I recently began learning how to weld and grind metal. I became facinated with metal as an artistic medium when I was visiting the DeCordova Sculpture park in Lincoln, MA. Here massive metal sculptures seem to blend into the outdoor landscape as if they grew right out from the soil underneath. I knew instantly I wanted to learn how these were built.
After a few basic welding lessons on safety and how to create a "bead" (a line of metal to connect two pieces) we decided it was time to build my first real welding project.
I toyed around with making a simple garden spike design but realized it would be much more satisfying to create something I could spin on fire. Ok, I will explain.
When I am not creating visual art I also enjoy many forms of movement art, including fire spinning, or fire dancing. You have probably seen this at a festival or in Hawaiian culture.
I already owned a handful of fire spinning props, but I was missing something a mermaid might spin. As a lover of all things ocean related and mermaids I decided I wanted to create a trident that I could spin on fire. (In classical mythology the trident is the weapon of Poseidon, or Neptune, God of the sea. )
Before I began I researched shapes of tridents online. I liked the styles which the two outer forks belled out toward the tips. This meant that I needed to bend the steel rods. But first, I welded together two 4' hollow steel tubes to become the center support. We chose hollow rod to cut down on the weight of the final prop. My partner Dave bent the solid steel rod for the outer u shaped forks using a tube bender.
I welded the "U" shaped rod stock onto the center 8' hallow rod about 1 1/2' from the top. I cut 3 small triangle tips for each fork out of steel plate stock. I flattened the top 2" of the center rod in a vice to create a solid flat surface and then welded the triangles onto the three tips.
For this project I chose to use 1/8" thick, 1" width Kevlar wicking. The smaller width allowed me to wrap the wicking around the curved metal without much gapping between the layers. Now the tricky part was that each end of the wicking needed to be securely attached to the steel so it would not come loose during spinning. For this I chose to drill a small hole in the end of each fork and at the center cross section. This hole allowed me to use Kevlar thread and a mattress needle to sew through the steel and the layer of Kevlar on the opposite side. This created a secure attachment point.
I continued to wrap the ribbon of wicking around the "U" shape first sewing it together at the opposite end. Then, I wrapped the center support from the tip to the cross section and secured.
After I finished wrapping the wicking I gave the trident a quick spin and realized that the steel handle was hard on my hands. I ordered some Nimbus Staff Grip Tape and wrapped the two major grip points on the handle. This cushioned the pipe in my hands and gave me some extra control while handling the trident.
I am so excited that once of my fire spinning students caught this photo of my first burn of the fire trident. It really was everything I hoped for this project. When moving slowly or holding position the three prongs of the trident were fully visible. There definitely was a concern during he design stage that if the forks where too close together you would not see their definition and it would just look like a pole with a big fire at the end, I know still cool, but this is just way cooler!
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