Hot and Cold Steel Bending for a Fountain Sculpture

Each spring my wife and I take a short vacation in California. While there we usually spend a few days on the campus of Stanford University. While walking the campus grounds this spring, a sculpture/fountain caught my eye. We had walked this way many times in past years, but I had not seen this fountain before. It could be that it is a new fountain, or it could be that I had just not noticed it, since it is a fountain, and most of the fountains had been shut down due to the drought in California the last 3 years. With a rain-filled winter season, the drought in California has come to an end, and the campus fountains, silent for the last few years have come to life.

This fountain sculpture is simple, yet powerful. The “Cardinal” color and the simple form is eye-catching. Employed by a bender/roller, a company that specializes in curving and/or bending structural metal shapes, the fact that this fountain sculpture was designed with curved material had a special interest. In doing some online research I found that the fountain is officially called the Shumway Fountain, but is known to most as the “Red Hoop Fountain”.

Red Hoop Fountain

The Red Hoop Fountain consists of 2 vertical supports, rising about 10 ft above the base of the fountain pool. Each vertical element then has a 90-degree bend, which transitions into the hoop or large horizontal ring. Based on some on-site detective work, I figured the Red Hoop Fountain was made from 12” pipe (12.75 inch outside diameter). The bends from the vertical to the horizontal were either produced by rotary draw bending, or by induction bending. Rotary draw bending is where the material is bent or wrapped around a specific set of dies/tooling. Induction bending is a process where heat, created by an induction coil, is used to heat the metal in a narrow section, which is then bent slowly to a specific radius and immediately cooled (quenched) with water. I would figure these 90-degree bends were done on an induction bender. The horizontal hoop was most likely curved on a section bender. A section bender is usually a 3-roll bending machine that curves/bends the material using pressure, and is done without heating the material. These 3 elements were then welded together to form this simple yet unique fountain sculpture.

The next time you are near Palo Alto, CA, take a few moments to visit the Red Hoop Fountain at Stanford University!


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