A Turning Point

I was not full time building furniture when I built this orange coffee, repurposing the hood of a 1972 Chevrolet Pickup truck. 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. I was a creative type with my mouse and computer, design anything from catalogs to annual reports, but working with metal was a way to do something creative with my hands.  I was living in an apartment that happened to have a 2 car garage as the first floor, with the kitchen and bedrooms occupying the second and third story on White Rock Lake in Dallas. I bought a 120v welder as a new years resolution one year with the intention of building something. I would come home for lunch when my neighbors were at work and 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, with a couple beers, he'd always give me encouragement with a profanity laced critique of what I had just finished ... 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 appreciated his feedback, even though he knew nothing about welding. 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 his own paintings 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 my 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, 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 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 might 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. I knew printing was not the future occupation 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, really 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 was 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 as well. 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 designer and fabricator. It was the release I needed to let go of printing and go full time building furniture.

I have had this orange coffee table image on every website home page iteration I have ever had since then. There is alot wrong with that particular coffee table from a fabrication standpoint, most notably the welded seams are mix-matched on the legs.  I have built many cool things in many cool places since then 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 others. 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 online. 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. 

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 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. http://www.localecontract.com/


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