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Thread: Nautilus out of an I-Beam - Questions on Bending

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  1. #1
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    Nautilus out of an I-Beam - Questions on Bending

    I saw this on Pinterest and it is something I want to try and make a version of.

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    I'm nothing more than a flux core welder wielding hobbyist that has been tinkering for a year or two at most - so EVERYTHING I do is an experiment/learning experience.

    This is a beam I picked up at a scrap yard - roughly 4" x 6" x 10' long:
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    I guesstimated the sections to be cut and arrived at 1", 2", 3" and 4-1/2" - the number of each dictated by the count on the original:

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    Re: Nautilus out of an I-Beam - Questions on Bending

    Would have been much better not to have a galvanized beam. Breathing galvanized fumes is very bad. You need to have a proper respirator and exhaust in your shop/garage. Does the scrap yard have any non galvanized beams? You would be far better off considering the amount of work required to the beam. A couple cuts and welds on galvanized is one thing but you're looking at extensive cutting and welding for your project. The last thing you need is zinc chills.

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    Re: Nautilus out of an I-Beam - Questions on Bending

    Quote Originally Posted by Welder Dave View Post
    Would have been much better not to have a galvanized beam. Breathing galvanized fumes is very bad. You need to have a proper respirator and exhaust in your shop/garage. Does the scrap yard have any non galvanized beams? You would be far better off considering the amount of work required to the beam. A couple cuts and welds on galvanized is one thing but you're looking at extensive cutting and welding for your project. The last thing you need is zinc chills.
    I have a Honeywell half mask and I use the organic vapor/P100 particulate filters at work (copper mine crusher dust in confined spaces). Even though it's here in sunny Arizona I work with the garage door open and a fan blowing on me as I work on stuff. I think that should be adequate here, but this will be the first time I've worked on something this big full of zinc.

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    Re: Nautilus out of an I-Beam - Questions on Bending

    It looks like the one you're trying to copy each individual section is welded. Would be good to have a table to lay it out on.

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    Re: Nautilus out of an I-Beam - Questions on Bending

    Hey, I worked in the copper industry for nearly 25 years, 9 years in Ajo, as a diesel lo, where are you located??comotive mechanic, & 15 at Hidalgo Smelter in New Mexico as a loco mechanic, , machinist apprenticeship & machinist, left Hidalgo & copper in 99 when the smelter shut down
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    Re: Nautilus out of an I-Beam - Questions on Bending

    Quote Originally Posted by CAVEMANN View Post
    Hey, I worked in the copper industry for nearly 25 years, 9 years in Ajo, as a diesel lo, where are you located??comotive mechanic, & 15 at Hidalgo Smelter in New Mexico as a loco mechanic, , machinist apprenticeship & machinist, left Hidalgo & copper in 99 when the smelter shut down
    I'm based in Phoenix, the properties I take care of for my company are all the Arizona Freeport ones. I don't much physical labor anymore, mostly surveys and audits of the conveyors - troubleshooting issues for them.

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    Re: Nautilus out of an I-Beam - Questions on Bending

    Quote Originally Posted by CAVEMANN View Post
    Hey, I worked in the copper industry for nearly 25 years, 9 years in Ajo, as a diesel lo, where are you located??comotive mechanic, & 15 at Hidalgo Smelter in New Mexico as a loco mechanic, , machinist apprenticeship & machinist, left Hidalgo & copper in 99 when the smelter shut down
    That's why I asked you about ALCOs sometime back, I was under the assumption you worked for ASARCO, my bad. They had RS-3 ALCOs.

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    Re: Nautilus out of an I-Beam - Questions on Bending

    May be a little on the small side, but possibly have found a base for the nautilus:

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    3/8" thick x 24" diameter - little over 50lbs. Once I figure out the balance points on the steel I'll have a better idea if it will work or not. But for $25 I couldn't pass it up...

    Oh yea, fooling around with filters last night...
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    Last edited by Shootr; 06-02-2020 at 05:32 PM.

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    Re: Nautilus out of an I-Beam - Questions on Bending

    I plan on using a portaband saw to make the cuts, through the top flange, through the web, stopping just as I get to the bottom flange.

    Question #1: What tooth type/count and FPM would you recommend to make the cuts?

    Once (if) all the cuts are made, comes the hard part - bending each piece by spreading the cuts apart - how to do it.

    I don't have a torch kit, but if the consensus is that it will be required to make the bends, then it's on the procurement table with my war department.

    Question #2:

    Since the cuts/blades are only 0.020" wide, I'm not sure what method would work or not.

    * A 3lb hand sledge and good aim?
    * Some kind of steel wedge to pound into the cut to start to spread it open?
    * A long stout prybar to beat into the cut and try to muscle it open?

    My layperson's thoughts include:

    * It's probably the lightest I-beam I've come across, hell I can lift and carry the thing around fairly easily.
    * The flanges are not particularly thick or beefy, seems to be as noob-friendly as a beam could be.

    But every project and effort I've done has brought unforeseen surprises, this time I'm hoping this forum and it's members may be able to warn me off about things I hadn't thought of.

    Thanks for looking and thanks in advance for any and all thoughts, ideas, and advice.

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    Re: Nautilus out of an I-Beam - Questions on Bending


    Shootr


    Quote Originally Posted by Shootr View Post
    . . . so EVERYTHING I do is an experiment/learning experience . . .
    Galvanized 'donor material' is a non-starter* . . . for your aspirational product.
    Pitch - 'all of your good work' in the Dumpster - you are wasting your time . . .


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    Re: Nautilus out of an I-Beam - Questions on Bending

    I looked at the photo for a while and it looks like there wasn't any bending involved at all. I counted approximately 41 I Beam slices that were then welded back together to form the "Nautilus". You will observe the bottom flange has weld on them. If bending was incorporated then there would be no need to weld on bottom flange. Just my .02

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    Re: Nautilus out of an I-Beam - Questions on Bending

    I also looks as if the beam only comprises a small portion of sections like 5 chunks? Then it spreads wider. Seems mathematical?

    As stated there is no bending done there. And the sculpture is more complex than a so glad beam

    I would cut. Form a template(s) and weld. Where a respirator and use a fan outside you should be fine.

    You did state a "version of"... So carry on


    Good luck
    Last edited by tapwelder; 05-27-2020 at 03:30 AM.

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    Re: Nautilus out of an I-Beam - Questions on Bending

    As others have noted, the original is cut and welded, not bent. Bending .20" thick steel isn't hard, though it's a thorough pain in the butt when it's 4.125" wide and you don't have an OA rig and a big table to lay it out on! It's doable, but a ton of aggravation.

    I'd first draw out the scroll you want to form. You can use the Fibonnaci sequence to get a nautilus curl going, but that might not be the perfect look for the stock you're trying to form to it. A good starting place, though, and the golden ratio has been used for hundreds of generations.

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    Re: Nautilus out of an I-Beam - Questions on Bending

    I used a technique similar to what you are suggesting to make the piece below. I cut part way through the channel then bent using my 20 ton press. Doing it by hand was a no go. My piece of channel was not galvanized so I did not worry about the hazards.

    In your instance, the example was cut completely apart then each piece was welded together While this sound like more work, it is actually the easier and correct method. Trust me on this. It will be very hard to cut part way through then try to get all the bends correct. Very hard.

    If you are dead set on using your galvanized beam, this also would then make the complete cut and weld method more appropriate. You can cut the beam with your portaband or a cut off wheel. Then take the sections outside away from everything. Put the sections in a bucket with a lid. Pour some muriatic acid in the bucket and close the lid. Wait 20 minutes then remove. If the galvanized is not off, scrub a bit with a wire brush and soak again. Wear face and eye protection the whole time. Once the pieces are clean, dunk in a baking soda and water bath followed up by a fresh water bath.

    Getting an I beam that is not galvanized will save you a few hours of work. Maybe use this one for a future project.

    Layout your design on the floor or table using the golden ratio as Vaughn and Opus mentioned before. Tack weld both sides of the flange so it does not warp and curl more than you want. If you start at the small pieces and weld one or two at at time, you can then use a grinder to smooth the welds so they are not seen.

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    Re: Nautilus out of an I-Beam - Questions on Bending

    Quote Originally Posted by Welder Dave View Post
    It looks like the one you're trying to copy each individual section is welded. Would be good to have a table to lay it out on.
    Quote Originally Posted by BOP101 View Post
    I looked at the photo for a while and it looks like there wasn't any bending involved at all. I counted approximately 41 I Beam slices that were then welded back together to form the "Nautilus". You will observe the bottom flange has weld on them. If bending was incorporated then there would be no need to weld on bottom flange. Just my .02
    When I stopped by my welding supply shop, they also noted that the original looks cut and welded. My thought was that if it could be bent instead it would look cleaner. He too had doubts about being able to spread each cut symmetrically and keep the overall shape plumb and straight.

    The other fear I have is warp - I'm still learning how to control it as best I can, so trying to weld 40 +/- pieces straight seems like worse odds than bending it .

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    Re: Nautilus out of an I-Beam - Questions on Bending

    That's slick for sure. I'm gonna have to check my I-beam stock for length and thickness.
    Saw cutting would definitely be cleaner then cutting and welding. Depending on beam size and your cutting tools I would saw cut.
    As a reminder, you can cut straight from top flange, through web AND into the inside of bottom flange. That inside saw kerf will make forming the bend easier.
    A stout welding table would help and a come a long. A car or truck rim may work for a jig to bend around. Lots of options.
    I'm looking forward to seeing it IF you try it.
    Good luck.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

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    Re: Nautilus out of an I-Beam - Questions on Bending

    Quote Originally Posted by tapwelder View Post
    I would not expect difficulty bending is your reduced the flange to a bout 1/8 inch. The wedge would work.

    Got heat? Then you.could just cut away the web.

    The difference between .2 and .125 is substantial when bending manually.
    Quote Originally Posted by cwby View Post
    I think it could be bent. If you draw out a pattern on cardboard & bend one segment at a time matched to your template, then tack a brace across the open end to hold it in place, then cut & bend the next segment, & so on. I would try to start with the tightest bends 1st - more leverage for those tougher bends. A come a long would be my tool for force & I would start with a riser in the middle to hold the cable at enough angle to get leverage to get it started (think truss with cable as rafters). Once you get the curl started there should be enough leverage to make the rest of the bends.
    Quote Originally Posted by BD1 View Post
    That's slick for sure. I'm gonna have to check my I-beam stock for length and thickness.
    Saw cutting would definitely be cleaner then cutting and welding. Depending on beam size and your cutting tools I would saw cut.
    As a reminder, you can cut straight from top flange, through web AND into the inside of bottom flange. That inside saw kerf will make forming the bend easier.
    A stout welding table would help and a come a long. A car or truck rim may work for a jig to bend around. Lots of options.
    I'm looking forward to seeing it IF you try it.
    Good luck.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
    Would any of you have advice on what tooth count and blade speed I should try with the portaband saw?

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    Re: Nautilus out of an I-Beam - Questions on Bending

    Quote Originally Posted by Shootr View Post
    Would any of you have advice on what tooth count and blade speed I should try with the portaband saw?
    The general rule I learned at the junior college I went to is: 3 saw teeth across the thickness of the item being cut. For the 0.2" web (straight up and down) that works out to 15tpi. If you go flat across the top of the I beam, then you'd want a more agressive blade (4-6 tpi). If you cut the top of the I beam at an angle, then the 15tpi blade would work okay.

    I use Lennox blades in my horizontal bandsaw. They have guides to help you choose the right blade on their website.

    Good luck,
    Dave

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    Re: Nautilus out of an I-Beam - Questions on Bending

    Quote Originally Posted by ferrret3238 View Post
    Is there any make or model of a portaband that will cut down 6 inches? I like the log splitter idea to bend it but will it be able to get all the way around once it gets past 180 degrees? It also looks like in the picture that there's a backer that goes all the way around the spiral. I would assume that's what the dots are in the center of the beam segments?
    Not that I know of. Mine goes down to a bit over 5", so I'll have a lot of manual sawing to get the last 1/4" or so.

    Once I know if it will bend as I hope (or can deal with), the plan is as follows:

    *Strip all the zinc
    *Make all the cuts
    *Start with the narrow slices and bend to shape.

    I think doing the bends in that sequence, I'll avoid getting jammed into an inaccessible curve.

    I'm hoping to start stripping the coating off tonight so I can do a test cut and bend to see what I get.

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    Re: Nautilus out of an I-Beam - Questions on Bending

    Quote Originally Posted by Shootr View Post
    Not that I know of. Mine goes down to a bit over 5", so I'll have a lot of manual sawing to get the last 1/4" or so.

    Once I know if it will bend as I hope (or can deal with), the plan is as follows:

    *Strip all the zinc
    *Make all the cuts
    *Start with the narrow slices and bend to shape.

    I think doing the bends in that sequence, I'll avoid getting jammed into an inaccessible curve.

    I'm hoping to start stripping the coating off tonight so I can do a test cut and bend to see what I get.
    Research F-bar. Blacksmiths use them. i have several different sizes. You can make a large on for your specific.purpose. I have a 3.foot long set made from 1.25" pipe I use for twisting. A long handle will give you a bunch of leverage.

    Why strip all zinc? Looks? If health related wear proper ppe .throw clothes away if really concerned?
    Last edited by tapwelder; 05-28-2020 at 03:23 PM.

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    Re: Nautilus out of an I-Beam - Questions on Bending

    Quote Originally Posted by tapwelder View Post
    Research F-bar. Blacksmiths use them. i have several different sizes. You can make a large on for your specific.purpose. I have a 3.foot long set made from 1.25" pipe I use for twisting. A long handle will give you a bunch of leverage.

    Why strip all zinc? Looks? If health related wear proper ppe .throw clothes away if really concerned?
    Man, I thought I was a pretty googler, but I'll be darned if I can pull up a pic of an f-bar.

    Luckily, the name says it all and I have a pretty good picture in mind of what it is and how to use it - because as you'll see in my next post - it's EXACTLY what I will need for this!

    As far as the stripping the zinc, I like the rust patina better than painting. Everyone has warned me about the zinc chills, so I want to be careful. Everything I've read says it isn't dangerous, just can make you feel like crap for a few days with no lingering health issues to worry about.

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    Re: Nautilus out of an I-Beam - Questions on Bending

    I was having a bad day and needed to take a break, so I geared up to do a quick cut and bend test on the beam - the curiosity of what I'm in for me was killing as well.

    I wore a mask and had pretty much everything on me covered when I used a flapper disc to clean off the zinc where I'd be working. Next I hand held the portaband and made the first cut at the 1" mark and went down as far as I could go. As I had only marked the top, the cut was slightly crooked - in the future I'll have both sides marked all the way down the web. I used the 18 tooth blade already on it at 350FPM with cutting oil, but it wanted to grab and catch. A little squirrely but manageable.

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    That's as far as the saw could take me, so I tried a cutoff wheel in the dremel, and it worked to cut the rest of the web surprisingly well. I did not make the score line on the bottom flange at this time - I wanted to see how it bent without it.

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    Using an 8" prybar I was able to easily spread the cut apart, but the uncut flange wasn't bending - the web seemed to be.

    I then took a pipe wrench and clamped onto the uncut flange as close to the web as I could and gave it a few shots - wasn't really bending as I wanted. As another test, I took the portaband and scored the outside flat of the bottom flange just a touch, less than 1/8". That seemed to be the ticket, this time with the pipe wrench I was getting the flange to bend.

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    Realizing I wouldn't be able to use a wrench like this on the rest of the bends, I started trying to figure out what tool could grab the flange on the side and with enough leverage let me bend each cut as I progressed through the length of the beam.

    And along comes TapWelder to save the day with the F-Bar tip. Even though I can't find a picture of one - I'm pretty sure what it is, and will be able to make one easily for my project.

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    This weekend I'll do test #2:
    • Saw cut with a new, courser tooth blade
    • Mark the cut line all the way down on both sides
    • Put the beam on the ground and off the jack stands to cut (oops)
    • Use the dremel to cut a score line on the inside flat of the flange
    • Make an appropriately sized f-bar tool or two to bend with
    • Bend the beam and see how it comes out.


    This is going to be a long process but when I work slow and don't push myself too hard - I think I'm on track for a fairly successful effort.

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    Re: Nautilus out of an I-Beam - Questions on Bending

    But if someone has a pic or two of an F-Bar, I'd be greatly appreciative if you posted it!

    EDIT:

    "Bending Fork" - I knew if I could find the right keyword I'd get it lol...

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    Last edited by Shootr; 05-28-2020 at 07:25 PM.

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    Re: Nautilus out of an I-Beam - Questions on Bending

    I would jam in a wedge when making the cut. Better yet make up several as a lot of the bending can be done with wedges.

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    Re: Nautilus out of an I-Beam - Questions on Bending

    Today's test went much better - kind of...

    Started by trying to make a couple of bending bars out of 1/8" scrap angle iron and 1/2" steel rod. Thought I was welding effectively but my first try I could snap the end rod off of each one:
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    Turned the wire feed speed down, cleaned up the area, and the second try stuck much better:
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    Next I wanted to see if I would be able to use the home made chop saw frame - it works great, but I have to stop and start to move the beam around to clear various parts of the saw frame. But it got down pretty far and mostly straight. Using a wedge once the flange was cut through did help, thanks again for the valuable tip - 18 tooth blade with lots of cuts on it already glided thru like butter.
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    To finish the cut, I first tried a cut off wheel in the angle grinder - it worked OK but again I have to really pay attention to keep it straight when cutting down for the bend score line. I did use the dremel to get into the web/flange joint to cut it down as best I could. I still didn't cut quite deep enough, but it did bend as I wanted.
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    The bender bars are strong enough that they started to bend up the corners of the flange while the cut and flange didn't budge.

    The last things I need to fine tune is how to finish the cut and a way to more easily keep the beam plumb and square as I reposition it several times throughout the cut. I'm going to buy some metal blades for the jigsaw and the sawzall - between the two I'm hoping they will allow me to finish the cut without using cut off wheels.

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