How to Make a Steel Vase - Step by Step





Introduction: How to Make a Steel Vase - Step by Step

About: To see more of my work you are welcome to follow me on Instagram @cam_de_burgh

I really enjoy turning scrap steel into objects that some people might find beautiful.

The first picture shows a few of my pieces. I normally give my work away to friends, or trade it for something completely different that, for example, a friend has created.

I have had some success using flat steel plate to make three-dimensional objects. In this Instructible I will attempt to share the process so others might enjoy the experience too. I don't intend to provide a pattern so you can make an identical object - I'm sure you will want something unique. I will simply outline the steps I take so you can see how easy it is.

Step 1: Inspiration and Planning

Inspiration can come from anywhere. Sometimes I can spend hours staring at image searches on the web. Sometimes I can walk into my workshop and just start making. This time I had a pair of old Chinese jars and I stole their proportions. 

Working with flat steel it helps to choose a design that can be broken down into a series of flat planes.

In this case I measured my old jars and drew a simple 3D sketch in AutoCAD. It looked OK so I then drew all the faces on the one plane trying to lay them out to minimise the required cutting. There were only three shapes; the hexagon base, and two trapeziums (I think they are trapezoids in US) making up the tapered sides and the shoulders.

Of course it's just as good to use a pen a ruler, or even trace the outline of the object. 

Since I could only print in A4 I decided to only print those three shapes - joined as they would be making up the base and one side of the pot. I cut out the print with scissors and used that for my template.

Step 2: Marking Out

First find some steel. I prefer to work with free stuff that has been discarded. Chequer-plate has a great texture. So does old rusty steel after it has been cleaned up a bit.

In my example I chose a sheet of steel about 1.5mm thick. In a previous life it had been used as a pallet to mix concrete on so it took a lot of work to get it clean.

Work out the most efficient way of laying out the shapes needed and then using your template mark them out with chalk or soap stone.

Step 3: Cut Out

I use a thin cutting disc on my angle grinder. I see a lot of very high-tech cutting machines on Instructibles these days, but sadly I don't have one.

Simply cut out the outline and lightly score any line that will need to be folded.

Step 4: Start Bending and Welding and Grinding and More Grinding

Using a vise, gloved hands, pliers, hammer, or whatever you can get hold of gradually bend each fold one at a time until the sides are close enough to their final position for tacking.

I used a hammer to get joints tight enough to weld. When a joint is closed tack it and move to the next. Close the joint and tack. And so on until the sides are all welded. Then bend the shoulders down and weld.

I left some steel at the tops of each shoulder piece in order to make a rim. I bent the rim pieces out as I formed the shoulders. These took some hammering to get them right for welding. (I'm actually not convinced the rim is necessary. I might just chop it off. What do you think?)

If you are as rough a welder as me you will now need to do a lot of grinding to make the thing look a bit neat. At this point I also trimmed the rim.

Step 5: Conclusion

There are many different ways to do a job like this. I have given a very brief and deliberately vague outline of the method I chose, hoping that this will be enough perhaps to inspire someone to get started on their own path. If anyone wants more details, please let me know. I will be more than happy to help any way I can.

I hope you have enjoyed this Instructible. Please feel free to comment or ask questions, and if you have read this far you might be kind enough to consider giving it a vote in the Metal Challenge.

Many Thanks, and Happy Making.

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    This is so rad! It's giving me lots of ideas for new shapes and forms to try. I'd been thinking about doing a vase, and I'm now totally inspired by your examples!

    I've never actually used my angle grinder for cutting sheet steel -- it looks like a good alternative when I don't have the money for waterjet cutting! :) Any tips for cutting with the angle grinder?

    1 reply

    Hi, Thanks.
    I tend to use the plasma cutter more now. The angle grinder is really noisy and curves can be difficult, but it does the job okay. It's handy for scoring the plate for bending.

    Very nice! I made a tall steel crucible in a similar way a couple years ago, but I made it in rings that were welded together in horizontal instead of vertical seams to give a changing tapered form.

    I also used CAD to get the shapes for cutting, but it was free Sketch-Up 7

    Yours look great! I'll have to try it some time for fun.

    Very Good . Thank you.

    Is there some sort of paint or coating that you can apply to the inside so this can be used as a vase for fresh cut flowers, etc and not rust?

    Thanks Rimar. I think I'm lucky I don't need to compete with Argentina.

    Thats awesome mate!!! I really want to try this now, any advice for scoring the metal for folding. Im worried I may go to deep

    1 reply

    Thanks Cozmic, I'm glad you liked it.
    You only have to score the folds lightly - less than 10% of the thickness of the plate. It really is a matter of just running the cutting disc along the lines. You will find it takes a lot more effort to actually cut through the plate. Practice on an off-cut and you will soon get the hang of it.
    When you make one please share the results.

    By the way. Would you consider voting for this in The Metal Challenge? Please do.

    Have you ever considered heating the edges you want to fold with a torch so it folds easier and possibly reduce the the chance of bending the wrong part? I'm not a metal worker; I just thought I'd ask.

    4 replies

    I definitely considered it but I don't have an oxy set. Scoring the fold lines with the grinder seems to work well though.

    It's fairly easy to use an oxy-acetylene torch to heat your plate along a line and then bend it right at that point, but heating it that much will affect the look of the metal significantly, so take that into account. I actually don't know if the change goes all the way through or is just surface and can be ground off; I will have to do some experimentation to see.

    Lovely work!

    I have an easy answer for you.
    the COLOR change is a very shallow surface change.
    the annealing(or hardening, depending on what type of steel it is) goes all the way through.

    any color change can easily be ground/sanded/polished off.
    but if you're going to do that, be prepared to do the whole visible surface.
    trust me when I say, for almost every piece ever made, raw metal with ground edges looks bad.
    I HAVE seen a few exceptions, but you have to either have a very happy accident, or plan forthe texture change very carefully.

    Good points.
    Thanks for commenting.

    Man, this is pretty cool! I recently had some experience in welding, and it seems pretty simple and straight forward! I might try this.... Thanks for the inspiration! It's amazing all the things people come up with!!!

    2 replies

    Simplicity is the key to most of my projects. It suits my short attention sp

    haha, your welcome :)

    Always nice to see someone working with steel, brings back memory,s. Nice touch using floor plate instead of plane mild steel. You could also use aluminium floor plate for pieces to sit outside without rusting. Suppose it depends also on your welder, DC/AC.. Good job.

    1 reply

    Thanks for your comments. I would like to try aluminium one day.

    These pieces are all lovely! If I knew anything at all about welding (yet - learning that skill is in my bucket list) I'd be on this like white on rice. Thanks for the great I'ble. One question: what is "tacking"?