Introduction: Flexible Interlocking Steel Joint System

The Flexible Interlocking Steel Joint proposes an adjustable joinery system for structural corners created by customized water-jet parts and manual-crafted stock steel tubes. By mechanically fastening the welded bracket system with the notched tubes, the tubes are adjustable with desirable length on all axis.

This project explores collaborations between technological fabrication and careful manual craft with understandings of steel's specific material behaviors. The raw presentation of the material becomes intentional because it exposes a variety of crafting processes (welding, grinding, drilling, milling...etc). Minimum tolerances are also crucial to the overall assembly and function of the system.

Step 1: Design and Prototype

Initial design work is developed trough using digital software (Rhino) to estimate component's dimensions and tolerance. Before moving to the final fabrication, laser-cutting 3/16" plywood and 1/16" museum board for prototyping physically helps understanding how each material fits together with mechanical fasteners(1/4"-20 1-1/2" bolts).

Step 2: Fabricate Custom Brackets

Each tri-braket set consists of 3 identical individual water-jet parts with two 1/4" holes. Over-drill procedures on the drill press are for bolts' caps to set flush on the steel. After all the drilling and cleaning, mig-welding on the edges of the brackets have to be 90 degrees. Final step would be grinding the weld to a smooth and filleted corner.

Step 3: Cut and Mill Interlocking Joints on Steel Tubes

All 16 gage 1-1/4" steel tubes are cut into 20" length. For creating the interlocking joints, cut the corners into rough size and mill the edges into exactly 0.625"x 0.625"( 4 horizontal tubes) and 0.625"x1.25" ( 4 vertical tubes).

Step 4: Drill Holes on Tubes

Temporarily assemble the brackets and the tubes together with clamps. Then, mark positions of the brackets' holes on to the tubes. Finally, drill 1/4" holes penetrating both sides on the marked tubes.

Step 5: Final Assembly

Assemble each corner with preferred interlocking distance. Screw in fasteners from the counter-sinked side and put nuts on the opposite side.

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