You are currently viewing JAWS


Finished – swimming on concrete
Making the head
Adding on to the body
A stroke of luck – the license plate holes lined up perfectly for the eyes
Still needs a few fins
Don’t worry – no animals or creatures were injured in the making of this project

Welded metal art – 2019-20 Project #37. Did I mention that I was on task making project requests … presents for/from my daughter? Continue with that theme. The next request was for a shark. The plan developed based on an internet search and an online version I found that was formed from scrap sheet metal. The only problem was I had no scrap sheet metal in the shop. Hmmm, sheet metal … sheet metal … looking … squirrel! Well maybe time for a ‘thinking’ beer. And then the a-ha moment. I did have a stack of old license plates (all formerly mine – no need to raid the neighbors cars), and quite a few of them at that. So I began the effort to form up the head and body of the shark. The license plates did take to bending and forming quite nicely (with some added persuasion). I even used an old skateboard to roll across the metal to help shape and form it (maybe I need a real metal roller – nah, this way was working fine). Enter the next new challenge – welding the thin metal together. While a somewhat frustrating experience, I was learning. I started out with the TIG welder and practiced welding on an initial version. That became an experience in rapidly melting holes in the metal before actually joining the seams together. So I switched to the MIG – and yes, it worked better … sort of. The benefit of the MIG was the auto-feed of the weld wire. It was easier to fill the accidental holes (which happened frequently in this first run with the shark). So the plan was made and time to get on with the project. That’s right, no more thinking beers – get on with the welding.

Burn it, burn it … because it turned me into a newt … but I got better (sorry, another Monty Python reference). Onward – when making the head, it turned out that the mounting holes in the license plates lined up perfectly for the eyes of the shark – just as I had planned! OK, quite honestly, it happened by sheer accident – but it was as if the plan was meant to be. I will add here that I used Michigan plates on the top of the head/body and Ohio plates on the bottom. It was merely a color choice/decision (darker on the top and lighter on the bottom – like a real shark). All you Ohio State – Michigan fans out there chill out. I then made a cut for the opening of the mouth. After a little forming and shaping, it turned out very well. I did realize this shark was minus teeth. In retrospect the teeth needed to be added before the head was completely assembled – oh well. I moved on to the rest of the body and added body parts in a zig-zag fashion. You know, sharks are always moving – the only straight shark is a dead shark. Who wants to display a dead looking shark (well, besides a fisherman)? I shaped and welded the top fin and tail fin (two plates welded together and cut into shape) and added those on. The remaining pieces to add were the side fins. A quick cut/shape and weld later – well-a! I finished by cleaning up the shark with the grinder. I considered painting it, but in true rat-rod style, I left it unpainted. The toothless shark was finished! A safe and friendly land-shark – no need to stay away from the concrete (or water).

This was a intense learning project that involved joining thin metals together. In hindsight, more work on preparing the seams was the key to success when welding license plates together – a lesson that would be applied in a future project. During the process the thought of needing to add big, bold metal forming and shaping equipment did cross my mind. Not that there isn’t something different out there (call it super whamadine – spell check can’t fix that word so I guess I’m making up words now). But it turns out that everything I wanted and needed was right there in front of me. Making it work with my own stuff, using my own creativity and ingenuity, resulted in a project with the most memorable results. Each project was developing its own identity and character, which was making this venture special and exciting with each effort. Yes, with all its own characteristics (and quirks), my shop has its own identity and I love it. So with that … hmm, do you hear music? Anyway … wait, there it was again. Uh, the music is getting faster – and sounds ominous … get out of the water! OK, enough JAWS references. Make the most of what you have, enjoy your life, and Weld On!