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How we turned Scrap Metal into a "sick" looking Wall Garden!

So we’ve had in influx of new student’s at the shop lately, and so we decided to go back into some basics today. Our student’s got a crash course in using the industrial machinery around in the shop, by making a quick and fun metal box planter with a built-in hook. The students worked in teams and used a simple blueprint to take a metal plate and convert it into 2 pieces we need to form our planters.



STEP 1: MEASURING AND MARKING

The first step was to make our guides on the metal. Our students learned about the importance of accuracy and attention to detail when doing so. We took 8”x12” metal plates and added dotted lines every 4” from end to end on the long side to indicate where we would be folding the metal. Then we drew one long solid line through them from end to end on the short side to indicate where we would be making our cut.


STEP 2: CUTTING

We then learned about using our hydraulic stomp shear. There are many forms and techniques to cutting metal but this tool makes it so easy. Each team had one person who was tasked with lining up the cut line on the machine. Because this is a heavy duty machine, the student tasked with activating the shears and the making the cut was not allowed to do so until the student lining up the metal had stepped back and said “Clear!”. This was to ensure safety, which is always our number one priority.


STEP 3: FOLDING

Once we had made our cut and split our plate into 2 pieces, each 4” x 12, it was time to bend them into shape. The blueprint we based our guides from called for one of our plates to be folded in a rudimentary “C” shape by making two folds at right angles to each other to make the outer walls of the planter. The other plate needed to be folded into an “S” shape with each end pointing in opposite directions, to make the back and bottom wall, this plate also required an extra fold at parallel to the back wall to create our hook.

Utilizing our Brake machine the students learned how to shape metal into right angles. Inserting one end of the plate up to the fold line, locking it in place with the upper lever, and then bending to the desired angle with the lower levers. It’s very important to get as close to the desired angle without over bending, which would cause us to have to start over. We all learned that this was a bit tougher than Aaron had made it look.


STEP 4: DRILLING DRAINAGE HOLES

As these were going to be planters, they were going to need a way for excess water to escape to avoid rotting the roots and soil. We took our “S” shaped pieces to our Drill Press. The drill press has many components but is fairly simple to use. With a vice we clamp our back plate to the press with bottom panel down. We used a center punch tool to make tiny divots on the bottom panel and indicate where our drainage holes would be. The divets also help keep the drill bit in place and avoid having it walk around the metal. Each team practiced making 5 holes in the bottom panel.


STEP 5: WELDING

Once each plate was shaped and the bottom panels had drainage holes, it was time to tack weld them together. Each team with jacket, gloves, and welding masks, took turns tack welding the corners together and putting a few tack welds along the seams as well for added strength. It was not important to weld all the seams completely shut in this project, as the added gaps will allow for extra drainage if necessary. When making a proper tack weld it’s important to hold the torch steady and each weld should be a minimum of 2 full seconds to ensure a strong bond between the metals.


STEP 6: DECORATING

Once our planters were welded together and cooled off, it was time for the fun to begin. Each team chose a palette of colors to paint their planter. With a plastic tub full of water, each team took turns spraying the surface of the water in a randomized pattern of their choosing, they had to move quickly to avoid having the paint dry before the dip. They also had to move carefully, we do not want the paint penetrating the surface and mixing with the water. With a wooden dowel we stirred the water gently to create some rad effects on the surface. Then we submerged the metal planter in a single smooth and steady motion, using the wood dowel again we cleared the surface above the planter and pulled it back out from the water to reveal it’s funky new look. Then we set it out to hang dry and bake in the sun.

And that was it, we added soil, plants and mounted them out front for the world to see! The hooks are nice and big so they can be mounted almost anywhere. Check out the video on this project here.


We all had so much fun making this project, it was surprisingly simple and easy. Someone said we should even start selling them, maybe that’s not a bad idea?


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