Thursday, July 23, 2009


The copper skeleton plate that I fished out of one of the barrels is highly finished. The shape of the skeleton and my thought that copper is easily bent, leads me to weave the strips. The idea is good, though as with all of my studies during their residency, the execution is rough. Weaving allows copper to literally shine. The metal's strengthen is its reflective quality.

Aluminum pipes

Aluminum pipes (short, 3/8" diameter) attracted me for their similarity. I simply line them up horizontally and then vertically. The pipes each make their own sound when struck. The wind coming in through the shed's back door kicks one of them over, making a tinkling sound against the concrete floor. I look up to watch them fall down on each other domino-fashion, each making it's own high-pitched sound, like low-silver-content coins.

Mt. Evans hike

I climb to the top of my first "14-er": Mt. Evans, a poster-child of sorts for the Wiki entry on "altitude sickness." Starting from Summit Lake, it was an exciting climb for the variety: first and foremost, the GOATS, and also the spectacular views, hard uphill climbing, bouldering and slip-sliding down a 1,000 foot scree field. Very satisfying, yet a humbling experience due to my reaction to the altitude on the last 500 feet of the mountain. Larry, Glenn and I talk about Glenn's daughter starting her climb on Mt. Kilimanjaro and wonder how she's doing.

Steel torching

Wielding 6000 degrees F of fire and turning steel into molten metal is satisfying in a primal way. Spending several days torching, I gouge and pierce into steel discs of .5" to 1.5" thickness. I experiment with slag as a design element, but decide to grind it away. The red-hot flowing metal reminds me of magma, which in turn reminds me of the concretions I saw on the Dinosaur ridge wall.

Oxy-acetylene torch

The oxy-acetylene torch: the power of Vulcan in a hand-held tool! Frank and Tony from the maintenance shop showed me how to safely use the torch and calmed my fears.

In the yard, the torching crew (using the big oxy torch, cut apart gigantic steel - 10' diameter containers, huge sides of steel, enormous tangles of steel cable), take the time to find and cut 1/2 dozen pieces of steel for me. They are covered from head to toe with suede jacket, chaps, bib, gloves, respirators and helmets.

Favian, the crane operator, swings the claws of the material handler, immediately finds a 1' disc and with the greatest of delicacy, gently places the disc two feet away from my feet. I give him a thumbs-up with delight. Juan, Francisco and Manuel cut and cool the other discs for me and forklift my finds back to the Shed. They are generous, gentle men working the toughest job in the yard.

Lead Sheet and Stainless Auger Drill Blades

Exploring the lead only with my hands at first, I was struck by its malleability. My gloved hands could easily unfold, straighten and bend the metal. With only a bit of hammer force, I could crease the lead so that it would stand on its own.

The curves of the stainless steel auger drill blades appealed to me. I buffed up some of the blade surfaces to contrast with the as-found surfaces.

Flat Iron hike

The Flat Irons outside of Boulder are striking rock planes in front of the Rockies.

We climbed between Flat Iron 1 and 2.
The angled cuts in the lichen and moss-textured boulders caught my eye (and tripped my feet.) This hike was a conflict between safety and appreciation.

Red Rocks and Dinosaur Ridge concretion

We visited the majestic Red Rock. Two monumental cliff faces loom on either side of the amphitheater. The "rocks" used to be ancient seabed that was lifted by the earth into its current position. It's a Wonder.

Across the way, we saw a concretion, embedded in a wall along Dinosaur Ridge. This one was a ball in sedimentary rock, probably sandstone, and formed by some chemical process after the rock was deposited. On the one hand, it's just a ball o' dirt. On the other, maybe there's some fossil treasure inside?

Saturday, July 18, 2009

The metals

The metals that RMR recycles range from the huge (ten-foot diameter steel liquid containers) to the tiny (aluminum turnings). The first days I spend getting to know the materials that I could work with. What catches my eye are repeated shapes - rail car axles, condenser tubes and the bales - of copper, aluminum and stainless steel. One of the most intriguing finds is a lead sheet which looks like distressed canvas.

Friday, July 10, 2009

First impressions

Walking through RMR's yard for the first time, I am struck by the gigantic size of the material handlers, shears, guillotine cutters and baler. They're monster machines, efficiently moving huge amounts of material. My temporary work space is filled with noise and dirt. The yard's backdrop is a ten-story grain elevator.

One of RMR's guys stands next to the claws of a material handler.

The yard is divided into sections: torching, shearing and baling. The goal is to process as much of the metal as quickly as possible and to ship it out via railroad or truck.