Welded metal sculptures can range from being breathtakingly large to being extraordinarily small. Either way, building them requires not just vision, but the ability to produce a high-quality metal weld that incorporates the strength necessary to keep your sculpture together. At the same time, you must produce a weld that is attractive enough to blend into the sculpture itself in an artistic fashion.
Learning to Weld
Learning to weld requires more than simply picking up a welder and fastening two pieces of metal together. You have to be versed in what kinds of metal must be welded using specific techniques, such as MIG welding mild steel. You have to be aware of how to get proper weld penetration, or the depth to which your weld integrates itself with the surrounding metal, as well as how to produce attractive welds. The easiest way to do this is to get training. Check with local community colleges to see what programs they offer. After all, learning to weld artistically isn't much different from learning to weld for machining purposes.
Different types of welding are used for the artistic process. In general, most artists use MIG welding. This is a machine that feeds weld filler material onto the surface being welded, creating a spark. The spark is shielded by either carbon dioxide or argon, allowing it to create the weld itself, joining the metal together. Other types of welding have their place in the art world as well, though. For instance, large and heavy sculptures using thick steel plates are best welded with stick welders that produce much larger and more powerful welds than MIG welding. In contrast, very small welds may use TIG welding, which is somewhat similar to MIG welding.
Welding artistically requires that you look not only at the overall sculpture, but also at the welds that make up the sculpture. If you craft the body of Venus in steel, for example, and then use a weld to attach her head to her body that is filled with pits and holes, the overall effect of the sculpture would be ruined. When welding something like that, you can use the welder to produce welds that would look similar to a pearl necklace. The same goes for any other sculpture, however. As you learn how to weld and to produce attractive welds, you begin to understand that welding in itself is as much an art as it is a process.
After you've completed welding your sculpture together, you may notice that there's a heavy brown or black crust on the surface of the weld. This happens normally in welding, and generally cleans up quickly and easily. The best way to go about cleaning your welds is with a simple wire brush. Not only will a wire brush clean the crust off of the weld, but it will polish the weld up a bit, as well. In fact, you can polish a weld to nearly a mirror finish using progressively finer grits of sandpaper and then polishing compound. You can also grind the weld flat so that it blends in with the surrounding metal, giving you the cleanest possible way to affix one piece of metal to another.
- "Welding For Dummies"; Steven Farnsworth; 2010
- "Welding Complete: Techniques, Project Plans & Instructions"; Editors of CPi; 2009
- "Creating Welded Sculpture"; Nathan Hale; 1994
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