A stone of steel

One of my friends wanted me to make him a sign frame for his stone yard. All he wanted was a simple eight feet high by sixteen feet long steel frame he could cover with plywood. He would then paint the plywood and have his business name put on it with telephone numbers etc.

I pointed out to him that no one would see it. That’s because next to his property is this huge billboard. His big little sign will be competing with the pros for attention. He might as well not even have a sign as to have one that won’t be seen.

I suggested he think of something that would grab people’s attention. I’m thinking something unusual, out of place, say like a huge stone sitting on top of a post that’s leaning.

It wasn’t as simple as it looks.

First there was the hole for the post. Two feet in diameter and twelve feet deep, that’s a hole for a post. Of course the post was a twenty one foot piece of eight inch pipe.

I’m not computer guru. But I do know a little bit about cut and paste. I applied it to the building of the steel stone.

My problem was my bender would only bend four inch wide material. I needed the stone to be eight inches wide. The other thing was I could only handle about a six and a half foot long piece of steel in the bender at one time.

So I cut the four inch by three sixteenths straps into six and a half foot lengths. I put two pieces into the bender at a time and bent them however it went. My guide was the way nature does it. She’s a no pattern pattern artist if there ever was one. So I didn’t worry about the bends, just bending. The old Hossfield number two bender was a life saver on this one.

Then it was a simple matter of picking out all the pieces of pieces on the floor and trying to find a way to put them together so that it looked like the outline of a large slab of sandstone. Again, the no pattern pattern concept working overtime.

We got lucky.

That was the easy part. What followed was covering that frame with sixteen gauge sheet metal. I use good tools that make the job easier but we’re still welding thin metal. And it is not so heavy to work with as it is awkward because the sheets are large and difficult to handle.

As I worked the metal I realized that if I didn’t break up the skin with some texture it wouldn’t look much like a stone. Some places I took different hammers and beat the heck out of the sheet metal to give it some texture. Other places I welded up layers to break up the appearance of smooth siding.

One of the wonders of our humanity is we don’t need to see perfection to get a point across. So when you look at this and wonder what in the heck I was thinking. Keep in mind I depend a lot on the mind of the viewer. I understand that the mind wants to see and it only needs some key points to focus on to do so. I don’t have to make a steel stone. I only have to make something that looks like it could be a steel stone. If the viewer wants it to be a steel stone it will be one.

As it works with us folks, I didn’t realize I needed texture until I had looked at one side without texture.

So I added a totally unrelated piece of texture on the other side just because I could.

The next step of course was paint. One of my friends owns an ornamental iron fence company. They had a booth for painting and baking their paint on their products. I picked out a gallon of beige paint at the paint store along with a quart of a light brown for accents. I delivered the steel stone to them and let them paint it.

When I walked into their place the next morning two things were obvious. The steel stone didn’t look like a rock. And the employees thought I was crazy. They hadn’t applied the accent so it was, well, beige. Actually it was a beige wall with texture because it filled the booth and you couldn’t get any distance for perspective.

I explained to the painter that all he needed to do was a no pattern pattern dusting of the accent over the steel stone. He just needed to turn up the air pressure and let it happen. That’s the way mother nature does it and she does just fine.

When we got the steel stone to the stone yard I had to create an extension for the leaning pipe post. It had started out twenty one feet long but twelve feet of that was now in concrete. The post in concrete was eight inch pipe. I used six inch for the extension.

I welded the extension to the post. Then the steel stone was welded to the extension. Done deal.

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