Intro and Inspirations:
I had a hard time initially coming up with a project I wanted to upcycle. I was thinking I would use scrap metal and other similar materials for my project. At some point during the project I remembered my brother had this decommissioned grenade which was made to look like a fly that he got during a vacation years and years ago. I always thought it was cool and wanted to make something similar to this with my own twist to it. So I went to a military surplus store and got a decommissioned grenade to use for my sculpture. I believe the man who made this sculpture was Fred Conlon based off of reference 1.
Vision and Aesthetic:
After researching many different insects and bugs, I decided I would sculpt a moth. I wanted to have an aerodynamic/aviation aesthetic for this sculpture and a moth with spread out wings lined up well with my mental image. I didn’t want to exactly mimic the wings of the moth seen below. I chose to sweep the wings back to give the sculpture a sense of motion and speed. I still wanted to keep an organic shape to the wings, as inorganic shapes, like wings used on most airplanes, would not look right. Sweeping back the wings had the added effect of decreasing the volume that the sculpture takes up which makes storing and displaying it easier. To go further into the aerodynamic/aviation aesthetic, I chose to mount the sculpture on an elevated stand similar to how model planes are mounted.
I wanted to keep the ‘dirty’, industrial aesthetic that the fly grenade sculpture had. I thought that aesthetic worked great for it and had the material available to me so I decided to use that aesthetic for the general look and fabrication.
I had a general idea of what I wanted to build from drawings and CAD but nothing exactly thought out when I started fabricating. I started the sculpture with the wings. I found some scrap steel chilling in a corner of our garage which worked with the dimensions I was thinking of working with and decided to use that.
I had to plasma cut a ‘straight’ section of that for my wings. I then secured that piece to the grenade and made a wind shape and size that worked.
I then folded the metal scrap in half so I could cut and grind the wings at the same time. There wasn’t any change of me cutting and grinding the same shape out individually so this was necessary. The process of plasma cutting and grinding lightly fused the two halves together which worked out great for me.
I then moved on to welding these wings onto the grenade. I didn’t have a good way to secure many of the welded parts to the grenade so I had my dad help me either hold the piece while I welded or vice versa.
Once the first pair of wings were welded onto the grenade and the tack welds grinded down a bit, I moved onto the second pair of wings, which followed much of the same process. I drew up a design that I was happy with, plasma cut that using the remaining material I had, ground them down and welded them onto the grenade. Lining these wings up so they were not unsymmetrical was pretty challenging with the rather jank process and setup I used but it turned out pretty good, at a glance at least.
Once I had the wings done and welded a bit more thoroughly, I moved onto the eyes. I searched around the garage for ball bearings or other spherical things but didn’t find anything that worked with my vision. I went to Ace Hardware and got a couple of spacers for eye socket type things and ball bearings for the eyes. Again welding these on relatively symmetrically required my dad’s help for positioning. I didn’t like the shiny, brand-new appearance they had but I think it worked out alright. The welding process nicely dirtied-up and discolored the steel spacers. The ball bearings are still shiny and new-looking but I think it works for eyes (seen in later pictures). Before doing this I also tacked the grenade handle part in place because its normal resting spot is not centered along the front/back plane of the sculpture.
With the moth mostly done, I moved onto the stand. I found this thing hanging on the wall and decided to commandeer it and ruin it for my project. I cut the top bit off then cut the base to be symmetrical (the only time I whipped out a measurement device when making this bad boy). I then grinded the mounting point and positioned the grenade in a way I liked. I screwed this up the first time and had to break the weld and get help with positioning again.
I then set the eyes in the spacers and tacked those on.
This was the initial point where I was going to stop, but it didn’t look complete to me yet, it was missing something. I wasn’t going to add any legs to the sculpture, but after test fitting some leg-type scrap to the sculpture I determined that they added to the look and aesthetic. I used some thicker gauge wire for TIG welding for the legs. These were also swept back like the wings to help give a sense of motion to the sculpture. At this point, I was happy with the sculpture and decided it was done.
Final Artifact and Goals:
Overall, I’m happy with how this came out. Once I started fabricating it, I was a little worried that I wouldn’t be able to position and weld everything symmetrically, but I was able to do it well enough. At a glance, you can’t really tell there are any asymmetries. The smaller wing span and swept back angle allows the sculpture to be easily stored or displayed wherever it needs to be. An early idea I had for the project was to take a torch to the wings when they were finished in the hopes of creating fake eye spots (like the ones seen in the moth picture I used as an inspiration above) but shied away from that idea because I thought the chances of failure were too high. Purely accidentally, the scrap metal I used for the wings kind of had this effect (no fake eyes but a cool color gradient) due to the paint on it and burning from the plasma cutter. I think the sculpture looks better with the pattern on the wings and am happy that I got lucky with this happening. I think I accomplished my goals of creating a sculpture with a ‘dirty’ and industrial aesthetic along with an aerodynamic/aviation aesthetic. I think my sculpture builds upon the sculpture that inspired it and adds its own look and aesthetic that evokes a different feeling when observing it.
Honestly I don’t have any plans to do anything else to this sculpture. I got a second, different type of grenade when I bought the grenade used for this sculpture and would like to use that for something though. I think I might go for a more realistic and proportional aesthetic with that sculpture, probably using a moth as the subject again.
The Grenade sculpture looks fantastic. I had seen you carrying it once in class and I was very curious to how you were going to upscale a grenade. I absolutely enjoyed reading through the post, and I appreciate all your efforts. I liked the unfinished aesthetic of the sculpture, It’s powerful. Any plans on making any more sculptures with other decommissioned munition?
Austin, this grenade sculpture looks great. I love the rugged, unfinished look of the wing surface. The edges of the wings are nice and smooth but the different colors on the surface are very eye-catching. Is the grenade in the new sculpture larger than the one used in the old sculpture? Were all of the prices you used found in your shop?