amount of searching, it became apparent that an opportunity to construct was knocking.

The criteria for the gate included:

1)  Can’t be driven around – it would need to span the entire width of the driveway and preferrebly couldn’t be walked around, but definitely not driven around.

2)  Elegant – even though she lives in the country, a farm-style gate was out of the question, it needed to be befitting of the house.

3)  Easy to open and close – she has some physical issues and a gate that is difficult to manuver was out of the question.

It began with design – asside from her requirements, I wanted to make sure that the gate wasn’t too complicated or required any special fixtures that could not be replaced in the future if they became damaged.  I settled on a simple two-panel fifteen foot wide swinging gate that didn’t have any features that connected it to the road surface (no latches that contacted the ground, no wheels to support the panels and no chance of the gate dragging the ground if additional gravel was added to the road surface at some point).

All parts of the structure would be made of square tubing, it is easy to keep square while welding it together.  Decorative finials and scroll features would be added to the structure and I found a few places that sold these features made of cast iron; which could be easily welded to the structure.

Steel Tubing for Gate

Steel Tubing for Gate

With the design complete and materials list developed, it was time to go to pick up the steel.  I like to get materials from Pontiac Steel.  They have always had what I needed and have a decent “drops” selection, so no project is to large or small.  For this project, I purchased entire 24 ft “sticks” of material which they cut in half so I could load them onto the rented 10 ft trailer and get it home.  The range of material size is from 1 inch square for the pickets, to 3 inch square for the posts.  The idea was to keep the weight of the panels down by using 18 gage wall for the pickets and much of the structure of the panels.  Only the portions of the gate where the hinges attached would be 0.25 inch wall thickness tubing.



fineals.jpgAt about this time, the finials arrived from the supplier and were in great shape!  I was concerned that the castings would be crude and need a great deal of rework to fit into the end of the 1 inch tubing; but no such rework was needed.




DSC_0059 DSC_0060       Since the finials were on hand now, I was anxious to see what they would look like and cut the first picket and welded a finial into place.  It looked great, and even better was the ease of which it welded into place.  That evening, all of the pickets were cut and finials welded into place.  This gate is to have 9 pickets per panel with just over 9 inches between pickets.  This spacing seemed most visually appealing in the design stage.  Also at this time, the main frames for the panels were constructed.





DSC_0062Until this point, the hinge was something that I thought I would make from scratch, but after more consideration, I opted to use purchased components.  The primary reason being that I needed the ability to perform fine adjustment once the gate was in place.  All of the hinge designs I came up with otherwise lacked the adjustment that I needed… unless for some reason the concrete gods were going to look favorably upon me on installation day and there would be NO misshaps – didn’t think that was possible.  These nifty 5/8″ gate hinge pins were purchased at TSC and are made by Stanley.



Installing the hinge parts onto the panel frames was going to be a delicate operation.  It was critical that they were square to the pannel and completely concentric, otherwise, the gate would bind as it was opened and closed which wouldn’t be any fun to try to remedy.

DSC_0066 DSC_0064After playing with different fixturing methods, I found that oversized 5/16″ nuts and all-thread rod provided an excellent fixture.  The nuts just nested inside the opening of the spacers used as the female portion of the hinge.  Therefore, the spacing could be controlled easily and the concentricity came along for free!



DSC_0063A great deal of thought was also put into the latch.  I’ve seen lots of latch variations, some are complicated and have lots of parts, some are dead simple, but didn’t seem to have a great deal of strength.  This simple latch is nothing more than two lengths of square tubing where one is a size that slides snuggly inside the other.  Added a handle on the right to open and close it and hole on the left for a lock and walla!




DSC_0069 Now with the main structure complete and all of the pickets ready for installation, time to spend the afternoon welding everything together.  Afterwards, everything was cleaned up and painted.  Two coats of PPG DP-40 Epoxy primer and two coats of PPG single-stage urethane.  This should hold up well in the sun and last many years.







finished.jpgThe picture isn’t the best, but the gate is nearly ready for use.  Once the concrete that the posts are set in fully cures, I’ll come back and fine tune the fit by adjusting the hinge pins and cut off the remaining threaded portions to finish it out.  Future plans may include adding an opener, but that is a project for another day.

Thanks for reading along!  If  you have any questions, about any part of this project, don’t hesitate to ask!