Topic: Decorative Bolt Heads


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Posted by Chris Ray on August 12, 1997 at 21:14:09:

There are a number of occasions when I may need to use a standard hex or square headed bolt, lag screw, or machine screw in my work. If the piece is sculptural or decorative a straight industrial looking fastener is usually out of character with the rest of the work. So what can we do about it? Carve it of course. Well I call it carving but actually I file shape the bolt heads if they have to fit precisely into socket wrenches and the like.

There are an unlimited number of cut designs that can be incorporated into a hex shape bolt or screw head, and square ones too for that matter. When cutting designs into bolt heads you may want to make sure that you leave enough of the flats along the side for your wrench to grip. To do that make your designs more rounded or angled from the top face of the bolt head but taper out as you cut down the side to preserve the integrity of the flats.

Hex bolts can have either six or three major cuts in it with auxiliary cuts, punches and anything else to augment the decoration. There are even other variations and the four sided bolt head is not quite as limited as it may seem either.

I usually use triangular files to do my carving with then finish up with chisels and punches if I need some crisp accents. Now this method described is intended for fasteners which need to be gripped by conventional fixed opening wrenches.

If you decide to forge the bolt heads instead you can do that too, and it may help to have a heavy plate with a hole drilled large enough for the bolt to slip through before hammering. This is known as a header or bolster and supports the underside of a bolt head preventing distortion. The finished bolt head when forged is usually uneven and an adjustable crescent wrench is usually used to tighten these. However one cannot usually tighten down as firmly if the forged bolt is to be threaded into a tapped hole. This method is generally best for through bolts where the back up nut is the one that is tightened.

Carved or shaped bolt heads may also be fastened as a rivet by simply cutting the length to size and peening the stem over the exit hole opening.

Of course no one says that you can't directly weld a sculptured element on top of a bolt head either, thereby gaining height in the overall design. You can go the other way as well by stacking varied diameter or geometric shaped washers or plates underneath the bolt head creating a stepped effect.

Top side, underside, where does it all end? I guess where the imagination leaves off.

Chris Ray -the sculpture site

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