In the world of curved steel, it is often that artists come to bender/rollers as customers, in search of our metal bending and forming capabilities to achieve something that their creative genius has worked up deep within their imaginative minds. In most scenarios a sculptor will seek out a steel rolling company to form pieces of their sculpture that are much too large or complicated for them to do in their own workshop. So bender/rollers will form up abstract pieces of twisted metal without concern for radius, arc length, and or tolerances, but rather aiming their bending efforts towards an idea/concept or an overall look; very much so going against most standard practices for any steel fabricator, but nevertheless is the requirement to achieve the desired outcome. Thereafter the artist then takes the formed pieces back to their shop and welds each individual piece into their final positions within the sculpture. That is definitely not the case with local artist – “Glass Blower” Phil Gross. Phil’s request to bender/roller Chicago Metal Rolled Products, was much more precise than that of your every day steel sculptor. Phil was seeking a special mold for his hand blown glass artwork.
In order to achieve certain desired cross-sectional shapes when glass blowing, the artist must blow the molten glass on the end of his blowpipe/punty rod into a mold. In order for ease of removal of the glass work piece, these molds are generally made, split in halves. The molds are most often made of wood due to their durability and low cost. But the molds must be reusable and after an extended period of use the wood molds burn out and change shape, so in order to prevent this from happening molds are also made of steel/metal.
Phil Gross contacted Chicago Metal Rolled Products with an idea of blowing a glass vase into an accordion shape. This jagged, rough shape with sharp corners and acute angles goes against the natural smooth flowing characteristics of glass which is why Phil needed to team up with a bender/roller to achieve his vision. Phil knew that he wanted to keep the classic round vase look but he wanted to spice it up by adding texture to the hand blown glass vase’s exterior. Phil’s request was extremely precise and well thought out. He wanted 12pcs of 1 1/2 x 1 1/2 x 1/8 angle iron rolled heel-in, to a 5″ inside diameter, saw trimmed to 180deg of good arc each. After the rolling and cutting, 6 pieces were to be stacked on top of one another and then welded together. The same was done for the other 6 pieces. The result when both 180deg weldments were put together, somewhat resembled that of a corrugated drain pipe. Phil took the two parts of the mold back to his workshop, attached hinges to one side and completed his mold. It won’t be long before Phil reaches into his furnace to gather a globule of molten glass that is destined for an accordion shaped life.