Picture of How to Make a Steel Vase - Step by Step
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

Picture of 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.
ElektraSteel4 months ago

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?

cammers (author)  ElektraSteel4 months ago
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.
vtstruct8 months ago

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.

enprog1 year ago

Very Good . Thank you.

Cant Hardly3 years ago
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?
rimar20003 years ago
Congratulations! You deserve the prize.
cammers (author)  rimar20003 years ago
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
cammers (author)  cozmicyellow3 years ago
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.
cammers (author)  haventmadeabombyet3 years ago
I definitely considered it but I don't have an oxy set. Scoring the fold lines with the grinder seems to work well though.
rachel cammers3 years ago
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.
cammers (author)  ironsmiter3 years ago
Good points.
Thanks for commenting.
mweatherl3 years ago
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!!!
cammers (author)  mweatherl3 years ago
Simplicity is the key to most of my projects. It suits my short attention sp
haha, your welcome :)
jamstir3 years ago
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.
cammers (author)  jamstir3 years ago
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"?
I will preface this by saying I'm not a welder, though I wish to become one some day in the future, and I'm vaguely familiar with some of the terminology.

I believe tacking is where you do a small spot weld that holds the pieces together enough that you can manipulate the whole thing without it coming apart, but isn't a full proper weld that joins the whole length of the, uh, seam? I don't know if seam is the right word, but I'm sure you get the idea.

If you look at the 4th picture in Step 4, I think that's an example of a tack (you can see the small weld at one end of the seam, but the rest of it is not actually joined together yet).
makes sense. thanks obax17!
cammers (author)  kewpiedoll993 years ago
Obax17 is right as I see it.
It's a weld that isn't too hard to undo if it's wrong.

heikeg3 years ago
Love it!
cammers (author)  heikeg3 years ago
Squee3 years ago
Very nice. I'm a metals student and I've been in a bit of a rut lately. I really like how these came out, I think I might experiment a bit with your technique.
Thanks for sharing!
cammers (author)  Squee3 years ago
Go for it. And please share your results.
Mrballeng3 years ago
This is really awsome! I miss the days when I had access to all those kinds of tools.
cammers (author)  Mrballeng3 years ago
Thank you. You may come round to my place and use the mig. No worries.
fozzy133 years ago
This is really cool! I like the look of these, and since I've just been learning how to weld lately, I might make one.. Sadly, I don't have a source of free fairly thick steel sheet..
cammers (author)  fozzy133 years ago
It's amazing what turns up if you keep your eyes open, but failing that you could try asking for offcuts at an engineering place or even buy some new steel.
If you do make one be sure to share an image with us.
Very neat! Love the way they look.
cammers (author)  jessyratfink3 years ago
kathynv3 years ago
Amazing. You took someone's trash and made it into something anyone would be proud to have in their home. Great job, and thanks for the "deliberately vague" Instructable.
cammers (author)  kathynv3 years ago
Thanks. That's just what I hoped to achieve.
This is really cool! Great photos, I might have to try this sometime!
cammers (author)  NathanaelScheffler3 years ago
Thanks. Please post a picture if you do make one.