Listening to Grandpa’s stories of the old days and his adventures with the Model T Ford were captivating for me as a child. Who even knows how to drive a Model T today? Not many. This is probably where my interest in doing things the old way came from.
My dad taught me how to weld with the torch when I was 8 years old. My brother and I spent hours repairing bicycles from the scrap pile. The little Willys Jeep that you have seen photos of in our Instagram profile has been mine since I was 9 years old and over the four decades has required lots of welding and repairs.
My 1944 Willys Jeep "Pepe" in Montezuma Canyon
In my late teens, I attended a heavy equipment mechanic course which included welding. As a diesel mechanic, those welding skills were put to the test. Welding with a torch was only used on occasion as stick welding and mig welding were the primary methods. As time passed, I had forgotten how enjoyable welding with a torch is. We have awesome family photos of relatives welding on a California pipeline back in the ‘20s with an oxy/acetylene torch.
Uncle Joe (right) welding on the California pipeline in the '20s
With my background in antique truck and automobile restoration (and when I say “antique”, I am talking about things like a 1911 Packard…) the methods used to repair these vehicles in the old days became appealing like the use of the oxy/acetylene torch and hammers. Some of these old timers were masters at metal.
As time passes, people embrace new tools and techniques and the old way of doing things is abandoned because they take more time or are more expensive. I enjoy keeping the old techniques alive through my art.
My blacksmith shop is outside and welding with a torch is quite well-suited for this environment. The metal that I use for my projects is recycled from automobiles, washing machines and other similar discarded items.
The view from Ted's "office"
How does our process start? First, we find a Maytag! The project is drawn out on a suitable piece of metal and cut with a torch. The pieces are then hammered into shape with a number of different antique tools including vintage ball peen hammers, a vintage anvil and swage block. I also use a wooden dapping block that I made from a large aspen tree. The pieces are then textured with hammers and chisels of various shapes and sizes. The next step is to weld them together using the oxy/acetylene torch and baling wire as welding rod. After the piece is complete, other details are added such as faces, arms, legs, feet and hands. At this point the piece moves into the studio where my lovely wife continues the process and transforms the piece from bare metal to a finished piece. On occasion, some of the pieces are considered finished when the leave the blacksmith shop, leaving the bare metal to rust naturally. Who doesn’t like patina?
Each piece is a custom piece and cannot be exactly reproduced; therefore, each piece is truly unique and original. Most projects are sketched out individually and hand cut, again adding to their individuality. I could use computer-controlled machines but we prefer the organic results that the torch provides. There is something very fulfilling about making a piece of Volkswagen art from a Volkswagen… We do custom work and would love to do something for you!
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- Tags: cutting torch, gizmachis, metal art, metal artist, mixed media on metal, old school, oxy/acetylene torch, welder, welding, welding torch