46% Bad – the beginnings

I’ve been one of the Artists in Residence at the Birmingham School of Jewellery for the last year or so and, more recently, a member of STEAMhouse. Both these have given me the opportunity to get my hands dirty and start working with metal again. Something that I’ve been enjoying immensely!

I’m currently working on a project that has grown out of this representation of a bicycle that I spotted on a cycle path in Stourbridge:

A bike painted on a cycle path

I had to go back for a second look…

It’s nearly convincing, but when you start looking at it properly, you start to notice more and more ways in which it’s not quite right. …and then you start looking at painted bikes all over the place and you start realising more and more of them that are, well, just wrong.

(Some of a) bike icon in Bristol

(Some of a) bike icon in Bristol.

A bike icon in Birmingham

An offering from National Cycle Route 5 in Birmingham.

Well, there was only one thing for it, and I’ve embarked on trying to build a 3D version of the 2D version of the 3D object.

A donor bike and the measurements of the drawing it is to become

Recursive bikes and drawings.

I found a kid’s bike on ebay that seemed like it would be about the right size to use as a starting point, and I’ve stripped it and chopped it to get at various component parts that I want to use in the final build.

A cardboard box full of bits of bike

A lesson in how many bits go into a bicycle…

Translating the rough sketch from the photo into a 1:1 scale drawing to work off

Translating the rough sketch from the photo into a 1:1 scale drawing to work off

Bike frame and angle grinder

Ready for the chop

Angle grinding action

The chop

Bits of stuff laid out in a sort of bike shape

Trying to get a feel for what the drawing might look like as an object

STEAMhouse is supporting me to improve my welding skills and, whereas it’s mostly TIG welding that I want to learn, I’ve done a bit of MIG welding before and this has been a quick and easy way of adding bits of metal to other bits of metal to make bigger bits of metal. The first component to get this treatment was the crankset: the pedals need to be on long enough cranks that they extend below where the tyres make contact with the road surface, so I had to make and integrate some extensions.

Crank extenders being welded in

Crank extenders being welded in

In the photo above you can see the difference in the original and modified crank lengths. Below is the end result.

Finished, extended cranks

Finished, extended cranks

Paint and powder coatings aren’t great when they get zapped by the heat from welding (nasty fumes) so I spent half a day peering into a sandblasting cabinet stripping things down to the steel surface.

Fork about to get blasted with sand

Fork about to get blasted with sand

I’d originally thought I might use more of the original frame in the sculpture, but I think it’s likely to just be these components and the wheels.

Sandblasted parts

Sandblasted parts: head tube, bottom bracket, crankset, fork and seatpost. (Square tin for another project I’m working on…)

So, now begins the job of cutting and fitting all the remaining parts…