Steel art has been around for a long time. Thailand started the steel art industry in the 1980s and the country’s local designers and artists became quite skilled in the art of creating amazing figures made from welded scrap metals. In 1987, Thailand finally went into full commercial production of steel art crafts and thus popularized the steel art industry without the aid of steel art techniques.
The advent of recycling campaigns saw a lot of recycling opportunities in creating steel arts craft. People who had great passions for the arts especially sculpting have found fulfillment in engaging in steel arts crafting due to the wide availability and affordability of scrap metal materials and different steel art techniques. The junk discarded by one man was considered a treasure by the other who has a great passion for steel art creation.
In fact, the steel art techniques being used today are more sophisticated than the methods used by the Thais. The latter merely copied their models from poster sized images to make life-size steel art figures. Hence, Thais are considered hard to beat in the steel art industry since others make use of software and CAD equipments and steel art techniques to come up with excellent steel sculptures in fusing together pieces of metal scrap.
Different Steel Art Techniques
CAD or Computer Aided Designs is one of the computer technologies used by a steel sculpture artist in order to analyze the composition and characteristic of the scrap metal before welding the steel in the shape he desired.
There are two main types of steel art techniques applied when welding the metals together. The first is the most common type which is known as the manual metal arc welding process. This steel art technique is commonly used for welding steel, which includes stainless steel, aluminum, nickel, copper alloys and of course, iron. It is also popularly known as the Shielded Metal Arc Welding (SMAW) process.
The other steel art technique is the Gas Metal Arc Welding (GMAW) or more popularly known through its sub-type MIG or Metal Inert Gas welding. A constant voltage and direct current power allows it to be operated automatically or semi-automatically. This is the type of welding often used for the automotive industry.
Another way of creating steel art is combining metal with glass beads or gemstones to create unique forms of jewelry. The jeweller creates a sterling silver setting or known as bezel, where half of the gemstone or glass bead is embedded. Prior to embedding the stone or glass bead, the sterling silver will be incorporated with the steel art techniques of acid-etching the designs before the gemstone or glass bead are soldered together. The steel art craft will then be buffed and polished as final finishing touches.
Some steel art enthusiasts prefer using brass, copper, aluminum and stainless steel taken from railroad spikes and ball bearings. Sculpted steel arts depicting Mother Nature are completed by using different types of materials. The base or pedestals will be fabricated from aluminum and welded together using the GMAW steel art technique. The leaves and stems are sculpted from copper alloy while the flower petals will be shaped using the repoussé technique. This steel art technique is the traditional hammering down of designs from the reverse side of the metal. It is ancient as it was used by the Greek in decorating their bronze armours during the 4th century BC. Thereafter, everything will be attached by drilling a hole where the steel art flower ornament will be attached to the pedestal with the nut and bolt system.
Steel art has indeed gone a long way from sculpting to jewelry aided by different steel art techniques. It has helped a lot in lessening the wastes that go to landfills. Even as the art works are not for commercial purposes, steel art as a hobby is environmentally friendly since what could have been junk, now stands proudly as a magnificent steel art sculptured object in someone’s yard. However, steel art aficionados warn scrap metal users to avoid using discarded metal containers since some of them may contain toxic and highly flammable materials.