Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The Vibrating Table

This is one of my favorites, and it never gets old…

First some background information -  One of the materials I will be working with extensively is concrete, in all its various forms.  Countertops, table tops, furniture, sculpture, all sorts of useful things that can be cast with concrete if you take the time to understand it.  The material is quite amazing.  It’s a proprietary mixture of cement, aggregate, sometimes other found objects like broken glass or molten aluminum etc., and very small strands of fiber to reinforce the mixture and cut down on the weight.  Challenge is, when you pour concrete into a mold, in order to perfect the cast, you need to have some way to get the air out. As it turns out, if you vibrate the whole thing at the right frequency, the air simply bubbles to the top and exits.  Hence the need for a really big, long table that floats on air and vibrates.

The initial layout of 4 inch square tubing
Heavy mounts for casters
Common sense tells us that concrete is heavy, so the first thing I did was design a really strong frame.  The specs for the table worked out such that it would hold over 4,000 lbs and be maneuverable around the studio.  Lots of steel, big casters.  Got that.

Final assembly of the frame
Once the frame was assembled I installed a pneumatic air lift system using some air bags originally designed for automobiles… think War’s (Why Can’t we Be Friends) circa 1975 “low-ride-er”.

Air bags for lifting the table top
Pneumatic controls and air bags
And a control system that would allow me to gently control how much “float” was in the table so I could better manage the frequency of the vibration (lower for lots of dry material, higher for wetter cement).

Add one 1,200 lb industrial vibrator
Add to this a powerful industrial vibrator like you would find in a factory or rail yard to help empty stuff out of big metal containers like rail cars.

The finished table
VoilĂ , a 9 ft table that lifts up, floats on air, and vibrates.

To test the table I went ahead and cast a counter top for one of the vanities in my loft (guest bedroom).  Here are some pictures of a small concrete top being cast in a 2-part mold.

The final mold assembly before the pour
The first part of the pour.  Notice the ripples from the vibration.
Adjusting the frequency to get the air out
Inserting the second half of the mold
The cast counter top, right out of the mold.  The hole in the middle is designed to accommodate a shallow reveal for a new vessel sink I have in mind.
Everything worked out perfectly.  When I’m not using it for concrete, I can use it as a mobile workbench.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Some Assembly Required

Purchased another building this week... (some assembly required).

Almost 90% of this material was recycled in some way, the timbers destined for my studio.
As the story goes… I was walking through a friend’s warehouse when I came across this large bundle of reclaimed building timbers.  These were beautiful, center cut, long-leaf pine and some cypress from the late 1800s.  Always in the market, I asked where he had found them?  Then things got interesting… really interesting.

Most of these timbers are at least 16"x16" with some up to 24" (all 16 foot sections)
As it turns out, demolition had already begun on the sprawling Armour Meat Packing Facility in the historic Stockyards of Ft. Worth.  Built in the late 1800s and opened in 1903, this facility was key to the growth of the cattle industry and the ensuing culture of Ft. Worth which remains today.  After some quick research, I found an article (excerpt below) in the Star Telegram which best describes the project:

From the Star Telegram: “More than 90 percent of the buildings, including bricks, cypress timber, steel and concrete, is expected to be recycled, Britton said.  Three metal buildings, a brick building, storage tanks and other small structures have already been removed from the site. The remaining structures will take about four months to demolish.  "There are some wood beams in there that will blow you away. Some of that wood will be worth a bucketful of money," Brinkley said.” (read more here)

Historic building?  Lots of great timber?  90% recycled demolition?  I jumped at the opportunity!  A few days later I was at the demo site watching the timber being stacked into bundles.

As I began to inventory and decide what I could use, I remembered the experience I had last year when I tried to buy an antique box car (see earlier post).  Enough said, I bought the whole lot.  50,000 board feet of reclaimed timber.  Enough to build over 400 pieces of beam-inspired furniture and architecturals.
It’s beautiful stuff.  I am very excited to have landed it. Take a look at these pictures…

This photograph gives you an idea of just how much 50,000 board feet adds up to...
The historical marker for the site
JBL loading the largest sections onto one of the trucks for transport to Dallas
Some of the original patina (tested negative for lead)
First of 4 tractor trailers moving 50,000 board feet of reclaimed timbers
I would be remiss not to mention that when doing research on the building site, I came across some beautiful low-light photo work by a local photographer named Noel Kerns. His photographs are of the Swift side of the Swift/Armour industrial site.  I encourage anyone to visit his website to see these under "Industrial Decay" as well as the other photographs he has taken. Beautiful stuff!

Some of Noel Kerns work on the Swift side of the site