fine art

home & garden


work in progress


3-d printer
engineering kinetic sculpture
finish work & patinas
how to create a sculpture
longevity tools
milling machine & metal lathe
public art
shop math: measuring & leveling
tools for the studio
transporting & installing videos
arc welding
bending & shaping
cutting & grinding
general welding
health & safety
mig welding
other techniques
specific projects
tig welding
tool how-to's

  * How to Easily Handle Off-Site Welding
  * How to Use 3D Printing for Other Uses
  * How to Switch a Multiprocess Welder From MIG to TIG Using the Longevity MTSPro 252i
  * How to Shape Metal With an Air Hammer
  * Introducing the New AHP AlphaTIG 200X, 3rd Generation

more ...

"BackFlip is sensational! And the red is a dazzling touch. I love seeing Kevin's imagination become tangible."
--Beth Murfee, Washington DC

Bookmark and Share

Bending & Shaping

Kevin uses a variety of tools in his studio to bend and shape metal to create his contemporary art sculpture.

You'll find how-to videos, tips and tricks, tools and techniques about how to bend and shape metal, using the Chinese pipe bender, the slip roll, the air hammer, the hydraulic pipe bender, the brake and even the oxygen-acetylene torch.

Enjoy these videos about bending and shaping metal ....

How to Shape Metal With an Air Hammer How to Shape Metal With an Air Hammer
Nov 26, 2014
Kevin is working on a fireplace sculpture commission, which will have three sections that swirl upward. "It'll look like a little fire tornado," he said. The sculpture will replace the usual gas logs and the regular burner. Caron also recommends trying broken tempered glass in this type of setting as the glass reflects the light.

Kevin needs to adjust a divot in the fire sculpture's 1/8" steel structure. He tried using his detail hammer, which has a small head and a pointed end for getting into tight areas, but the metal was too thick for the hammer to do the job.

But Kevin has a hammer that will.

Some guys call it an air chisel because you can put a chisel point on it for cutting, and some refer to this tool as an air hammer.

For the job at hand, Kevin is using a flat head on it for pounding. It's great for driving out bushings and stuck bolts. Yes, Kevin learned about this tool when he was working on cars - it's from the automotive industry.

He got his air hammer from Snap-on, and Kevin says it hits really, really hard. It's great for reaching down into tight areas, so he can put the sculpture up against the anvil and has plenty of air power coming from his compressor (you'll need 60 gallons or so to have enough volume to run this tool). That allows him to pound that small area back into place more easily.

Kevin shows a close up of the area he needs to pound out. He explains how he is going to position the metal on the anvil and use the hammer to shape the metal.

He's even used this tool to smooth small dents in big sculptures, fitting the tool up inside and holding his dolly on the outside. "It's better than trying to reach up in there with a hammer and swing it," Kevin says.

Kevin uses the air hammer on the metal. Afterward, he says, "It almost got it all." There was one small stubborn area where he needs to come back and hammer it more. Or, he says, "I might break out the big hammer."

He shows the inside of the sculpture, and explains that an outside skin will hide the hammer marks.

It's close enough now, though, that he can tack weld it on the inside and weld it on the outside. Once it's welded, he uses an angle grinder to grind it smooth.

Then he needs to add his side for the inside edge of the curve. He'll then continue to fit it, bend it, shape it, "beat on it a little." "It'll come together," he says, "and look pretty cool when it's done."

The air hammer is a nice tool, Kevin says, something you may want to add to your toolbox. He adds that you can get different length shanks, different diameters and varied ends. You can get a point for punching through; a chisel for removing spot welds, etc. You can even get a pipe splitter, which cuts pipe and sheet metal easily.

Kevin reminds everyone to wear ear protection and safety glasses when using this tool.

But don't miss the end where he tells you what he really thinks ....
More Tools, Tips and Tricks for Shaping Metal More Tools, Tips and Tricks for Shaping Metal
May 28, 2014
Kevin is working on his sculpture Sheleen, which is, as he says, "a little on the curvy side." People ask him how he does all the shaping. Once section at a time? Over his head? Over his knee?

He says that, once he gets the pieces cut out, he attaches one corner of the steel sculpture with a 1/4" tack weld. Then he works down the seam, prying and tacking. He shows one of his favorite pry bars, a small, handheld model he got from Snap-on tools. It's great for working in small areas because you don't have so much leverage that you're bending the metal, but you have enough to persuade it.

Kevin also uses a lot of woodworking clamps. They're quick to adjust and have enough flexibility to tighten things up. He also uses Bessey clamps, but one he really likes is one he overheated the pad on. He warped it, so it won't sit flat, so he decided to add a piece 1/4" angle iron on it. Now he can actually hook it on the edge of a sheet if he wants to, say, pull a whole section in. If you are doing this type of work and have a junk clamp, consider welding a little piece of angle iron on its pad to create this great clamp.

Another favorite tool is motorcyle tie-down straps. Kevin says a four-pack at the big "orange store" is pretty reasonably priced. For instance, when he got to the last seam on this sculpture, it was warped 10 - 12 inches out of alignment because of all the heating, welding, tacking, etc. He took a motorcycle strap and went inside on one end and inside on the other. He pulled from the inside because he didn't want to peel back the metal, which was just tack welded together. Pulling the pieces of metal in opposite directions let him line up the ends, clamp them into place, align everything, and tack weld it.

Next Kevin points to a "damn dent," a wrinkle caused by prying the metal as well as from the welding heat. To fix it, he's going to locate the longest part of the divot and use his 4-1/2" grinder with a cut-off blade to cut across, right through the metal. Then he'll get another piece of 16 gauge steel or a piece of 1/8" plate steel and get this backer to the shape he wants. Then he'll use that backer plate, drill some holes through the sculpture and the plate, use his clecos to reshape this section of the sculpture.

What are clecos? Kevin shows us this tool from the aircraft industry that is used to put the skin on planes. They are, in essence, removable pop rivets that let you position something, tack or otherwise permanently put it together, then remove the clecos. So he'll drill 1/8" holes through the wrinkle and the backer metal to accommodate the clecos, which will "suck" everything together so he can tack weld the metal into place.

Kevin may need to adjust things with a hammer, too, because the steel is now stretched and longer than it was originally. He may get away with just cutting it, bending it back up, coming in underneath with a dolly, and shaping it with a hammer from above. Sometimes, though, the metal is bent so far out of shape, you have to actually cut out a piece of the steel.

A body dolly or hardie, which goes in an anvil's hardie hole is a great tool for shaping metal. Dollies are shaped pieces of hardened steel that are perfect for reaching up inside your work. You put the dolly on the bottom side of the dent so you have something to hammer against. Kevin recalls creating his own dolly out of a six-foot-long pipe with a trailer ball on it so he could get up inside of a big sculpture where he couldn't otherwise reach.

Next Kevin demonstrates how he takes out a dent. You don't have to "wail" on a dent to get rid of it. First you feel up inside to locate the dent - this one felt like a big tent. He positioned the hardie so that the metal could be hammered to the shape he wanted. Then he can come back in with a smaller hammer to shape it a little more carefully on the top. Finally, he finishes with a grinder to remove the hammer marks.

So those are some of the options to consider to shape metal: slicing, stretching, shrinking, as well as using a backer, clecos and lots of clamps.
How to Shape Pipe: Rolling vs. Bending How to Shape Pipe: Rolling vs. Bending
Nov 27, 2013
Kevin is bending some pipe using his hydraulic pipe bender and stops to talk about getting a pipe roller and how the two differ.

First he shows the pipe bender. It has a long metal shoe that fits the actual curve you want the pipe to have. You put the pipe onto this long shoe, then raise it hydraulically into a set of two curved rollers, or shoes. The long curved shoe needs to fit the size of the pipe snugly or the pipe will flatten and, if you bend it further, kink. But if you are creating long curves, you get wrinkles - it's hard to get a long smooth curve.

To show us, Kevin pumps up the hydraulic jack, raising the long shoe, releases it, moves the pipe forward about an inch, and repeats three times to create a curve in the metal pipe. Kevin is using a pipe bender with a 12-ton hydraulic jack; there are also larger versions, and they do a really good job - on a single bend. Then Kevin shows us that the pipe was flattening on the top where the metal was starting to stretch. On the bottom of the bend small ridges or bumps had formed where the metal was unable to shrink.

A pipe roller, on the other hand, does a much better job with long smooth curves. Pipe rollers have the same sort of shoe, or die, arrangement as the bender, but has the pair of metal rollers on the bottom. They have ball bearings inside so they roll smoothly. The top single shoe is fixed to a shaft so it turns with a wheel. It is adjusted with a wrench. As you crank the single shoe down using the wrench and turn the wheel, which feeds the pipe through, you slowly shape the metal pipe into a smooth long curve.

Kevin feeds some pipe into the machine and lowers the top roller while feeding it through with the wheel. He empasizes that this is a slow, deliberate process in which you adjust down the roller about 1/8" or 1/4" turn of the wrench each time. You don't want to force the shoe down - the wrench provides about the right amount of pressure. You don't want to force it as much as finesse it.

Kevin shows how much of a curve he got with those few passes without any bumps, because the roller is rolling out the bumps as it curves the metal pipe. The pipe itself actually gets longer as you run it through the roller, depending upon the bend you are making.

Kevin got the roller at Harbor Freight. You can get much bigger rollers, too. Some are motorized; others are hydraulic. This is one he could get quickly and can store easily, good enough for something he may use only a couple of times a year.
How to Lay Out a Sculpture for Metal Fabrication How to Lay Out a Sculpture for Metal Fabrication
Nov 19, 2013
Kevin is using his hydraulic pipe bender to create the body of a recent commission. Lady Bugme has a cage-like toso into which Kevin will put a functioning bug zapper. He's bending 1" steel pipes with his pipe bender to create the shape, which he has sketched out on his hydraulic lift table.

The table is one of his favorite tools in his studio, which used to be an automotive garage. He took one of the old lifts and replaced the four arms that you'd drive a car up onto with a 1-1/2", 5' x 10' steel plate. He uses the table to raise or lower sculptures - or himself - as he is working. In this case, he has sketched the entire sculpture out on the table to get his proportions right, then sketched the ribs of Lady Bugme around the bug zapper to get everything to fit properly.

He's bending the pipe very slowly to get the shape he wants, bending about 2" at a time, then checking and adjusting it. Once he gets one rib done, he'll resketch around it, then match all the other ribs to the first one. He determined how big the diameter of the pipe should be by comparing all of the components to each other, then comparing various sizes of pipe to see what looks best. This is why it sometimes takes months to make a sculpture.
How to Conceive and Fabricate Metal Parts How to Conceive and Fabricate Metal Parts
Nov 12, 2013
Based on a functional sculpture he created for himself called Bug Man l, Kevin is creating an art commission of a ladybug holding an umbrella with a bug zapper for a heart. A neighbor expressed interest in this type of sculpture, and Kevin came up with the idea of a similar functional sculpture for her in the form of a ladybug.

The bug itself is going to be 4 to 4-1/2 feet tall with curly antennae, and wings with about a 3-1/2 foot wingspan. It also has an umbrella that will be about 5-foot, 10-inches tall.

In this how-to video, Kevin focuses on the umbrella, which is basically a big cone. His first idea was to cut a big disk out of metal, then use the English wheel and air shaper to roll or hammer it out, but it didn't quite work out the way he had hoped. After a couple of tries, he went back to his proverbial drawing board and came up with the current design, a shallow, smooth cone with a single seam. He's also added a piece of 1/4" square metal stock to the edge of the steel umbrella, or parasol, so that no one can cut themselves on the sharp edge, especially because the umbrella will be about head height.

Then he shares the trick he used to arrive at this approach. Kevin used something he often employs when designing: a plain piece of paper. You can cut it, fold it, and then when you screw up, you can crumple it up and throw it in the recycling. So Kevin cut a disk out of the paper, then, using something he learned in school, cut a pie-shaped wedge from the disk. Next he pulled the two cut edges together and created a cone with just a single seam. He used 20 gauge steel, so the metal is light and easy to manipulate, although you can't get carried away with the grinder. He created the seam by overlapping the metal enough so the tip came together.

Then he tacked it at the top, tacked it at the bottom, and used his cut-off tool to cut off the excess, tacking as he went, keeping a nice butt joint on the seam so he didn't have to deal with a lip. He worked slow and cold, without a lot of amperage. He worked the seam on the English wheel a bit to get the warp out of it from welding the edge on it and smooth it out.

Kevin thanks his math teachers for the idea, and then goes back to work.
How to Shape Metal to Give It Life How to Shape Metal to Give It Life
Oct 09, 2013
How to Shape Metal to Give It Life fires up his oxygen-acetylene torch to bend some cactus. "When you have flame, you can do anything," he says. He's shaping some Cactus Caramias, the playful desert plants he creates with posts and balls, and he wants to give it a little more life by bending the posts a bit. He's using a rosebud tip on his oxygen-acetylene torch, which is hooked up to the oxygen and acetylene tanks, which are also used for welding and cutting. The rosebud, however, is a heating tip. It has a number of small holes in its end instead of a single flame. This gives you a broader area of flame so you can heat up an area more quickly. Kevin is going to heat up the pipes so he can bend them by hand, giving them some shape and movement. He puts on his dark glasses for safety, adjusts his flame, then picks one spot and let it get red hot. Then he moves up and down, finally getting the whole pipe hot enough so he can bend it. He prevents burning through by continuing to move the flame around. The dark glasses help him see where it is getting a nice red-orange glow. Once you get the metal hot enough, it's very easy to bend - it doesn't take much pressure at all. Then you just move up to the next post. While he's bending, he wants to give it enough movement to keep it interesting, and he's also thinking about transporting the artwork. He bends out the post he is working on a little, then bends it off to the side a little and back at the same time, so it's almost like a corkscrew. Meanwhile, with the smaller posts, he tries to keep it as much as possible in the footprint of the base - he can always adjust them when he delivers the piece by taking the oxygen-acetylene set up with him. Once he gets to the top ball and post, it's hot, so he needs a pair of pliers. As he goes up each string of balls and posts, he's trying to bend each one at least two directions at the same time. On the one he is working on, he bent the metal a little out (to get some clearance), then a little over, then that way, and the next were the two opposite ways so that when you look at the sculpture from any direction, you always see a little movement. "Just having fun," Kevin says.
How to Roll Your Own Pipe How to Roll Your Own Pipe
Feb 13, 2013
Kevin needs some 4" diameter pipe for a new "ball and post" sculpture, so rather than buy standard 3/8"-wall pipe from his local steelyard, he makes his own pipe that's light enough to create the illusion he is seeking. He starts by cutting 16 gauge steel sheets into 4' x 8' sections using his foot shear (also called a jump shear). Then he grinds off the scale the edges so he can easily weld it after bending. Kevin then moves to his 52" Dayton slip roll, which lets him bend up to 16 gauge metal. It has three rollers, two in the front that he can adjust up and down to pinch the metal to feed it through. The back roller has two adjustments that let him move each side of the roller independently. It can go up and down and also tilt, which is handy if he wants to curve one side of the metal more than the other. He adjusts the back roller by twisting the adjustment knobs on each side the same number of times. The big electrical machines might be able to bend these steel sheets into a cylinder in a single pass, but his slip roll is a manual machine. So he has to make seven to 10 passes to roll each sheet of steel into a cylinder. His slip roll is rated to 16 gauge, the same gauge of steel he is using, so it is right at the limit of the machine. Because the steel sheets are so wide in relation to the size of the slip roll, it takes several passes to get the full cylinder. Kevin says he has the machine set up a little high as it is, so he bends the steel a little between the rollers to get it started. Then he flips it around and runs it through again from the opposite side to make it is as rounded as possible, getting rid of the flat area that develops between the front and back rollers for a smoother curl. He'll bend all of his sheets at once so he can just adjust the back roller once for each pass. It gets harder to turn roll the metal as the cylinder gets tighter. As it gets tighter, he goes from 10 turns each of the adjustment knobs to half that many so he can keep a closer eye on the shape. When he gets close to the last pass, he measures the distance between the slip roll stand and the bottom of the back roller to make sure it is the same. He explains that he'll tack weld the newly formed cylinder on each end, then TIG weld the length of the seam. He'll grind the weld smooth, then roll what is now a pipe through the slip roll again to smooth its form and hide the weld. Finally, he shows how he gets the nearly-closed cylinder, or tube, off the slip roll by opening the feed rollers and sliding it off.
How to Use a Chinese Pipe Bender, Step-by-Step How to Use a Chinese Pipe Bender, Step-by-Step
Jul 25, 2012
Kevin shows how to bend solid steel round, square or flat stock using what is called a Chinese Pipe Bender. He shows the variable size dies, explains how they work, then makes two different bends using 1/4" square steel stock. He shows how to set the dies, how the metal block works, and how to determine what kind of bend you will get.
Tips and Tricks to Make a Smooth Curve Tips and Tricks to Make a Smooth Curve
Nov 30, 2011
Kevin shows how to create a curve he can cut out on an aluminum metal sheet for the public sculpture he's working on. He shows a little trick and shares more tips that make it easy to create professional, matched curves.
Tools for the Studio, Part 5 Tools for the Studio, Part 5
Nov 02, 2011
Kevin continues to share how he built his collection of tools, explaining why he added a slip roll, an English Wheel and an air hammer to bend and shape metal.
How to Use Hydraulic Pipe Bender Shoes the Right Way How to Use Hydraulic Pipe Bender Shoes the Right Way
Oct 19, 2011
Kevin shows how to use the hydraulic pipe bender shoes, or dies, to bend metal pipe the right way - including a trick to get the right radius.
How to Bend Tube and Pipe How to Bend Tube and Pipe
Oct 12, 2011
Kevin explains the difference between tube and pipe and what tools to use to bend each of them - as well as an "old school" trick for avoiding kinks.
How to Bend Steel Using a Brake How to Bend Steel Using a Brake
Mar 09, 2011
Kevin shows how to use a brake to bend metal - as well as how to bend if you don't have a brake. Whether it's mild steel, stainless steel, copper or aluminum, a brake can be useful for a professional look.
Tools for Shaping Metal Tools for Shaping Metal
Dec 16, 2010
In addition to welding, Kevin uses tools for shaping metal, including a variety of hammers, an anvil and other ingenious devices.
How to Bend  Metal Using Oxygen Acetylene How to Bend Metal Using Oxygen Acetylene
Sep 16, 2010
Kevin doesn't use his oxygen-acetylene unit for welding as much as for bending metal. This welding equipment is a key part of metal forming, and here he shows you how he bends metal with it.
How to Refine the Shape of  a Contemporary Art Sculpture How to Refine the Shape of a Contemporary Art Sculpture
Aug 03, 2010
Kevin is refining the shape of his sculptural Klein bottle. Shaping the metal sculpture takes some finesse - Kevin shares how he approaches this sculpture.

To see more about this sculpture, visit the sculpture's page.
How to Make a 1-Sided 3-D Metal Art Sculpture How to Make a 1-Sided 3-D Metal Art Sculpture
Jun 16, 2010
Using a ring roller on his slip roll, artist Kevin Caron creates a three-dimensional piece with one surface. Yes, it's a mind-bender.

Click here for more information about this form, which is called a Klein bottle.

See this sculpture completed.
How to Create Metal Art: Shaping a Sculpture How to Create Metal Art: Shaping a Sculpture
May 12, 2010
Kevin shapes a sound sculpture by determining the arcs of the sculpture's three arms. He explains how he determines the radius of each, and then how he creates it, using tricks of his trade.

Watch this sound sculpture develop on Arabesque's own page.
Fitting Steel for the Top of Contemporary Art Sculpture Sashay Fitting Steel for the Top of Contemporary Art Sculpture Sashay
Dec 29, 2009
With the body of his 9-foot tall weathering steel sculpture Sashay formed, Kevin shapes the top of the piece using a variety of tools, including an English wheel, air hammer and his custom made hydraulic lift table to fit the top.

Click here for more information about Sashay.
How to Use a Slip Roll to Shape a 3-D Metal Sculpture How to Use a Slip Roll to Shape a 3-D Metal Sculpture
Jul 30, 2009
Sure, people use slip rolls (or slip rollers) all the time to make three-dimensional sculptures, but this time Kevin is feeding something more than a flat piece of steel through his slip roll. In this video, he shows how he welded together a grid of 1/4" stock, then feeds it whole into the jaws of the slip roll beast to make the sculpture After Escher.
How to Fire Up a Forge to Bend Metal for a Sculpture How to Fire Up a Forge to Bend Metal for a Sculpture
Jun 10, 2009
After making his flowing renditions of the desert plant the ocotillo in other ways, Kevin decides to fire up his coal-fired forge ... on a 106 degree day. He shares how the forge works, how he uses water to keep the fire running efficiently, how he bends the railroad spikes he uses to make the ocotillo branches in his anvil, and more. Click here to see a finished ocotillo.
Metal Artist Kevin Caron Shows How to Make Steel Donuts Metal Artist Kevin Caron Shows How to Make Steel Donuts
Apr 24, 2009
Kevin uses the plasma cutter with circle cutter attachment, grinder and air hammer (air shaper) to make steel "donuts" for an architectural door. Along the way, he demonstrates why you always measure more than once before cutting ....
Metal Artist Kevin Caron Adds Branches to a Steel Tree Metal Artist Kevin Caron Adds Branches to a Steel Tree
Mar 03, 2009
Kevin continues to work on Hands On, his public art commission for the city of Avondale, Arizona. With the trunk of the tree now standing, he turns to the crown. Kevin uses a recycled steel disk and his hydraulic pipe bender to build the branches where he can reach them, and shows how he'll attach the branches, then secure it in the top of the tree's trunk. See still shots of the process in the Hands On Photo Gallery.
How to Bend Steel With an Acetylene Welding Torch How to Bend Steel With an Acetylene Welding Torch
Feb 19, 2009
Kevin uses a rosebud tip on his acetylene torch to heat up solid 1-inch steel rods so he can shape them for a public sculpture. He heats a section of the rod until it is red hot and looks almost fluid, then bends it to get the desired shape. Handyman Michael DiGiacomo is helping out, too, building a cut-off table - there's never a dull moment in the studio!
How to Use a Hydraulic Pipe Bender to Make a Metal Sculpture How to Use a Hydraulic Pipe Bender to Make a Metal Sculpture
Feb 05, 2009
Kevin uses a hydraulic pipe bender to make sections of a metal tree trunk for a public sculpture commissioned by the city of Avondale, Arizona. He shows how the pipe bender works, and shares some tricks, too, revealing how he creates a pattern to replicate the shapes.
How to Use the Air Hammer to Make Metal Art How to Use the Air Hammer to Make Metal Art
Jul 23, 2008
Kevin is still playing - I mean studying! - his new tool, the air hammer. He uses it to shape a new pal, Crabby.
Learning How to Use an Air Hammer Learning How to Use an Air Hammer
Jul 17, 2008
The tool fairy brought Kevin an air hammer, which allows him to shape and even shrink metal faster and better than ever before.
Using the Slip Roll to Shape a Metal Art Sculpture Using the Slip Roll to Shape a Metal Art Sculpture
Jun 17, 2008
Kevin uses a slip roll to shape a stainless steel sculpture, explaining some of the wiles of working with metal.
How to Use a Chinese Pipe Bender for a Metal Art Sculpture How to Use a Chinese Pipe Bender for a Metal Art Sculpture
Jun 06, 2008
Kevin creates the edge of a piece for a 7-foot tall commission using the ingenious Chinese pipe bender. He explains how he's using it, and how he could have done it on the forge - preferably without setting his pants on fire.
Artist Kevin Caron Shows How to Shape a Metal Sculpture Artist Kevin Caron Shows How to Shape a Metal Sculpture
May 22, 2008
Kevin reveals the third rule of metal working while shaping the flowing steel sculpture Ciuffo.
How to Use the English Wheel to Create Metal Sculpture How to Use the English Wheel to Create Metal Sculpture
May 08, 2008
Kevin uses the English wheel to stretch and shape metal for a quick model for a sculpture.