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Deburring/Finishing

Daily grind

By Gretchen Salois

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Above: Patsis purchased Pferd PoliCap abrasive caps, saying, “They’re built to last awhile so you get your money’s worth.”

Race car background inspires fabricator as he shifts to create works of art

September 2019 - “I used to build race cars for a living,” says Tom Patsis, owner of Cold Hard Art in Brownsburg, Indiana. While at Don Schumacher Racing, building and repairing motorcycles and race cars, Patsis would return home to continue working into the wee hours of the morning where his wife would find him asleep with his welding helmet still on.

“I had to make a decision. I couldn’t balance a full-time job and devote the time I needed to my creative projects,” Patsis says. He gave his six months’ notice and cut back on full-time hours, allowing Cold Hard Art a bit of room to emerge. “I knew the road ahead wouldn’t be easy. To go off on your own, you need to be self-motivated in order to make money.”

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Patsis’ devotion to racing is reflected in his projects. “I create sculptures from racecar junk or fabricate replica cars. I’ve always got my hands connected to something in the racing world,” he says, citing a giant number 88 made from steel for Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s last race and a mini-blower drive tank made from a Kevlar belt and pulleys.

Smooth surfaces

Cold Hard Art’s social media feeds are teeming with images of Patsis’ welded robots, miniature race and drag cars. Commissioned pieces are made to stand as art while entreating viewers to tap into their childlike curiosity. “These sculptures definitely aren’t playthings but I make sure the edges and surface areas are as smooth as I can get them,” he adds.

While working in racing, Patsis used Pferd file sanding belts to grind away sharp edges. The belts were used, in conjunction with miniature belt sanders, to deburr points, corners, welds—“anything with a sharp edge,” he adds. “You don’t want someone nicking their hand. When deburring race car parts, the goal is to ensure those rounded edges protect the driver. In this case, should someone want to touch a sculpture, they won’t hurt themselves.”

Patsis purchased Pferd PoliCap abrasive caps for his shop. “They’re built to last awhile so you get your money’s worth,” he says. “I’ve tried cheaper brands but they don’t last [as long], and I’m stuck wondering whether it’ll work the next time I turn on my grinder. I’ve invested in all the tools I use—I can’t go to weld and find out the air compressor doesn’t work. I need reliability during every step.”

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Patsis used Pferd’s A/O Cool discs, reducing heat and loading of parent material, when creating an aluminum “88” for Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s retirement.

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Understanding materials

Before discussing price, Pferd sits down with each customer to find out “what is causing the most headaches,” says Jason Godios, Indianapolis territory manager at Pferd. “We want to know where a customer is bleeding money and help figure out process improvements that reduce cycle time, increase throughput and eliminate rework, which is a profitability killer.”

Patsis fabricated that giant “88” for Dale Earnhardt Jr. from aluminum. “Up until then, Patsis believed ceramic oxide was the best mineral to use when deburring,” Godios says. “Aluminum tends to be gummy and soft, so ceramic oxide will load up before the end of its life cycle. Instead, I recommend our A/O Cool discs that feature a grinding aid to help reduce heat and loading of parent material.”

The abrasives and wire brushes are  long lasting because wire breakage and premature wear are reduced.  “Matching the speed of the tool—especially where wire brushes are involved—is really important,” says Godios. “We provide customers with the information regarding optimum speeds so the abrasives and brushes can be used safely and efficiently.”

Understanding proper use of carbide burrs and the varying properties of each alloy is important and determines how well they will perform. Pferd manufactures several cuts for proper use on many different alloys.

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Patsis works off photos customers submit and transforms race car junk into ornamental sculptures.

“It’s the same principal as with the aluminum ‘88’ project,” Godios says. “We offer many different geometrical designs based on the material being abraded to help evacuate the chip from the cutting edge to avoid loading and increase cut rates.

“In Patsis’ case,” continues Godios, “he was having issues getting into tight corners and the PoliCap helped him achieve an ornamental finish.

“The caps are offered in different shapes so fabricators can get into tight areas. An operator can take down a small TIG weld in one step with one product using our ceramic oxide flap discs interwoven with non-woven nylon material.”

Coated ceramic flaps take down the weld and the nonwoven abrasive polishes it out. “This is normally a two-step process but, with our Polivlies Interwoven flap discs, you can remove and blend the weld in one step and have it ready for paint or powder coat without scratch marks showing through,” according to Godios.

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Pferd offers three grades of this product ranging from coarse 60 grit material up to 240 grit fine.

Commissioned artworks vary in size and complexity. Customers show Patsis photos of what they’d like created and he gets to work. “There are days where I have to remind myself that this is all real. I’ve done work for [stock car racer] Mark Martin, a childhood hero of mine, and it is real. Every day I get to work and never know what the next project is.” FFJ

Sources

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Osborn Trilogy Machinery Inc. DoALL Sawing American Weldquip
SuperMax Tools

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HE&M Saw Strong Hand Tools
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MetalForming Inc.

 

 

 

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