Introduction: Steel Memento Box

Picture of Steel Memento Box

Hi my name is Darwin Wood and my project was to make a "memento box" out of steel.  I have been taking welding classes for about six months now and I decided it was time I applied my skills to a fun, relatively easy yet still challenging project.  Unfortunately, in order to make a box like this you need prior experience with tig welding and other power tools.  Also you always want to be safe with everything you do, because the stuff being worked with has the potential to do some serious bodily harm if mishandled.  With that disclaimer, let us begin the journey!


Step 1: Planning

The absolute first part before beginning construction is to plan the entire box out on paper.  This includes measurements, shapes, locations of hinges, etc.

Step 2: Materials

Picture of Materials

What am I going to need to make this box?  Well, here is a quick list of what I used:

21-8 inch x 3/4 inch x 1/8 inch steel strips
Filler rod
Tig welder (as well as a little propane torch for heating)
Clear coating
Plasma cutter (for sizing steel strips and hinges)
Scrap sheet metal

I was fortunate enough to have a welding shop that provided the machines and some of the materials above, if these are not readily available it makes this project significantly harder and more expensive.

The tools I had already that can be purchased from a welding or hardware store were:
Welding mask
Insulated leather gloves
Safety glasses (extremely important)
Long sleeve 100% Cotton shirt
Vice grips
Pliers

Step 3: Beginning Construction

Picture of Beginning Construction

First, I sanded all of the strips to remove the steel mill from them (makes for a clean weld and much better overall end result).  Attached are pictures of the clean steel.  

Then, I cut the strips down to the size I need using the plasma cutter.  Unfortunately for most of these steps I won't have pictures because I will be doing them, however I tried to take pictures of as many important parts as I could.  

Step 4: Constructing the Sides

Picture of Constructing the Sides

Now that the strips are all correct lengths I can began attaching them to make sides of the box.  To attach the strips I made a weld length wise between two strips, fusing them together.

In general I found it easiest to weld the strips together in sets of two and then combine each pair.

A few words of wisdom for this step,

-Tack each end of the strips together to prevent warping while welding (Which means make a small weld at each end)
-Make absolutely sure that the strips are all level

Another method you could choose to use is to put together the box layer by layer, from the bottom up.  This lowers the risk of having uneven or tilted strips, which can be a hassle to deal with.

Step 5: Joining the Sides

Picture of Joining the Sides

Now with all six sides assembled we can move to putting the sides together.  Making a weld down along the corners, I attach the sides one by one until I have the four "walls" of the box together.  At this point I check to make sure all of my measurements still match up, and that the bottom of the box aligns with the "walls".  

Now for the bottom:

For this I inverted the box and placed the bottom on the top so that it would be easier to weld together.  I made one weld running the perimeter of the bottom, fusing it to the walls.

Step 6: Making and Attaching the Hinges

Picture of Making and Attaching the Hinges

This was arguably one of the hardest parts, because making the hinges was a pain.

To do this I looked around the shop for some very thin scrap metal.  When I found some I cut a strip about 1 inch wide and roughly 1 foot long.  After that I cut four smaller strips from the long one (and had some extra left over for just in case).  To fold them over I heated the strips with the propane torch and bent them with needle nose pliers.  To get the desired diameter I rolled the hot metal around a segment of the filler rod that I had been using for the welds.  

PICTURE

Now that I have the four hinges, a top, and a side, it is time to attach them.  Because there is a large difference in thicknesses of the materials, be sure to use a low amperage (which translates to low heat), because the hinge will melt before the box does.  I made a mistake on one of mine, which you will be able to see in the picture:

PICTURE

Now that the hinges are all attached, we can move to the coloring!

Step 7: Heat Coloring

Picture of Heat Coloring

I personally wanted my box to be brightly colored on both sides, but you can have only side colored, or neither!

First I wire brushed the inside and outside of the box so that I was starting from a clean slate, and then began the coloring.  Lighting the propane torch, I very slowly heated until the steel began to change color.  (it took about an hour of heating to color the entire box and the lid.  This part is tricky because there is only a small temperature range for coloring, and the color keeps changing even after the heat is removed.  When the inside is colored, cool the box (by dunking it in water) and then wait until completely dry.

Once dry, spray with the clear coat to preserve the coloring and keep any rust from forming.  

The first picture is an example of the clean steel, the second is after having heated it.  The second is from a different angle to catch the coloring more.

Step 8: Fill It!

I put little mementos in mine to keep and have the box in my room now.  All in all a fun project!

Step 9: What Did I Learn?

Even though I already had the skills for this project it still took a while to accomplish.  I learned that forethought is key, because if I had not created the plans beforehand I would have been completely lost.  I also learned that patience is paramount.  When coloring the inside of the box, if it is rushed, the color is simply lost, and cannot be achieved again unless it is sanded again (which would include taking the box apart).  I think these lessons are important in both everyday life and even more so in the professional world.  

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