Introduction: Make a Steel Garden Flower
We've all seen metal garden flowers at the store or in other people's yards, but have you ever wanted your own that wasn't so cookie-cutter perfect and without personality? With some simple tools (and a few not-so-simple ones) you can make your own garden flower out of mild steel.
This Instructable assumes that you know a little bit about sheet metal work. I have written several Instructables that cover some of these techniques.
Step 1: Materials and Tools
- 2 square feet of 20 or 22 Gauge sheet steel
- 3/16" x 1 1/4" bolt
- 3/16" nut
- 3/16" Plastic or Nylon Washers
- 3/16" Lockwasher
- Printed Design
- Spray paint in the colours you have selected
- 4 feet of 1/4" or 3/8" solid steel rod
- Ear protection
- Ball-pein Hammer
- Bandsaw or Jigsaw
- Metal files
- Scotch Tape
- MIG welder (and ALL ASSOCIATED SAFETY EQUIPMENT)
- Bucket of water
Once we have these things we can proceed to laying out our pattern on the material.
Step 2: The Pattern
So, the first step is to lay out the pattern on the steel. Start by cutting out the designs below with scissors. You can print them out whatever size you would like, but as a general rule:
Big Flower Petals: 1 foot diameter.
Flower Center: 5 inch diameter.
Leaves: 4 inch diameter.
Once they're cut out, tape them onto the steel, and use the scriber tool to scratch their outline onto the steel. This will be our cutting guide, so make sure its visible.
Once the guides are in place, pull off the paper and discard.
Step 3: Shaping the Stem
So, inserting a straight stick into the ground won't exactly be very sturdy, so the trick used by most garden items is to have a second leg come out of the main stem, turn at a 90 degree angle, and go into the ground to help stabilize the flower.
The easiest way to bend the steel rod is to bend it while it is still the full length, so that you can use the length for bending leverage. Place one end in a vice and apply torch heat to the place you want to bend, 6 inches from the end in the vice. Grab the long end of the rod and pull down with steady pressure. As the bending point heats up, the rod will bend easier and easier. Bend the rod to a 90 degree angle, stop heating and remove it from the vice. Quench the bend in a bucket of water.
Place the stem horizontally in the vice and use a hacksaw to saw off the bend portion 6 inches up the stem from the 90 degree bend. We will be welding this onto the rest of the stem later.
Place the opposite end of the stem vertically in the vice. Do the same technique of bending, this time applying heat about 1 inch from the end and bending to around a 35 degree angle. Quench it in the bucket again.
Drill a 3/16" hole in the top end of the stem as shown in the image below. This is where our flower will be bolted in place.
Step 4: The Leaves
The leaves are the first piece of real metal shaping that we get to do. Back in Step 2 we copied the patterns onto the sheet of steel. Using the jigsaw, cut around the shape of the leaves. Using a file, deburr the edges so that they aren't sharp and won't be dangerous to our fingers.
The sheet metal shaping is totally free-form and there isn't a "right" way to do anything, so I'm doing my best to explain it below.
The first step in shaping the leaves is to place them in the vice along a near-symmetrical line and using the flat face of the hammer, bend the leaf in half so that it has a 45 degree bend.
Place a old rag on the anvil and strike the obtuse side of the leaf to curve it into a more leaf-like shape. Strike the nose of the leaf to bend it downward. Basically, just keep hitting until it looks like a metal leaf. If its not turning out amazing, hammer it flatter and try again.
If everything is satisfactory, we can move to welding the stem together.
Step 5: Welding the Stem
The first thing we are going to weld the 90 degree bent piece of steel we cut off in Step 3 to the stem.
I'm assuming that you have first-hand and supervised welding experience and proper safety equipment to perform this task. If you don't have the equipment for welding, use nuts and bolts. Attach the metal segments as shown in the image below.
To weld the leaves, place the ground clamp securely on the shaft of the stem, and using one hand, hold a leaf securely where you want to weld it. Cutting a notch at the base of the leaf might make this easier to accomplish. Place your first weld on top of the leaf, then weld the bottom side once or twice to make sure the leaf is securely attached. Repeat for Leaf #2.
Step 6: The Flower
Finally, the main attraction!
Start by using a jigsaw to cut out the petal shape inscribed on the steel sheet. File the edges to deburr them and reduce your likelyhood of needing a hospital trip.
Drill a 3/16" hole in the center of your petal shape. Trust me, its easier to do this now.
Shaping the petals can be difficult because the other petals get in the way when you're trying to shoehorn the piece onto the end of the anvil. Simply gently bend the other petals out of the way to expose the petal you are working on.
Shape it using the same methods you discovered and developed while doing the leaves. Placing a center crease down each petal makes it much easier to maintain symmetry while shaping the rest of the petal.
The yellow ball in the center (or as Google informs me, the stigma,) is difficult to imagine on paper, but actually folds up quite nicely into a ball-like shape. Cut it out with the jigsaw and drill a 3/16" hole in the center of it, too.
Start by hammering one segment of the stigma into a gentle curve using the horn of the anvil, then bend it back so it isn't in the way of the next segment being worked on. Continue until you have a "widely opened flower" shape.
Bend each segment back towards each other to get a ball-like shape, beating it with a hammer to bend them tighter and to group them closer together. They will probably overlap slightly, so just keep rearranging their overlaps so that one segment doesn't dominate too heavily over another.
When you're done, see how they fit together. You may need to adjust the bends in the flower's petals until the hole in the stigma lines up with the hole in the flower, and they are touching at these holes.
If everything is to acceptable and fits together well enough, we can move to painting and assembly!
Step 7: Completing the Flower
The spray paint we are using should be rust-proof no primer outdoor paint, just to make things easy and long-lasting. Paint the stigma yellow or red, the flower whatever color you want (other than green, yuck) and the stem a dark leafy green.
Once the paint has dried for 24 hours, place a nylon washer in the stigma, over the hole at the bottom, and thread the screw though the washer and the hole. Hold the screw in place while you thread another nylon washer onto it, then the petals, then another (third) washer, then through the hole in the top of the stem. Now put on a fourth nylon washer and a lockwasher for good measure, and a nut. Tighten the nut down nice and snug.
So, to clarify, the progression is washer -> stigma -> washer -> petals -> washer -> stem -> washer -> lockwasher -> nut. Tighten until everything can't wiggle or rotate on the bolt.
Jam the pointy end in a garden and enjoy. Does not require watering or sunlight!
I hope you enjoyed this project. Please comment or send me any questions you might have about a Step, and please rate it above if you liked it. Thanks for reading!
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