Friday, May 17, 2013

Crown of Chains

I decided to make one last thing in the machine shop before I graduated: a crown. Since I'm no jewelry maker, the crown would have to be made of materials and objects that I am familiar with and know how to manipulate. I wanted it to look imposing, gritty, and have a beauty that reflected the qualities of its individual components. Oh, and I had to be able to source the parts and make it in one day.

The design I came up with is simple and I can't really point to any distinct sources. It consists of motorcycle roller chain, bike chain, and 0.5" diameter steel balls. Everything is joined together by welding.

I got the motorcycle and bike chain for free from two shops that I called up. These shops have to replace chain on a daily basis because it wears out and 'stretches'. This stretched out chain is useless and must be sent for recycling -- or used for silly art projects. I had to clean all the grime and grease off the chains using a mix of soapy water, WD-40, and xylene. I then wanted to strip off the black-oxide on the outside of the chain - it's there to inhibit rust but it takes the shine off of the chain. I got it off using a mix of hydrochloric acid typically used for cleaning concrete. I'm probably going to get cancer from dealing with all these chemicals...

Cleaning off the protective black-oxide coat from the chain. I got
old stretched out chain for free from a motorcycle shop I called up.
After cleaning it was just a matter of a few hours of TIG welding. At this point I'm half decent at it, so I think things went pretty smoothly. It reminds me of taking a leisurely bike ride on a Sunday afternoon.

Getting an arc on polished steel balls is hard though -- there isn't a highly preferred point of arcing on the surface. I wish that I had gotten the tacks to look more consistent, but it looked consistent enough when it all came together.
My workspace.

Here's a closeup of the welding work. That big chunk of aluminum is so that I could keep everything in form while I was tacking. I would tilt the whole jig so that the ball I was welding would not go skittering around while it was molten hot (it did happen a few times though...).
Sphere Packing, anyone?
Here's the final product. I added in the bike chain loops as accents, but they make the thing damn hard to wear because there are now four sharp points of contact with your head. I am going to add a decorative felt lining on the inside, I think.

10 lbs of awesome.

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