I wanted a room divider/screen to have as a family tree photo display. I could not find anything I liked, so I decided to design my own and make it.
The first 2 pictures are the finished product. The 3rd picture is my design with sample photos inserted.
I hope you enjoy this tutorial. It was not a real easy project, mostly time consuming, but well worth it in the end.
Step 1: Materials and Tools
3/8" steel rod (approximately 48' total for each section)
4X8 sheet of plywood (can be scrap)
6 - 2X6 pieces of lumber (each 12"-18" long, again can be scrap)
3/8" hollow rod (3' piece, but you'll only need about 1/2)
5 - 5/16" square u-bolts
Binder clips (4 for each picture frame, we needed 104)
Step 2: Bending the Main Frame
Make 4 of these sections, or as many as you want your room divider to be wide. Ours are each approximately 19" wide by 5' 4" tall, so 4 are about 6' 4" wide.
This step takes two people. Mark the center of a 12' piece of 3/8" rod. Place the mark at the top of the wheel rim and clamp it at that point. Now, while one person stands on the rim to keep it from moving, the other person bends the rod around the rim until the sides are parallel. Be sure to OVER BEND, because it will go out some when you let go. Remove the clamp from the rod and place on a sheet of plywood. They will most likely not be even on both sides. You will fix this later. Make 4 of these, or as many as you need.
Step 3: Making a Jig to Keep All Sections Uniform
Make sure you use the section with the shortest side for this step, because that will determine the height of your room divider. To do this, we started by screwing a 2X6 board square to the top of the sheet of plywood. Bring the curved rod to the bottom of this board and start working down one side of the rod, screwing a board square to the side of the plywood sheet. A plywood sheet should have manufactured edges, so it should be square. Do one more board on that side, then move over to the other side, making your boards square to the top board. Make sure the top side boards are the same distance apart as the bottom boards. Finally screw the last board across the bottom, in line with the bottom of the shortest side of the rod. Make sure this board is square to the bottom side boards.
Step 4: Top Bracing Rod
Next, measure the space just below where the rod starts to go straight and cut a piece of rod to fit between. Mark this place with a marker right on the plywood, square to the sides. If you've squared it up right, the space between the parallel rods at the bottom should be the same. Put the rod in at your mark and weld. Put the bottom rod in up against the bottom board and weld. After the welding has cooled, cut off any overhang with the chop saw.
Repeat for the remaining sections. The third picture is what your sections should look like at this point.
Place one section on the plywood sheet on a flat surface. Measure between the upper cross bar and the bottom and cut 4 rods to that length, as long as you measured across and the measurements are the same.
Place these pieces approximately 4" apart in the inside of the section. They will be 2 1/2" or closer to the edges. I designed this for 4X6 pictures, so, if you want different sizes, you'll have to adjust your measurements accordingly. Use 2 scrap pieces of board cut to 4" to make sure all the inside rods are evenly spaced.(Sorry, forgot to take a pic of that) Start with the center space.
Weld in place. Repeat for the remaining sections.
Step 6: Making the Frames
Cut a template to the size of your photos with a piece of scrap board. Ours is 4X6. Use this to place between the vertical rods where you want your frames situated. The vertical rods should all be equal at 4" apart, so you can cut pieces of rod to this length and weld them in place. You may have to do some grinding so they fit. Make sure they are not so tight that they spread the vertical bars apart.
The 4th picture is your progress thus far.
Step 7: The Rest of Vertical Pieces
Now that all the frames are in, measure for the remaining vertical pieces between the frames, the top of section to the top of frames and the bottom of section to the bottom of frames. Cut these pieces and weld in place.
We used a scrap piece of board to make a template, cut to the width of half of one of the spaces. Be sure to always use the spacer on the same side to keep the spacing consistent, top to bottom.
Repeat for remaining sections.
The 3rd picture shows all the frames in our layout.
Step 8: Hinges
A hack saw works better for cutting in this step, since the pieces are so small and not very difficult to cut by hand.
Theoretically , you could do the whole project with a hack saw, but it will take a lot more time and energy.
So, cut the u-bolts in half so you have 2 identical pieces of each. Next cut off the threads. If you have need for 1 1/2" threaded rod, keep the pieces, otherwise toss them. We needed 9 hinges, so there is 1 half bolt left with threads on. This could be used as a "bolt in" bracket if there is ever a need. You'll end up with 2 L shaped rods from each bolt. Cut the hollow rod into 9 pieces about 1/4" longer than the long side of the L shaped rod. Save the rest of the hollow rod for some other project. these 2 pieces make up one complete hinge.
Weld the rod ends of the hinge into place along one side of each panel. Keep the rod side on the same side of each panel, so you don't end up with 2 rods together and 2 pins together. Next, stand up the panels and place the pin in the rod from the bottom; then clamp under the pin to hold it in position on the next panel and weld it in place. Repeat for the remaining hinges. Remember you will not have hinges on the two outside panels.
The 2nd picture is what it will look like when it is hinged.
Step 9: Picture Clips
Sand off major imperfections with emery cloth, sandpaper, or plumbers abrasive mesh.I liked the abrasive mesh best, as it seemed to last better and cleaned itself out somewhat.
Use a rag to clean the entire piece with paint thinner or turpentine. After the piece has dried,wash over it with a rag soaked in vinegar; this will help the paint to adhere better. When it has dried again, adhere the binding clips to the corners of each frame, to hold pictures, with steel repair and filler. Use a good amount or they won't stay stuck, (if I had to do it over, I'd probably put the clips on after it's painted; unless you're very careful, you can knock them off.)
After the steel repair and filler has dried you can paint with your preferred paint for metal. I used Rustoleum Hammered because it is supposed to hide flaws and imperfections in scratched, rusted or pitted metals. It also did not require a primer. So, if you go with another type of paint, you may need to prime it first. The silver spreader tabs on the binder clips are removable,so you can paint over the clips and take them off after you've used them to open the clips to put your photos in. Once you have your photos inserted, you can take them out and have a clear view of your pictures.
Step 10: Final Product Sans Pictures
I guess if I did this again, I'd probably go with spray paint, since the clips are touchy to keep on. I hate to spend more on spray paint over brush on, but in the long run it probably would have been faster.
For the shapes on top, I used smaller diameter rod, clamped and bent it around cylindrical objects. I felt it needed a little something in that top space; and since there will be wedding photos going in the frames, I thought those shapes were appropriate.
In the end, I knocked a lot of clips off taking out the spreaders; which, by the way I recommend using pliers for, because it's hard on the fingers. Even with the pilers, they would snap back and hit my fingers. OUCH. So, anyway, I tried a several things to adhere the clips and I think all told, what worked best was what I used originally and that was King Kaulk. I think I switched because the clips were falling off as I painted, but I think maybe I didn't have enough on. When I took the spreaders out of that panel, I think I only knocked off ONE. All the other panels I lost about one PER frame!
My heartfelt thanks to hubby, Gary, for doing all my welding. Maybe someday I'll have him teach me to weld, but then it's nice that we can do projects together.