Metal Mermaid

OK, the mermaid is pretty much done – I have a couple more hours of texturing and touching-up, but I’ve got all day tomorrow. We put her on a truck for Norfolk on Tuesday. Here are a few shots showing the assembly process. (Descriptions are UNDER each pic.)
2009 05 20 Mermaid Fabrication  3
The flat pieces, cut according to the pattern I posted earlier. Cut with a laser from 14 gauge stainless steel.

2009 05 20 Mermaid Fabrication  4
Beginning the process of sorting out who goes where – these are parts of the tail fin. You can see the leading and trailing edges up front and the side faces in the background. I use the neighboring pieces as bending guides; as the edges are drawn together, it forces the planar sheets to curve into the proper shape.

2009 05 21 Mermaid Fabrication  6
The tail tacked together.

2009 05 24 Mermaid Fabrication  8
Her hair being assembled. You can see some of the printed out guides from Rhino that I use to keep myself somewhat less confused.

2009 05 27 Mermaid Fabrication  11
The face was, ahem, a real bitch to get to fit properly. I should have broken that center strip up into at least 3 parts – this would have saved about 3 hours of bending and tweaking due to the tight curves in opposite directions lying right next to each other. I printed out a profile section at 1:1 scale from Rhino to use as a guide. Do you get the idea that I love that program?

2009 05 28 Mermaid Fabrication  14
Parts being finish welded.

2009 06 01 Mermaid Fabrication  17
One arm is assembled and chased, with another underway. This is about when I remembered fully just how hard 304 stainless really is. There is carbon in there, and it precipitates into the Heat Affected Zone around and in each weld – making it just that much harder right where you need to grind. Weee.

2009 06 04 Mermaid Fabrication  19
The other arm roughly finished and the start of the main portion of the tail.

2009 06 04 Mermaid Fabrication  21
Attaching the face to the hair – with both mostly chased out. This was the last of the small parts to get done before moving on to assembling the tail/body and hooking them all together.

2009 06 07 Mermaid Fabrication  24
2009 06 11 Mermaid Fabrication  30
Putting the structural member in. I designed the structure keeping in mind two factors: the fountain construction docs called for a 6″ sleeve to receive the sculpture, and aesthetics. I used 5″ standard pipe to slide down into that 6″ sleeve, plus the thick pipe looks less like a lollypop. Structural engineers in Norfolk analyzed my design and found it adequate without any changes to account for all the forces in play on the piece – that means I done goodz.

2009 06 11 Mermaid Fabrication  32
Torso panels going on.

2009 06 14 Mermaid Fabrication  39
Attaching the first arm – I was able to spin the pipe on the table in order to work on both left and right halves. My back thanks me. At this point, the size of this thing in comparison to the garage is becoming really evident.

2009 06 19 Mermaid  Upright
John Kinkade of the Guild and Mike Allison helped me stand her upright. I built a shipping stand for her so she can ride upright on the truck out to Norfolk – I like to avoid having the piece in contact with the flatbed when possible to minimize the risk of denting the (relatively) thin sheet metal. I also prefer not to attempt to cover the sculptures – the coverings tend to do more harm than good.

2009 06 20 Mermaid Fabrication  45
Yours truly doing some final chasing on the parts I couldn’t get at in the garageshopstudio.

2009 06 21 Mermaid Fabrication  48
Got a sunrise shot of her the next day. Basically done but for some final texturing and nitpicking.

This was a huge project for me – not in terms of size, but time. Start to finish in just about a month is pretty much unheard of. I wasn’t sure if I could do it. 10 hour days for 30 straight days will do it, I guess. That and lots of beer and the support of a really awesome woman.

And some great friends.

And a good portion of too stupid to know better.

EDIT 2017-12-29 Updated pictures with local copies instead of flickr links

2 Replies to “Metal Mermaid”

  1. she is beautiful – as a welder of art myself, I think a month is a very very impressive. where did she go?

  2. Leigh – so sorry I missed your comment until now. The mermaid is in Norfolk, Virginia. Good luck with your welding!

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