MMW August Update

Major news: we will be closing for almost all classes, excepting Intro MIG, Intro TIG, and Advanced TIG, until Jan 3, 2021.

Reason: I can’t keep doing this roller coaster of closed, reopen, closed, reopen.  It wreaks havoc on the schedule, the shop finances, business planning, and my mental health.  So we are going to tread water and switch the business over to limited classes outdoors and fabrication to stay afloat until we can safely reopen again in 2021. I’m optimistic that there will be developments coming this fall and winter that will allow for us to reopen, whether that’s a vaccine or better info on how the virus spreads and how to protect ourselves better.


I have reserved funds for refunding classes, but there’s a lot ($20,605 owed in credit).  And with rent continuing to accrue while we wait in a holding pattern ($6010/mo), I am requesting for refunds if you can donate a portion, say $50, we can ease the transition over to fabrication and attempt to get back into the black again (or light red).  Happy to transfer your class credit to a different class too.  

What are we going to do this summer/fall?  

First, take a week off.  Then fire up the CNC plasma cutter and continue to make Corten planters, custom furniture, and light fixtures.  There will be a website redesign so you can find our projects more easily.  And we’ll continue to offer the limited run of MIG and TIG classes.

Any changes to MIG?

Yes, it’ll be outdoors. It’ll also be faster (4hrs) so we can get it done with no lunch break (mostly so we don’t have folks coming back after removing their masks).  Also so we can get it done 9am-1pm, before it gets too hot.  Bring a snack and water.  Smaller class size too (4-5 people) with your own n95 mask and gloves to wear and keep.

Why TIG?

TIG is the one class where I feel I can offer it with minimal risk since you stay at your own station pretty much the whole time.  You’re not jumping from welder to angle grinder or welder to band saw.  So cross contact is minimal.  And for legal reasons, TIG training is considered essential business since it’s used in the trades for a variety of essential construction, manufacturing, and repair operations.  MIG is to a lesser extent, but it’s more of a gray area, that’s why we’re going outside.

What about private lessons?

No. Afraid not.  I offered private lessons in June/July and while everyone pretty much behaved, keeping 6’ of distance is difficult when students are looking over my shoulder at my welds or when I’m trying to show you how to use whatever tool. It’s not quite worth the risk to me or my family.  It also necessitates a ton of cleaning that sends the cost per hour of lesson into unreasonable territory.  You might disagree with me on this one, what level of risk is there, but to me, you can wait.  At least until more clear guidance is there on appropriate cleaning measures for things like welding helmets, leather gloves, and masks don’t fog safety glasses as much so you’re not constantly touching and adjusting your mask, face, and gloves.

Open Shop?

On hold. If you need open shop access for your income or manufacturing, let’s discuss.  There will be a limited number of stations available for monthly rental and I’m working that one out individually.  If it’s for non-essential work I’m afraid it’s going to have to wait, due both to the closure and so we can focus on the main task of our own manufacturing.  I will be reaching out to those who still have projects in the shop to make room for our own (mostly so we can drive a forklift around inside).  Offering refunds to those who need it for either April monthly charges or punch cards.


Other Mobiles Artists (not just Calder)

Alexander Calder is synonymous with mobiles. Wikipedia even claims he invented the art form. I find that a little hard to believe, considering how long people have been hanging chandeliers in castles and people have been making windchimes in Asia for centuries (millenia?).  But for more on that, check out this really incredible post from Marco Mahler on whether Calder actually invented mobiles.  Short version, he probably just named them and put them in a fine art context.  

But while he is fantastic, and here’s a few of my favorite from Calder, there’s a bunch of other artists out there who’ve created incredible hanging work.

First, Calder himself

Finnish Himmeli

Traditional form of folk art from Finland, constructing mobiles from straw.

Volta Mobiles

Very modern looking mobiles from Spanish design company Volta
link to instagram

Karolina Maszkiewicz

Polish-born and LA-based artist and fashion designer. I love how she puts as much attention into the base as the mobile itself.
link to instagram    |    link to website


Ed Alton

Another LA-based artist. We’ve consulted with him a few times, but he’s really taken a shine to mixing metal and wood together (and learning how to laser cut parts for making it exactly right). 
link to instagram     |    link to website

Other Artists

A variety of other artists who’ve created hanging work

If you’re wanting to learn more about Calder or how to make mobiles, check out our class in Mobile making.  Happens 2-3x per year.  


Why is Aluminum Hard to Weld?

So many people have asked about welding aluminum, and why you typically need to tig weld it, so here’s a short-ish, mostly accurate version of why:

First, aluminum doesn’t rust because it’s already been rusted (or really oxidized).  All aluminum is covered with a skin of aluminum oxide, which is a ceramic and really hard (it’s what sand paper is often made from). That ceramic melts around 3760°, while the aluminum inside melts around 900°-1200° depending on which alloy. So when you try and weld it with the skin on there, the inside melts and gets liquidy but the outside doesn’t. It winds up looking like a blister.

So what you need to do is either wire brush the crap out of it right before you weld, or you weld it in AC.  

Wire Brushing and MIG: that’s how you weld it with MIG–you wire brush as much as you can do in about 10 minutes and then weld it normally. You want to use a spool gun though because that aluminum wire is so soft it doesn’t want to feed through 8′ of whip.  And when you weld it, you gotta move about 3x as fast as you would for steel.  Aluminum is way more conductive, so you blast it with heat and move fast before the whole thing heats up. Benefit to it being conductive though, is that it warps less.

AC and TIG: with TIG, you can weld aluminum using AC, meaning the electrical arc is jumping back and forth, alternating between work positive and work negative. The electrons moving in the one direct melt the aluminum. The electrons moving in the other direction break up that oxide layer so it cleans it. So it goes weld-clean, weld-clean, about 120x a second.  Makes a noise like a swarm of angry bees.

Learn More about mig welding aluminum in our Advanced MIG class and tig welding aluminum in our advanced TIG welding class


MMW Gift Guide

Whether you’re the handyman or you’re buying for one, sometimes it helps to have a little guidance into what to get that special person who mends, makes, or breaks everything they get their hands on.   The great folks at Molten Metal Works (us) got your gift guide together.
First off: GIFT CARD
Eazy-Peazy.  You can let them decide what to go for with an MMW gift card that can be used for anything here: classes, open shop time, steel or safety gear.  The gift card also makes scheduling easy, because the recipient can choose when to schedule her/his class.  Get one here.

Skill Specific:

Fun lover/Collector of experiences: Friday Night Taster Class ($90)
Learn the (very) basics of a bunch of different welding tools in this fun, Friday night class making a cowbell and a bunch of sparks.  Link here

Wants to Weld: Intro MIG ($200)
A six-hour hands-on class teaching you the basics of welding using a wirefeed/MIG welder.  Great for making sculpture, making or fixing gates, or building furniture and car projects.  Link here

Creative or Artisitic: Calder Mobiles or Oxyacetylene Sculpture ($460)
Six 3-hr classes covering either how to make mobiles like Alexander Calder or how to use a 6000* flame torch to heat up, bend, and melt steel to make sculpture.  Guaranteed that they’ll learn new techniques for expressing new ideas (and watching cold hard steel turn into liquid lava is always fun). Link to Calder, Link to Oxyacetylene Sculpture

Serious Car Person: Intro TIG ($250) then Advanced TIG ($540)
TIG welding is not the fastest, easiest, or the cheapest way to weld.  But then, rebuilding your own car, motorcycle, bicycle, is not the easiest either.  But if you’re going to do your own exhaust, turbo manifold, or chassis modifications, it’s gotta be TIG.  If you’ve got one of these (im)practical people on your list, here you go. Link to Intro TIG Link to Advanced TIG

Learn to make any one of these projects in our classes.  Firepits, barstools, side/end tables, etc.  Click on the pic to learn more.


Welding Helmet
Economy: Harbor Freight $35-50 (not for TIG)
Good: Lincoln Electric Viking 1840 Helmet   (around $160-200)  Go try it on at Airgas though because some people (me) prefer the fit of Miller better.

MIG/Wire Feed Welder
Economy: Lincoln 140HD $524
good for 1/8″ and below (most smaller household projects)
Good: Miller 211 $1100

Welding Table:
Super Economy: Harbor Freight Welding Table
Good: Make your own in our Make Furniture Class (class $405 plus around $300-450 in steel).  You could do it in your own shop if you have the space, but it’s way easier to make the table dead flat using our already flat welding tables.


MMW Yard/Shop Sale: Sat, Feb 20, 10-6pm

Yard Sale 2: The Re-Yardening

After the success of our first attempt, we’re excited to offer up a second incarnation of the MMW Open Shop Yard Sale (TM). This time around, we’ll even be selling off old tools, some cool metal art, and random bits of useless garba- er, uh, we mean, super awesome stuff. Most stuff for around $5.  Saturday, Feb 20, 10am-6pm  Whole building of artists and craftspeople selling, so who knows what you’ll find.  link to facebook event page for lists of stuff starting to accumulate


Black Rock City, 2014

Black Rock City, 2014

Highlights of the metal work from Black Rock City.  Now topping out at 66,000 people, Black Rock City had it’s share of craftspeople who’ve spent the past few months and years building some truly incredible stuff.  These photos are from the daytime so that you can see how they’re constructed and see more of the detail.  At night, they turn into something completely different, as all of them light up with neon, projections, EL wire, or even propane fireballs.

All work copyright the individual artists and I’ve tried to attribute each photograph with as much detail as I could find.  If you know any more, please let me know.



Burner Bikes: Chopped and Welded

Heading to the playa? Or heading to Ciclavia? Either way, roll in style

***MMW makes no guarantees that you can ride a triple tall bike.
Learn more about our Burner Bike Building Class here.