Military Grade Picking


On a road trip to Tucson looking for a specific piece of reclaimed sheetmetal for a Washington DC based client, I was looking for a needle in a haystack. I was specifically looking for a red piece of NAVY specific sheetmetal suitable for a coffee table to go in a contemporary condo. I knew that probably wasn't going to happen. I have no military experience but the only thing I could think might be red was something medical related. I wasn't optimistic but I was making the 2 hour drive from Phoenix to a grave yard I had heard about. You never know unless you do the work. I am always willing to do my part to put in the effort but the rest is fate. 

I spent several hours walking this place. It was large and packed with alot of different things to see. It was a time capsule for sure. Everything was old and the real deal. It was amazing weather to be out picking. After a while, I really needed to find what I needed or call it a day and get back on the road north. 

I never found the red sheetmetal for my Navy client in DC. I was bummed and didn't have a backup plan for the client as they were specific on what they wanted. Maybe they were just messing with me? Nevertheless, my efforts were rewarded at the end of the afternoon. Across the street, there was another lot with fewer pieces but cooler pieces of history. I stumbled upon a section of a helicopter fuselage that said NAVY. It wasn't red but it was bad ass. I knew that is what I was supposed to find that day. 

After a short trip to the ATM to get more cash, I was back and loaded up. Physically, this piece was large but it only weighed 25 pounds??  First time I picked it up, I almost fell over backwards cause the lifting effort I exerted would have made for an impressive burpie. It was full magnesium, riveted construction. It was awesome! Such a cool find. Perfect Perfect wall art for any modern or industrial interior design.

Back at my shop, the only thing I did was clean up the haggard perimeter, install a hanging cable and some stand-off "feet" to keep the art from touching the future clients drywall. I shot it with a clear coat for a gloss finish and added my serial number badge, signature and date.  I was so stoked to find this piece of recycled metal artwork. It was not what I set out looking for that morning but I knew it was for me the instant I saw it. I really love this line of work. 

HONDA USA Conference Table

I had the honor of building a contemporary steel conference table for HONDA R & D based in downtown LA several years ago. The initial discussion with HONDA was alittle interesting as they wanted to recycle used HONDA sheetmetal as the material for the top of the table. I knew right away that HONDA sheetmetal was not going to work for several reasons. First, old Honda Accords and Civics were very small cars and seemed to only come in colors like white, black, emerald green, medium blue and a metallic sand color. None of which were interesting colors for this particular project. Second, Honda paint was really good ... when was the last time you saw any Honda with a naturally aged patina finish? Never. 

Once everyone agreed that it would be best for the top to be made from very old GM sheetmetal, we turned our attention to the base of the conference table. My mind thought back to the vintage "H" Honda logos and thought maybe we could water jet cut a couple of table legs out of 1/2" steel with a design that was inspired by their old logo, without being too literal. My buddy Dan took my notes, sketches and dims and did his magic in CAD, drawing out the base of the table. 


Honda was wonderful to work for throughout this process. They liked and approved our initial renderings without any modifications. I used 28 Honda camshafts out of 1990's 24v Accords to build the rotating center beam of the industrial looking conference table. Machined aluminum carriers held USA made Baldor-Dodge pillow block bearings, making the insanely heavy beam spin very easily. You can't hear it in the video above but I eventually  fabricated a striker that would loundly click against a Honda timing gear and make a cool sound as the beam spun in the final, assembled conference table. The beam is functional as it triangulates the stiffness of the legs and the moving beam is just for looks and for fun.  

This Honda facility where this table was delivered was really cool but very secure. We had to check our cell phones and were monitored by security during the installation of this conference table. I was not allowed to bring my large Canon camera indoors to take final photos or video of the rotating camshaft beam. The "conference room" inside this large warehouse was a converted shipping container. It was a really cool space within a larger room that housed the conference table, 8 chairs and several flat screen displays. The interior of the shipping container outfitted with lots of AV equipment and acoustic wall insulation. It was an amazing space to have one of my modern conference tables and an experience I won't soon forget. - Joel

A Turning Point

I was not building furniture full time when I made this orange coffee table, repurposing the hood of a 1972 Chevrolet Pickup truck as the table top. I didn't know it at the time what an impact this table or project would eventually have on me. I was working full time as the lead pre-press operator at a commercial sheetfed printing company in Dallas, Texas (Deep Ellum) and tinkering on furniture in the evenings. 

As far as I know, I was the first person to pull, cut, bend, clean and clear coat this type of colorful metal and present it this way for use as furniture. I have seen "car furniture" before and it is for sure NOT my style. I want my furniture to, first and foremost, be a timeless, modern piece of furniture. The fact it has automotive roots is of a secondary importance. I appreciate the fact that this metal is automotive (I'm a car guy), that it is a recycled material and that the patina actually took decades to develop. Alot of my tables have a documentable, previously driven, history through the DMV via their VIN number issued to the donor vehicle at the factory. 

I had zero expectations when I started welding. In printing, I was a creative type with my mouse and computer, designing anything from catalogs to annual reports, but working with metal was a way for me to do something creative with my hands.  At the time, I was living in an apartment on White Rock Lake in Dallas that happened to have a 2 car garage as the first floor, with the kitchen and bedrooms occupying the second and third story. I bought a 120v welder as a new years resolution with the intention of building something. I would come home for lunch when my neighbors were at work and I'd make all the loud and messy cuts with my $79 chop saw then, later on at night, I would weld. This was probably totally illegal but this is how I learned to weld, working off the floor with a cheap welder, a corded drill, grinder and chop saw. This was a time before Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest to thieve ideas or draw "inspiration". I was just tinkering and making stuff up as I went along, it was totally honest and organic. 

My boss at the time, who was the owner of the printing company, was a very early supporter of my creations. We'd hang out after work and, within a few beers time, he'd encourage me with a profanity laced critique of what I just finished that went something like, "...that is fucking awesome!!!".  It wasn't just one liners either, he would go on an on getting increasingly "enthusiastic" as we worked and drank. It was comical but I really did appreciated his feedback. He eventually gave me a small space in one of his warehouses, rent free, to continue to tinker. He kept his artwork there and worked on paintings of his own in the same space. It was an invaluable time of welding incubation for me, being able to practice and try new things with metal without any judgement or, especially, overhead. 

As the years rolled on, I remained in my bubble of the day job and a mountain bike hobby. However, my metal work had got better and had gained some momentum. Through a series of circumstances that I will write about in another BLOG post, the automotive metal was getting better and taking off. As cool as I thought it was, I considered myself a total rookie welder and I lacked confidence. Still without the internet or exposure to any outside influences, I had no idea that furniture making (wood, upholstery, leather, metal, stone) was an actual trade and a worthy endeavor.  Printed information on paper was being replaced, and rapidly replaced, by everything being online. I knew my days in printing were numbered as the industry was changing. I wasn't sure I wanted to change with it after 20 years. I was there when the MAC, Quark Express and Adobe took over traditional art boards/paste-up. Besides, I was liking building things, wearing jeans and steel toe boots instead of dress clothes. My dad and grandfather were both admen / printers but I was open to a change more than ever. I was thinking I'd like to try my hand at this furniture thing. 

My personal situation continued to evolve over time as well with a girlfriend, then wife and babies. Professionally I had to do something. It was time, I knew printing was not the occupation of the future to provide for my new family but quitting a full time job was scary. I was terrified of being self employed. My dad tried being self employment and he ultimately crashed and burned. I swore I would never do that to myself or my family. But there was not enough hours in the day, I was busy building furniture, burning the candle at both ends. That was about that time I received photos of this orange coffee table.

I had built this orange table a year prior but it had been in storage awaiting completion of this new home. I received these exact photos in my email one day. I was speechless. They were phenomenal photos. Not like the photos I took with my flip phone. The home was absolutely gorgeous. The modern design and industrial materials are exactly what I would want for myself if I had won the lottery and could build anything I wanted. It was in that moment that I saw my work in a new light. My work belonged and fit right into a space like that. I will never forget seeing those images for the first time, I was changed instantly. I had confidence in myself for the first time as a furniture designer. It was the release I needed to let go of printing and go full time building furniture.

I have had this same orange coffee table photo as the home-page of every website version since then. Looking back, there is alot wrong with that particular coffee table from a fabrication standpoint. Most notably, in these photos, is the mix-matched welded seams on the two legs.  I have built many cool things for very cool places since this table but seeing this group of images below for the first time was a defining moment in my life. 

My emotions still run the gamut when I see my designs stolen and passed off as originals by other people. Seems these days everyone with a beard, flannel shirt, MIG machine and an internet connection is a furniture maker.  But I am comfortable with my craft to the point that I am just going to push harder to do better. This is a big world and there is room for everyone. I am regularly inspired by people I see and meet. People who take the simplest of materials and do things I could only dream of. There are so many, truly talented people out there that I really just need to work on myself and not worry about what other people are doing ... the same advice I hear myself giving my 5 and 6 year old. Infact, I recall receiving that same admonition from my father when I was a kid. 

My kids are growing up and I am about a month out from having my divorce finalized. I moved to Arizona with everything I own, shop and home, in a borrowed 28' enclosed trailer 7 years ago this month. I was an unemployed newlywed with a 6 month old baby and one-on-the-way heading west. I was scared to death with my whole life hanging in the balance. I experienced what my dad must have felt all those many years prior striking out on his own. While I was mentally preoccupied with just surviving that first year(s), I had big dreams and the confidence of this orange table ringing in my head. I knew I could do it. I don't know what this journey will bring my way next but I am looking forward to it. Thank you Amity for this orange coffee table and these photos, they changed my life.  

I hope to continue to tell my story through this blog. I want to get to know other makers and share their personal and professional stories, because they are often one in the same. We take our work personally. Please leave your comments below and share this BLOG post with people who you know are makers. Email me if you'd like to be a guest blogger here at Weld House. -Joel

HUNTER is so rare

I have been building these recycled steel coffee tables for close to 10 years now and this is just the second hunter green color I have found. The top of this coffee table came from the hood off of a 1972 Chevrolet pickup truck. There are very unique markings within the paint that we just cleanup up and clear coated with POR15 2K Urethane clear coat. After the clear coat cured for a couple of days, we sanded, buffed and polished the surface to a high gloss shine. 

Underneath the top is a TIG welded subframe made from 14 gauge 2"x2" square tubing and legs made from 1"x3" tubing of the same thickness. An acid based stain was rubbed over the surface of the tubing to alter the color of the legs to better coordinate with the naturally occurring patina found on the 40+ year old table top. This color combination would be perfect in a more traditional home with less emphasis on an industrial or contemporary look. 

This coffee table will be for sale on the show room of our Canadian retailer LOCALE Contract/Holsag Canada. You can visit their website for more information about availability of this and other Weld House pieces.


80's Dodge Ram Coffee Table

A sweet little 24x42 inch coffee table made from the reclaimed sheemetal from an 80" Dodge Ram pickup truck. The truck was originally red and there are trace amounts of red left but 99% of this table top is black primer and bare metal that has surface rusted. Sealed with a clear coat specially formulated from adhering to bare metal really makes this old metal shine. 2"x2" square tube legs are blackened and waxed stand 15" tall. All finished and ready to ship to its new home. Thanks Nikki and Sean.

recycled steel metal coffee table