Buckle Box

So I’m boxing the frame on my buddy’s ’31 Ford Model A Tudor Sedan one day, welding in long lengths of laser cut, eighth inch steel plate to the tired old factory “C” channel rails, when the neighbor comes across the alley to see what the racket is.

Ordinarily, a visit by the neighbor during a major auto reconstruction project in a residential area, involving welders, grinders and the like isn’t a good thing.  It’s usually the precursor to an unplanned meeting with the local constabulary.

But this visit was pleasantly dissimilar.  You see the neighbor was actually quite fascinated with the work we were performing, inquiring about the various processes involved with the undertaking.

She then invited us into a studio she had constructed just a few steps across the alley in her garage.  I was enamored with the devices and products she had assembled.  It turned out that she was a very talented artist, with leather being her primary medium, though she was quite adept in other disciplines such as wood carving and non-ferrous metal design and sculpture.

We had a pleasant exchange that afternoon, as it was a joy to meet another artist with similar passion and devotion to the craft.  We adjourned shortly thereafter, and my buddy and I finished up the hot rod work for the evening.

Some time later, my friend called to let me know that he had scored some fantastic loot from the alley angels.  Sitting alongside receptacles rife with the requisite banana peels and offal of our urban truck patch was a beleaguered old basket filled with glistening brass objects.  They were the cast-offs, the hand made buckles that didn’t quite make the cut and live up to the neighboring artist’s vision.  Perfection can be an unrelenting beast.

So I went to go see the pieces and was again inspired.  Through a small bit of horse-trading with my buddy, I acquired a couple of the distinctive shiny shapes.  I hadn’t a clue as to what I intended to do with them, yet I knew I just needed to possess one or two.  Like a moth to a lamp, a child to a red ball, I was simply drawn in and captivated.

I’ll admit, I’m not the greatest tabula rasa guy out there.  Blank pages often confound me.  But give me a platform of inspiration, however small, and damn if I ain’t gonna run with it and turn it into something splendid.  See, I’ve spent a fair amount of my life making ugly things beautiful, though inanimate objects seem to respond best to this infusion of time, energy and passion.

When inspired by something already possessing innate beauty such as this piece, the possibilities can be limitless.  However, I was in a bit of a quandary on this project, due to that elemental beauty.  So rather than hide or incorporate the buckle into a greater work, I decided to simply showcase it.

The photos below show the fruits of that labor.  The material chosen was repurposed, reused, rough hewn carbon steel…some two inch square tubing, recycled five-eighths inch, twisted bar stock from an old railing demo, and a single piece of eighth inch plate, slit four times, cold formed with hammer and vice, then MIG welded back together.  There’s a poor mans patina on it too.  Wet rubbed, rattle-can black with a clear lacquer finish coat.

This piece always seems to bring me a smile.  And although I’ve been tempted to sell it, or pass it along to an appreciative soul, I’ve retained it thus far, and it occupies a prominent place in my home.  If you would like a similar one fabricated, whether complete with this current focal piece, or perhaps centered around an object of your own design, don’t hesitate to contact me.   

And if the buckle catches your eye, you’ve got to check out the other offerings of this artist.  Meg McGuinness’ work is just a mouse click away. http://www.meguinness.com/  And it’s customizable and wearable to boot!

Austin Bader
Copyright 2011

Posted in Austin Bader, Austin F Bader, Bader Art Metal, Chicago Metal Art, Chicago Welding, Design, Metal, MIG Welding, Musings, TIG Welding, Uncategorized, Welding, Word | Leave a comment


the future may dawn
just as we dream
if we are wise enough
to enthusiastically embrace
the possibility it holds

Austin Bader
Copyright 2011

Posted in Austin Bader, Austin F Bader, Chicago Poetry, Lyrics, Musings, Poetry, Prose, Spoken Word, Uncategorized, Word | Leave a comment

Make a Stand!

Sometimes in life you’ve just got to make a stand…
or in the case of this client, dozens and dozens of them.

This customer specializes in fascinating Chinese artifacts, antiques, and contemporary art.  And while the pieces are exquisite, unique and captivating, they do of course require some embellishment from time to time.

So in order to showcase the product and make that which is beautiful even more alluring, they call on Bader Art Metal.  Below are a few examples of some recent pieces.

If any of them pique your interest, by all means stop into one of Pagoda Red’s showrooms, either in Chicago’s Bucktown neighborhood, or on the North Shore in Winnetka.  http://www.pagodared.com/

And while you’re there, be certain to say hello to Betsy, Michael, Eric and the rest of the gang.  They’re wonderful people to work with. 

Austin Bader
Copyright 2011

Posted in Austin Bader, Austin F Bader, Bader Art Metal, Chicago Metal Art, Chicago Welding, Design, Metal, MIG Welding, Musings, Spoken Word, TIG Welding, Uncategorized, Welding, Word | Leave a comment

Red Wagoneering

At one point or another in life, we’ve all had an adventure in a little red wagon.  Whether rocketing down the steepest neighborhood hill we could find, doing our best Spaceman Spiff imitation, or perhaps being wearily toted back home from the Fourth of July fireworks by our young parents, the little red wagon is deeply ingrained in the American psyche.  So when a client approached me with an idea to repurpose one of these neat little vehicles, I was all ears.

Now, as far as unique jobs go, this one is high up on the list.  You see the customer wanted to convert the wagon into signage, easy enough you say.  But there were a few extra requirements involved such as weatherproof, strobe lighting that could be detached from a power source, that made this job quite the exacting task.

Not only was I a metal artist on this piece, crafting ornate scrolls from flat stock, bending giant concentric hoops from straight, solid, half inch square bar, shearing heavy gauge sheet metal and fabricating a solid foundation from one inch square tubing (which is actually completely hidden on the inside of the wagon,) but I was also a tile contractor (the platform is one inch glass mosaic tiles set in antique white grout) and an electrical engineer.

I designed and fabricated, thankfully with the help of one of my best friends who happens to be a union electrician, multiple circuits that manipulated and transferred AC and DC power.  There were chargers, batteries, rectifiers, fuses, inverters, switches, gamma rays …OK, well maybe not gamma rays, but darn if it didn’t seem like that was tossed in there too.

It turns out that the lighting system actually needed revision later on and the client wanted the piece expanded and a different finish added as well.  So what you see in the following photos is actually the second iteration.  After these tweaks, the piece was a hit, and all parties were quite pleased.

The photos below don’t quite do it justice, so next time you’re in Chicago’s Wicker Park neighborhood, stop by The Ruby Room http://www.rubyroom.com/ and check it out.  While you’re there, take the time to pamper yourself.  It’s an awesome boutique, spa, B&B, and fantastic all-around urban oasis.

Austin F. Bader

Copyright 2011

Posted in Austin Bader, Austin F Bader, Bader Art Metal, Chicago Metal Art, Chicago Welding, Design, Metal, MIG Welding, Musings, TIG Welding, Uncategorized, Welding, Word | Leave a comment

Wrigleyville rooftop railing

Have you ever wanted to hang out on a rooftop in Wrigleyville but didn’t want to pay the exorbitant prices?  Well I’ve got a cheap way to climb to the sky in the beloved Cubby neighborhood.  Just contract to build a parapet wall railing on the roof of a multi-million dollar new construction condo building.

Ok, perhaps this isn’t the ideal scenario for everyone, and this roof doesn’t even look into the park.  But it is a bona fide rooftop deck in Wrigleyville.  This client came to me with a unique set of parameters, involving a strong, yet spartan and elegant railing, to ensure that his guests didn’t tumble the fifty plus feet while imbibing at one of his summertime shindigs.

The piece is fabricated from one inch, and one and a quarter inch, schedule forty pipe…really robust stuff that was coped, mitered, MIG welded, blended, filed and sanded.  I fabricated the individual sections off site, and built them as large as possible to minimize on site welding.

Because even though the term “Windy City” actually refers to our politician’s penchant for spouting hot air from their mouths (Blago anyone?) this place can get breezy from time to time.  Welding fifty feet in the air in blustery conditions can wreak havoc on shielding gases and contaminate welds.

Of course fabricating sections off site presents a special challenge when installation time rolls around.  If the measurements are incorrect, you’ve got a very large problem.  Such was not the case for this project, as it rarely, if ever is for us, and I’m especially proud of the south wall section, which can be seen in the third photo of the first row below.

That piece is over twenty feet long, and contains three ninety-degree bends, five posts, and intersects three planes, the last of which leads to a fifty foot long, straight run.  If your measurements are off at the beginning of a span of this length, that adjoining section will be woefully off kilter.

I gave myself very little play in the fabrication of this section…one eighth of an inch to be exact.  Now there are almost two-thousand, eighths of an inch in twenty feet.  When the day of installation arrived, and the sections were adjoined, it was revealed that they were within one sixteenth of an inch of each other.  Spot on, as the Brits say.  All of the other tolerances throughout the entire railing are similarly exact.

The piece was very well received by the client, as they were ecstatic with the results.  Another challenging, yet ultimately fulfilling job in the books for Bader Art Metal.

Austin F. Bader
Copyright 2011

Posted in Austin Bader, Austin F Bader, Bader Art Metal, Chicago Metal Art, Chicago Welding, Design, Metal, MIG Welding, Musings, TIG Welding, Uncategorized, Welding, Word | Leave a comment

Heads and Hearts

hearts and heads
heads and hearts
play tricks upon your soul
they cry they sing
they seldom agree
on that which shall make you whole

they’ll fool and muse
befuddle and confuse
refuse your dying plea
to settle the score
and live once more
in complete harmony

the head is strong
most all day long
will beckon one to be smart
but when night rolls round
there’s nary a sound
but the song about your heart

you recall the tune
a passionate swoon
with love and ardor regaled
its calls to you
to forever be true
before all ecstasy is assailed

rendered cold and flat
banal and trite
a frantic ploy for release
where two hearts as one
may forever and ever run
where passion shall never cease

but when you awake
its safety you crave
stability balance and poise
in listening to your head
you thus lay to bed
loves symphony
and all its joys

for, stasis
self control
are but elusive tricks of the mind
synonyms for monotony
mundane mediocrity
where inspiration
you’ve no hope to find

yes hearts and heads
heads and hearts
rarely see eye to eye
but the day you break through
embracing the two
forever shall you be alive

yes hearts and heads
heads and hearts
seldom do agree
but the night you find
our hearts entwined
is the night
you shall be set free

Austin F Bader

Copyright 2011

Posted in Austin Bader, Austin F Bader, Chicago Poetry, Lyrics, Musings, Poetry, Prose, Spoken Word, Uncategorized, Word | Leave a comment

Perfect Day

Perfect Day

a single candle pulsing…flickering
fighting to alight one room

the gentle thrumming of the rain
alleviating all this life’s worry
all this life’s pain

genteel gusts from the spring maiden’s lungs
pushing the window shades in
then out

lovers pushing
softly forcing themselves into one another
rolling about

as the world outside spins round in circles upon itself

Austin F Bader
Copyright 2011

Posted in Austin Bader, Austin F Bader, Chicago Poetry, Lyrics, Musings, Poetry, Prose, Spoken Word, Uncategorized, Word | Leave a comment

Get Bent

I’m sitting with a positively delightful woman one afternoon, a client, and we’re wrapping up the design consultation phase on a metalwork job.  We’ve all but spec’d out the piece she wishes to have fabricated, and I’m feeling very confident about executing the task. when she asks, “Can you contour it to my walkway?”

A pause…then I hear myself saying, “You want me to bend it which way?” 

This unabashed response was a bit out of character for me, as I’m typically somewhat more tactful than that.  But her inquiry caught me so off guard, almost as if she’d asked if I could move a bridge a few inches.

You see, it all goes back to Mr. J.G. Braun.  He and his company defined ornamental iron back in the late Nineteenth and early Twentieth Centuries.  His iconic handrail molding was forged and smelted into the fabric of the American landscape.  If your homes exterior is adorned with metal railings, there’s a good chance its lineage can be traced back to this original elegant design.

But it’s more than just elegant, it is robust…remarkably so.  Take a peek at one of the photos below.  There’s a cross section of inch and fifteen-sixteenths, J.G. Braun handrail molding.  You’ll note that within that cross section, there are four right angles and one very large arc…the strongest geometric shapes known to man, shapes that the Great Pyramids and Roman Aqueducts were based upon.  Those things kinda lasted a while.

Sitting there in my client’s dining room, I explained that what she hoped for, was all but impossible.  Laterally bending hot rolled steel with such rigidity on a flat plane, without bowing, distorting or ruining it would take a very special effort.  She understood, and we both settled on the original design of an arrow straight railing…that is until I returned to my shop.

You see, a brand new challenge had arisen.  I wondered if it was actually possible to do what she had requested.  Never being one to back away from a challenge, I dove right in, and ended up fabricating the very tool the railing was formed on.  It wasn’t easy, but the end result was a seamless, flowing piece.  The client was ecstatic.  The product she received was more than she had originally envisioned.  Another job well done by Bader Art Metal.

Now you must forgive my loquaciousness, as this was actually a very small railing job.  There are angles, there are arcs, there are rises and runs, but upon first glance it’s a simple three post railing.   Yet regardless of the size of the piece, it’s the precision of the process, and the resulting elemental beauty, both seen and unseen, that will forever motivate me and bring a smile to my face.

A wise old man once told me, “Only those who can see the invisible, can perform the impossible.”  Well, I’m no superhero, and I don’t own those comic book X-ray glasses, but I strive every day to see these things, and bring them to life.


Austin F. Bader

Copyright 2011

Posted in Austin Bader, Austin F Bader, Bader Art Metal, Chicago Metal Art, Chicago Welding, Design, Metal, MIG Welding, Musings, TIG Welding, Uncategorized, Welding, Word | Leave a comment

The Step Show


The Step Show

From Vaudeville
and Nowhereville they came
high stepping and dancing
barely escaping that hooked cane

boogie for a dime
strum a tune for a dollar
hollerin for one drink at a time
knowing to prove
what they had to show
knowing their souls
to that they never let go
the originators
of the step show

and the lights shone brighter
with every step they took
reviews and venues grew
second glances
a first look
then radio
then TV
let the whole round world know
about the movers
that were shaking
making their waves
on the mighty step show

and over the years
the rules have all changed
but the game, people
the game remains the same
if you think
you’ve got somewhere to go
well you just let the MC know
that you’re the next to take the stage
and be the rage
on the mighty step show

now mass communications
projects a steady satellite beam
to every corner of the earth
crystal clear
but only sometimes clean
and the man looks down from above
and up from below
places his blessings on those
solid enough to tread the planks
of the mighty step show

so I give it a whirl
a twist and a shake
gonna break it down
bring it back up
and let it all again flow
because you’re in my house
it is time to dance
and may God bless the step show

Austin Bader

Copyright 2011

Posted in Austin Bader, Austin F Bader, Chicago Poetry, Lyrics, Musings, Poetry, Prose, Spoken Word, Uncategorized, Word | Leave a comment

Steelhouse of Tweet

Recently, I was approached to participate in a show at the August House Studio www.augusthousestudio.com.  It was a unique exhibition entitled “Birds I Have Known” with a number of artists asked to produce their interpretation of a birdhouse.  Simple enough of a concept I thought to myself, so I accepted the offer.

But then it dawned on me…what in the world was I gonna build?  My hard art medium is metal, so I had that part down pat.  But I hadn’t built a birdhouse since I was a kid…the old wooden “A” frame style with my Pop.

And although that first iteration may have lacked somewhat in design prowess, that sucker lasted a long time…like decades.  While the other kids used flimsy, pre-cut pine wood pieces from a store-bought, cub scout kit, Dad and I busted out the marine grade, three-quarter inch plywood.  Yeah, it’s a Bader trait to overbuild everything.

Milling about the shop one day, I came across the flu vent pipe from the guts of a water heater my buddy Yooper Joe had scavenged.  Finally, the epiphany I’d been searching for.  An idea was hatched, and the dream took flight.  Ok, bad pun I know, but sometimes you just gotta wing it.  Back to the shop…

Without hesitation, I grabbed my torch, a high torque whiz wheel, some straight scrap for an improvised rip fence, my big badass Miller MIG welder, and got busy.  I’ll not elaborate on the nitty gritty, as the pics below form a fine narrative, but here’s a few details…

-Five inch outside diameter, fourteen gauge tubing, bevel cut and severed four times longitudinally.

-Center sections inverted one-hundred and eighty degrees, then seam welded and ground flush, to create a half concave, half convex cross section.

-Eighth-inch “lean-to” roof with hammer welded, round bar eve.

-Mandrel bent “T” shaped perches, drilled and plug welded from the backside.

-Stained glass windows, flush mounted in contoured, three-eighths inch angle iron frames. 

Yeah, my birds get windows.  They also get stairs, welded on the inside, because I took into account how slick the steel might be on their cute little claws.  After all, I was building a home, not a coffin.

Fabricating the piece was a hoot, the show was a blast, and hanging out with the other artists and seeing their vision of the concept was quite rewarding.  The piece was very well received and my “Steelhouse of Tweet” was subsequently purchased there at the gallery. 

So enjoy the pics, and next time you see a flashy feathered thing take flight, know that they just might be cruising home to this swank little domicile.

Special thanks to Marya Veeck for putting on a fantastic show, and to sweet Cathy Scanlan, both very talented artists in their own right.  And next time you’re in Roscoe Village, swing by August House, you never know what they’ll have in store.

Austin F. Bader

Copyright 2011

Posted in Austin Bader, Austin F Bader, Bader Art Metal, Chicago Metal Art, Chicago Welding, Design, Metal, MIG Welding, Musings, TIG Welding, Uncategorized, Welding, Word | Leave a comment