I started welding because my house didn't have room for a proper, indoor woodshop. Welding was something I could do outside in the carport.
My friends supported my new habit by continually asking for challenging pieces. The more complex pieces people wanted the more I practiced.
This piece started with a request from a very dear friend: "Can you make a goat for my dad’s friend?”.
I'd never done a 3 dimensional sculpture before, but the only way to learn is to try.
Before you start let's talk about Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). Use it. If you're new to welding invest in a good welding mask. Spend as much on it as you do on the welder itself. I use a 3M Speedglas. It's worth every penny. Get a respirator designed to fit under a mask, the fumes aren't healthy, and dust masks for grinding. Wear leather shoes, a leather apron, and good gloves. I have different gloves for different purposes: heavy gauntlet welding gloves, mechanic type gloves that offer more dexterity, and heavy padded leather gloves for when I’m using wire wheels on grinders. And lots of safety glasses and face shields.
On a side note I use a Lincoln 140 MIG welder with .035" diameter flux core wire and DeWalt right angle grinders. I also use ViseGrips all the time.
Step 1: Draw a Goat
Since I didn't know how to do a 3D sculpture I started the only way I could think of. I did a Google image search of “goats” and started and started sketching.
I liked this one best.
The front view sketch wasn’t quite enough to work from, so I did more research to get a feeling of how their shape in three dimensions and how they look from the front and back.
The initial sketch was pretty small, so I enlarged with a photocopier until I had the size I wanted. That became what I built from.
Step 2: Get Some Washers
I don't exactly recall when but somewhere early in my welding
washers became a critical element to most of my pieces. I get mine from two places:
1.) People give them to me, usually my mechanic, my brother in law (who is also a mechanic), or guys/gals at work who are cleaning out their garages. This is ideal because it's a nice way to reuse materials and salvage stuff that might be thrown away. But it's not always reliable.
2.) A more reliable option is to buy them. Typically washers are plated with something to make them corrosion resistant (zinc or they're galvanized). I don't like how these look once they're finished and the fumes are even more toxic than normal welding fumes. I discovered I can usually buy them un-plated from Surplus City (www.surpluscityinc.com/). It’s a great source, no coating, and cheap. Sold by the pound. Depending on what I'm doing the size will vary, the goat was from mostly 3/8" washers. They were just about perfect for the finished size of the piece, you’ll notice later in the instructions that I used some larger washers to emphasize the shoulder of the goat, trust your gut when it comes to selecting a size to use.
Step 3: Start Building the Goat
You gotta start somewhere, right?
I don't have a photo of it but I started (and often start this kind of piece) with a length of 1/4 rod bend to follow a prominent feature of the shape building. In this case it was bent to follow the curve of the back from the butt up to the nape of the neck. This gives you something to work from. Occasionally I’ll weld the washer into the profile that I need but typically you can’t go wrong with the bent rod skeleton.
Once it's in the shape you need it's really as simple as just attaching the washers to it. In this context washers are essentially facets that combined loosely follow the shape of curves. Each one can be placed and tacked to the next in order to follow a gentle curve. If a more severe curve is needed they can be bent, I use two pairs of pliers or the vise and a hammer to bend washers.
I hold each one in place with needle-nosed pliers and tack it to the one before. Part of the beauty of it is that if a shape is not going the way you want you can cut out washers back to where it started to get off track and start over. You'll rarely (if ever) need to scrap a whole piece because it doesn't look right.
Step 4: Work at Night
This isn't really a step. Just a reminder that you don't need a supremely appointed workshop to do good work.
I got this order in early December and it was for Christmas. I had a little over two weeks. I have a full time job, so about all I did was go to work and work on the goat.
My shop is in my carport; it has no walls, a gravel floor, no heat, no cooling, and no lights (except a few halogen shop lights). It gets pretty cold in the Northeast in December. Which honestly isn’t too bad. Cold weather encourages you to wear ALL your PPE and the heat thrown off by hot steel and halogen lights goes to good use.
Go out there and try, you may find you need a lot less infrastructure than you think.
Step 5: Add Legs, Neck, Face, and Mouth
More of the same here. Washers, Washers, Washers. I hope these images illustrate my approach. The subtle curve of the body of comes from the slight difference in angle between each washer.
It can be a little hard to visualize. A good way to practice is to get an old steel mixing bowl (Salvation Army, $2), and weld washers together inside of it. Affix the bowl to your bench (clamps, weld, gum, whatever), hold the first washer in place the bottom of the bowl (I use a piece or rod with a point ground onto it), lay in a second washer tack it to the first and repeat.
You'll start to see how the washers rest against each other and see how it can be done in open space. You'll also get a feel for how many points of contact you need between washers (3, 2 will suffice in a pinch if you can get to both sides).
For the legs, neck, and head I needed to do more bending of each washer than was needed along the flanks. But the same technique holds true; and the same forgiveness of being able to remove a few washers if it's not going as planned.
Step 6: Install Goat Feet
I used big hex nuts for the feet. For two, well, three reasons.
1.) I had them, let the materials speak to you (I should get that on a shirt, or at least some stickers).
2.) They're naturally sorta “hoof shaped”.
3.) They gave me a way to bolt the sculpture to a base. I like to mount my sculptures on something, usually wood, because I feel it gives them more "presence" than they would have sitting on a table. But I always want the anchoring method to be as inconspicuous as possible. The anchoring bolts thread directly into the hex-nut feet.
Step 7: Horns and Ears
A tricky aspect of this kind of project is when two or more elements of a piece need to be as similar as possible, often they need to be mirror images. I don't have a band saw, drill press, lathe, punch, mill, or any stationary machine tools. So it's all gotta be by hand.
As I mentioned in an earlier Instructable (I write that as though you've read it AND I have some large library of them; as I sit here typing this is my second) the best method I've found, given my shops constraints is to (when possible) weld the two base materials that will be the end elements together and cut or bend them both simultaneously.
That worked for the ears. Two pieces of 1/8" flat stock laid on top of each other with the ends welded together. Draw the ear, cut both out at once with right angle grinder, grind and smooth the edges back to the line and you're in business. Then bend each in opposite directions to achieve that graceful ear flop of a goat.
That didn't work for the horns. They required a lot of "eyeballing". I chucked each salvaged pin into my cordless drill and ground it down to a point as shown, getting them to look the "sameish" just took time.
Once they were profiled the brute force method came into play. Clamp it in the vise, heat it up with a propane torch (which, you may already know, doesn’t get quite hot enough for steel work outside of a forge) and beat it with a hammer until it bent the way I wanted.
I wish it was more elegant and scientific than that. I did do a little bit of hammering it around a heavy piece of round bar to smooth the curve but it was mostly just beating it into shape.
To finish it I got out the grinder again and the flap wheel and did a lot of polishing. A lathe would have been easier, but doing things the "hard way" has taught me good hand-tool skills and troubleshooting. When you don't have all the tools you have to rely on your imagination. And, to me, that's what art is all about.
Step 8: Install the Horns and Ears (don't Forget the Beard and Tail)
Once appendages were made the next step was installing them on the frame of the goat.
This is another task that's not particularly hard, it’s just a little tricky. Again: practice practice.
When I started welding I thought that everything should be clamped in place ahead of welding (I think this is a holdover from my woodworking and wood-glue days). I quickly realized that most of my pieces were so unusually shaped that they couldn't be clamped and the elements had to be held in place by [gloved] hand or with pliers.
And that's how the horns, ears, beard, and tail were installed. Line them up with the drawing, hold them steady, and tack in place. If it's in the correct orientation finish welding it in place; if not, break it off and try again. That's the beauty of welding, you know almost immediately if it will look right and if it doesn't you can easily break it loose and try again.
When I'm struggling with the design of a piece I might leave it at the "tack stage" (welded but fragile) for weeks while I mull it over ahead of finishing the welds more securely. It's WAY easier to cut tack welds than finished welds...
I don't have a detail shot of the beard and tail, they were both little bundles of 1/8" rod, with the ends welded together than then trimmed and spread apart to look more natural. Same technique of aligning them to the frame. Eyeball the location, hold firmly, flip down the mask, and tack in place.
Step 9: Clean It Up and Finish It
With the right gear I would imagine that cleanup is easy. But I don't have all the right gear.
I use flux core MIG wire which is pretty messy (The flux leaves a residue over all the welds and it splatters a lot), you might be able to tell from earlier steps how dirty the goat was as it was under construction. I also don't have really powerful sandblaster.
These days if I have heavy clean-up to I pay my powder-coater (www.papowderworks.com) to sandblast it, he does a great job.
For this piece I forget if I had my little sand-blasting gun yet. If I did I ran it off a very under-powered air compressor, but it was better than nothing. Most of the finishing would have been done with wire wheels on a right angle grinder
[NOTE! safety gear!!! Use it! Can't stress that enough with wire wheels on a right angle grinder. At 11,000 RPM stainless steel wires will take off a tattoo as quickly as they polish a weld. I've learned that hard way.]
Once the polishing was done I cleaned it with paint thinner to get any grease off and sprayed it with clear Rustoleum.
The base for this piece was pretty special to me. I love materials with a story. When I was a kid my dad had an old circular sawmill that ran from the PTO (power take off) of his tractor. He finally got rid of it when I was pretty young figuring he’d tested fate enough. But before that he'd cut enough lumber to build a barn and quite a bit else. There isn't a lot of that lumber left, around the farm. Lumber that he cut off the land and sawed with his own sawmill. But the goat base is a piece of it. That make it's even more special to me.
So that's it, a goat in 9 steps. I bet you can make some even cooler in fewer steps.
Thanks for reading.