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

About: I am a massive fan of the Instructables community, but these days I spend more time sculpting than Instructabling. See my art work on Instagram @de_burgh_steel

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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