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"Kevin's sculptures are quite striking. I love how he captures both geometric shapes and the fluidity and asymmetry of nature."
--Sara Adams, proprietor of Happy Folding, Oxford, U.K.

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How to Bend Thick Metal Using a Propane Forge

It's the beginning of September in Phoenix and just not hot enough for artist Kevin, so he decided to fire up his propane forge. Actually, he is working on a large outdoor sculpture called Desert Dancers that has led him to bend the 1" x 3/4" solid stock to make the sculpture's metal frames using his propane forge.

Kevin has a steel bar in the forge that is hot, so he pulls it out of the fire and takes it over to his workbench. There he fits the red hot metal into a jig.

Then Kevin explains how he made the male mold that he is bending the bars around. After cutting out the mold, he welded the 1" thick metal mold to another 1" plate of steel to give himself room to work around the mold and not run into his workbench.

Then he welded THAT piece of metal to the workbench so he would have a firm, steady base that would let him bend and hammer without having to worry that the mold would move.

He bent one piece of metal to figure out exactly how long he needed to cut the straight bar stock, then figured the angle he needed at each end to bring them together in a point.

Next, Kevin measured out 1" from the edge of the mold and drilled six holes, three on each side of the mold. He then made pins, or dogs, to fit into those holes. As he bends his 1" thick piece of metal around the mold, these pins help him lock the metal in place.

The piece of metal is hot, so Kevin pulls it out of the forge and use his hammer it, then hand bends a section, putting in three pins as he goes.

Then he uses a large crescent wrench to bend past the center top of the form. The metal then goes back in the forge. The process is repeated.

While the piece is heating a fourth time, Kevin explains the importance of laying out on the workbench just the tools you need in the order you'll need them. When you are working with heat like this, you want to make the most of your time and stay safe, too.

The metal is ready. Kevin seats it in his jig, then uses two blacksmith's hammers to bend the last section. Finally, he heats both ends of the metal one more time and uses the hammers and then a clamp to bring the two ends together.

"Not bad for an amateur blacksmith," says Kevin.

He shows one of the pieces of 5/8" thick glass that will fit into the frames. Kevin made the mold that the glass company used to pour the glass. There will be about 58 pads in the entire sculpture, which is 7 feet tall and 12 feet wide.

Kevin gives a special shoutout to Rodger and Jason LaBrash at Grizzly Iron, a blacksmith shop in Phoenix for all of their wisdom and advice on this project.

Kevin needs to go get some water, so you have time to subscribe to see more how-to videos. Well, you might also want to hang around another moment to see Kevin's latest great idea!

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