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Thread: Project #2 from Spike : Aluminum Art Gallery Display Shelves

  1. #1

    Cool Project #2 from Spike : Aluminum Art Gallery Display Shelves

    This was a project i did for an art gallery in Niwot, CO.
    If you looked at the first projected i posted of my polished aluminum welding cart, then you might recognize the main material used here. This is the project i originally got the corrugated aluminum panels for.
    This project came in 2 parts, The first was a set moveable display wall panels to hang paintings and photography prints on. The second part was a set of four aluminum display shelves to hold sculpture and what nots. It took me about a month from start to finish to get these done, and it used almost every metalworking tool that i had. Even the woodworking tools got some use putting together the display walls.
    Making something with a very clean 'minimalist' look usually means that you're going to be making it the hardest and most complicated way you can.

    I'll be going over the steps and tools that i used to make these shelves in this post. Hopefully it can help people see how they can fit strange scraps at the recycle yard into projects of their own.

    preview of one of the finished shelves.
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    Last edited by Spike; 02-11-2012 at 06:59 AM. Reason: updated photo link
    -------------------------------------------
    Spike Customs, Inc.
    Fresno, CA 93727
    ph- 559-549-RIDE(7433)
    -------------------------------------------
    -Follow me on twitter!-

  2. #2

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    Alright, First up is the Display Walls that i made. Granted, there was nearly no welding involved, it is the first part of the project... of which there was much welding. This was mostly a 'framing/construction' sort of job, involving wood... completely out of my element.

    First i break out the metal studs i keep around the shop. Dead useful, i end up using them in all sorts of projects because it's so cheap and easy to build simple jigs and holders with. Tin snips, a triangle, and some small screws with a screw gun is all it takes to build something.
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    I set about to building the display wall. Since they aren't going to be anchored to the ground, and will be mobile, the walls are thick at the base and narrow at the top.
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    I cut all the aluminum panels with a plain old circular saw that i've swapped a metal cutting saw blade into. It's an interesting material that i picked up from the recycle yard. It's 1.5" thick, with a honeycomb corrugation in the middle, polished aluminum diamond plate on one side, and plain aluminum on the other. The honeycomb makes it strong enough to use as a building material.
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    Spike Customs, Inc.
    Fresno, CA 93727
    ph- 559-549-RIDE(7433)
    -------------------------------------------
    -Follow me on twitter!-

  3. #3

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    Next comes the woodworking bit... I swap the wood cutting blade back into my circular and cut the 3/4" MDF into panels to screw to the framing. Making the wood come flush with the edges of the aluminum panels, so they become an inlay in the walls.
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    After a lot of fiddling and fitting, i finally got the panels all lined up and on there properly.
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    After all the panels are on there. I take a planer, files, and sanders to all the edges to get everything all flush and true. Sawdust is *everywhere* in the shop


    All i did after this was to spackle the joints and screw holes and deliver them to the customer. They have someone who is going to put some faux wall-texture on the display, so i don't have to paint and finish it myself... which is probably good... because 'smooth' is the only texture i know how to put on a wall.

    After this it's on to the aluminum shelves.
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    Last edited by Spike; 02-11-2012 at 04:39 PM. Reason: better photos
    -------------------------------------------
    Spike Customs, Inc.
    Fresno, CA 93727
    ph- 559-549-RIDE(7433)
    -------------------------------------------
    -Follow me on twitter!-

  4. #4

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    Now on to the metalworking bit, the shelves.

    I used some 2"x.250" wall 6061 Aluminum Tubing for the center support, and some 1"x.120" wall and 1.5"x.120" wall 5052 Square Tubing. Oh, and there's also some aluminum rod in there too.

    Since it's going to an art gallery, i figured the shelves should be a little bit of art themselves. I wanted a minimalist look, so that means over-simplifying things. That means as few supports as possible, and trying to make it look like it's not able to function as a shelf. That's why i picked the .250" wall tube for the upright. It's strong enough that i can use it as the only upright, and it won't bend and flex.
    And, since I'm determined to make everything as hard as possible, i decided that all the supports needed to be elegantly curved. That makes the actual shelves themselves the only flat and straight pieces on the shelf. Verticals are curved, horizontals are straight.
    On to running everything through the roll bender. Maybe one day i'll be able to justify the cost of motorized/hydraulic machine and i won't have to spin the wheel all day to do this stuff.

    First things first - Annealing. When bending aluminum tubing this thick, it's a good idea to anneal the tubing first. Annealing isn't nearly as big a deal as it seems, and it will make your day so much less frustrating. Annealing will help the tubing roll through the bender easier and come out with a smoother arc, as well as making the work of bending much much easier on the biceps... Also, it will help minimize the chance of the aluminum tube cracking on the outside edge of the bend. 6061 -t6 doesn't much care for bending.

    This is a snap if you have an Oxy-Acetylene welder handy. Use a welding tip, not one of the useless rose-bud tips. Set up a sooty flame and cover the tubing in acetylene soot, then adjust the welder to a neutral flame, or just a little past neutral and go back and burn allt he acetylene soot of the tubing. The acetylene soot will burn off at 900 degrees... convenient since that also happens to be when the aluminum will anneal. Let it cool and you're good to go with some nice buttery soft full annealed aluminum tube.
    It will work harden as you bend it, and i ended up having to re-anneal about halfway through the bend.

    After the 2" tubing i ran my 1.5" square tube through the roll bender the hard way (like a diamond, not like a square), no annealing needed here because it's a softer alloy and thinner wall.
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    I cut my tubes into the appropriate sized arches, and then notched my 2" tube to fit the square tube, and welded it up and ran a stick of round rod between the legs of the square tube to give some rigidity to the arched foot.


    Repeat 3 more times and tig weld everything together, and the bases are all ready to go. Next up is fitting and attaching all the shelves to the bases.
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    Last edited by Spike; 02-11-2012 at 04:44 PM. Reason: better pictures
    -------------------------------------------
    Spike Customs, Inc.
    Fresno, CA 93727
    ph- 559-549-RIDE(7433)
    -------------------------------------------
    -Follow me on twitter!-

  5. #5

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    The shelves are corrugated aluminum. There is polished diamond plate on one side, an aluminum honeycomb mesh in the center, and plain aluminum on the back-side. The sandwiched pieces are glued together with a very high strength epoxy. and the epoxy seems to burn somewhere around 700 degrees or so. Which is unfortunate since i need to weld the material at 1200 degrees.
    This is a tricky bit, since the shelves *are* actually welded to the bases. Did i mention that the .030" and .025" aluminum sheets on the outside edges are welded to .250" thick aluminum tubing? and that I'm using an outdated everlast combo welder i bought for $900 back in 2007? Yeah, i'm good.

    Fitting the shelves to the bases wasn't as simple as first thought would have it. First i drilled a hole with a 2" hole-saw, but couldn't get the right angle on the curved tube. i had to elongate the hole with tin-snips, and it left a big gap... throw it on the scrap heap.
    Next, i measure the offset needed over the curve of the tube in order to line up on the center post and be level. Then do some small trimming to fit the base correctly. No gap. Good to go, and i welded all the shelf to the upright tube.
    Now, to keep the glue from burning off, and thereby separating all the outside panels of the corrugated aluminum from the honeycomb mesh center i used an old trick... water. Fill up a bucket with cold water... add ice to taste, then dump a bunch of cotton rags in it. take out the rags and line your heat affected zone with them, and then weld. as they get hot and boil their water out, replace with fresh ones and drop the used ones back in the bucket to re-soak.

    Once i had the shelf welded on, i realized that i needed some stabilizers to support the shelf. The heat had separated the layers of the aluminum around the weld, and allowed the shelf to flex a bit, so i chopped off some 1" square tube, notched it, and used some self tapping screws to attach the arms from the center stand out towards the front corners of the shelf. now it was strong enough to set weight onto without budging. And with the lower shelves attached, i had this going...


    Top shelves were a little different, since the center tube doesn't go all the way through. Much easier, just had to pop in the hole with the holesaw, and just do a little trimming with the tinsnips to get it level. I used some scraps and clamps to hold everything square, level, and true while i flipped it upside down to weld the tube to the shelf section, and add the diagonal support sections like on the lower shelves.

    Repeat that 3 more times and then you've got a shop full of shelves.
    -------------------------------------------
    Spike Customs, Inc.
    Fresno, CA 93727
    ph- 559-549-RIDE(7433)
    -------------------------------------------
    -Follow me on twitter!-

  6. #6

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    Very cool looking.

    In the first post, the shelves have a band around the edges. Did you glue a strip of something on them?

    Whats the rough cost for a job like that?
    Last edited by sportbike; 02-11-2012 at 05:43 PM.
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  7. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by sportbike View Post
    Very cool looking.

    In the first post, the shelves have a band around teh edges. Did you glue a strip of something on them?

    Whats the rough cost for a job like that?
    I havn't gotten there yet. that's in the next post. There's still more in this project.
    -------------------------------------------
    Spike Customs, Inc.
    Fresno, CA 93727
    ph- 559-549-RIDE(7433)
    -------------------------------------------
    -Follow me on twitter!-

  8. #8

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    For a little touch of detail, and to keep fingers from getting cut up on the aluminum honeycomb in the center or on the edges, i needed a way to cover the edges.

    I settled on putting acrylic strips into the edges. I had a sheet of black acrylic cut into 1.5" strips that would fit into the gaps on the edges. The tricky part here was getting them to stay without fasteners, because you can't glue to the honeycomb, and i don't want any fasteners showing anywhere on these shelves.

    I hammered the 1/4" thick acrylic sheets into the edges, and then i hammered the edges down a little to *pinch* the acrylic sheet between the aluminum panels. It worked beautifully, and held strong. The hammering even knocked the sharp edge down so that i didn't even have to smooth it out later.







    After a little polishing and cleaning up these things are ready to go!
    -------------------------------------------
    Spike Customs, Inc.
    Fresno, CA 93727
    ph- 559-549-RIDE(7433)
    -------------------------------------------
    -Follow me on twitter!-

  9. #9

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    I almost forgot about this snag i ran into.

    I ran into a snag on one of the shelves. I got the aluminum too hot while i was welding the top shelf onto the center post, and the layers separated in the shelf and heat warped away from each other.
    The top shelf was all sorts of wobbly and wouldn't hold any weight,and some unpleasant distortion. so i had to add some support.
    I decided to weld a strip along the back of the shelf to hold the top and bottom layers stable around the area that separated from the welding heat.
    So i clamped it back together straight, and welded a little support filler onto the back of one of the shelves. It was just a 1.5" wide strip of rectange i cut out of .050" aluminum and welded in. Did the trick and the shelf was complete and happy.

    .050" aluminum sheet welded to .025" and .030" aluminum sheet on the corner.
    -------------------------------------------
    Spike Customs, Inc.
    Fresno, CA 93727
    ph- 559-549-RIDE(7433)
    -------------------------------------------
    -Follow me on twitter!-

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