Garden Bird Mobile

 

 bird mobile for the garden made in stainless steel.

Copy of a bird mobile for the garden made in stainless steel.

Several years ago on a trip through the Southern Highlands of NSW I saw this cute metal garden bird mobile which I thought would look great in the garden at home. It wasn’t expensive so I bought the item and put it in the garden and enjoyed it for several years. It was made from thin tinplate with a weathered rust-like finish like many similar styled garden decorations available at Garden Nurseries around Australia.

Unfortunately, being exposed to the elements, the painted rust finish finally gave way to very real rust and corrosion. Being made of thin tinplate it was reaching the point of falling apart and being useless as a garden ornament. Because I liked it so much I decided to resurrect it and make a copy of the garden bird mobile in stainless steel which would eliminate future corrosion problems.

I based the reproduction on commercially available stainless steel balls welded together. A variety of different thickness stainless steel rods and wires were obtained to make the feet and spectacles. The wings, tail and top hat were cut from a small sheet of 0.7mm stainless steel sheet. After all the parts had been made they were assembled, balanced on their perch and then placed back in the ground making a sparkling addition to the garden in the morning sun.

View of the original tinplate birds after several years in the garden

View of the original tinplate birds after several years in the garden

Detailed view of the male bird showing the onset of corrosion of the tinplate

Detailed view of the male bird showing the onset of corrosion of the tinplate

Comparison of the original birds and the stainless steel copies

Comparison of the original birds and the stainless steel copies

View of the new stainless steel birds back in the garden

View of the new stainless steel birds back in the garden

Stainless Garden Armillary Sphere

Stainless steel armillary sphere on front lawn

Stainless steel armillary sphere on front lawn

This DecoWorks stainless steel garden armillary sphere fitted to a sandstone column adds a unique and interesting feature to this front garden lawn.

The armillary sphere is 70cm high with the central sphere itself being 45cm in diameter. The finish is raw brushed stainless steel which will last many years exposed to the elements without any corrosion problems. The armillary sphere was shipped to an interstate client who arranged the cutting of the sandstone support column and the fitting of the sphere itself.

More information on armillary spheres can be found here. The sturdy base on the sphere can be easily attached to a support pillar such as this sandstone block or a custom structure.

Stainless steel garden armillary sphere

Stainless steel garden armillary sphere

Another view of the armillary sphere showing its solid construction

Another view of the armillary sphere showing its solid construction

Armillary Sphere Support

armillary sphere

Armillary sphere fitted onto new support

A client who had previously commissioned a DecoWorks polished stainless steel armillary sphere recently moved to a new, larger house. They wanted to remove the armillary sphere from the garden wall of the old house and have it re-installed in the garden of their new home. We were approached to design a new support for the armillary sphere so it could be placed in the garden of the new house.

In keeping with the materials used for the armillary sphere the support was constructed from stainless steel to ensure a long life in its seaside environment. Stained Merbau timber strips were cut and attached to the support framework to form the outer *skin* of the support.

Top of new support

Top of new support

Detail of timber clad armillary support

Detail of timber clad armillary support

After the new support had been concreted into position in the garden the armillary sphere simply bolted onto the top. It makes a great focal point in the garden and adds a unique visual addition to an already beautiful outlook.

Stainless steel armillary sphere on new support

Stainless steel armillary sphere on new support

Polished Armillary Sphere

Armillary sphere

Stainless steel armillary sphere on garden wall


Here is another installation of a DecoWorks Pty Ltd polished armillary sphere. This polished armillary has a high lustre so it sparkles in the sunlight. Each sphere is built for a specific latitude so that the earth axis is parallel to the real world north/south axis.

Further information can be found on the page relating to the armillary’s construction details.

Stainless steel was chosen for the armillary’s construction because this particular sphere was going to Australia’s Gold Coast where the salt spray would destroy any other material over time. This polished armillary sphere makes a fascinating focal point to the entrance gate and will look *as new* for many years to come.

The armillary sphere (from the Latin “armillae”, or bracelet) is a representation of the celestial sphere with the Earth at its centre. It was used by ancient astronomers to describe the motions of the stars and planets relative to the Earth. Their use and development had reached a zenith during the Renaissance. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries the armillary sphere was more than ever a necessary accessory of the gentleman’s study or library.

Garden Armillary Rock Feature

Completed garden armillary rock feature

Completed garden armillary rock feature with pebble infill


This garden armillary rock feature was designed to mount a polished stainless steel armillary sphere which would be the focal point for the front garden at the Wollemia Urology Centre in North Gosford. A selection of natural rocks were sorted by size and colour, prior to construction, and fitted together according to their unique size and shape. When the basic shape was achieved the rocks were concreted into position.

A stainless steel support armature was made and aligned into a central hole in the garden armillary rock feature with a plywood frame. Stainless steel was chosen to eliminate the corrosion problems within the concrete over time. The hole was filled with concrete fixing the frame in position.

Next, the stainless steel frame was clad in rocks which were cemented in position until the centre plinth was created. The only rock cutting required for the whole feature was at the very top where the armillary was going to attach.

The inside of the garden armillary rock feature was filled with concrete to give it additional stability and also to give a solid base for some decorative white pebbles which would cover the area inside the base. The concrete will also eliminate any weeds growing up through the pebbles. A small hole at the front allows any accumulated water to drain away to the garden.

The polished steel armillary sphere was then bolted into position on the top of the plinth. Details of the armillary sphere can be found here.

Concreting rocks into the basic shape of the rock feature

Concreting rocks into the basic shape of the rock feature

Preparing to concrete the armillary support frame into position

Preparing to concrete the armillary support frame into position

Armillary support frame concreted into position

Armillary support frame concreted into position

Support frame being clad in rocks

Support frame being clad in rocks

Filled with concrete to prevent weed growth through the white pebble fill

Filled with concrete to prevent weed growth through the white pebble fill

Completed garden rock feature

Completed rock feature ready for cleaning and filling with white pebbles

Japanese Bridge for Garden

Japanese garden bridge

Japanese bridge for the garden


Here is the completed Japanese bridge for a gully garden. The most complex task in building the bridge was making the bridge arch. Treated pine was used throughout to make the Japanese bridge with the timber having two coats of timber preservative applied after it was assembled to ensure a long life being exposed to the elements.

When the bridge arch was finished the posts and rails were cut and then assembled to check everything fitted together. The posts and rails were then removed and the bridge frame was fixed in position with concrete footings . After leaving the concrete to cure for a few days the posts and rails were bolted back into position with stainless steel bolts and the foot planks were attached using stainless steel screws. The bridge was then given two coats of oil based enamel before fitting the custom oriental finials to the tops of the bridge posts.

Two small steps were built on either end of the bridge to make it easier to step on and off the bridge. Due to the curve of the arch the Japanese bridge was a little steep at both ends hence the need for steps.

Oriental style finials

Custom made Oriental style finials

Bridge steps

Steps for easier access to bridge

Custom Oriental Style Finials

Oriental style finials

Oriental style finials on the bridge


Once the Japanese bridge had been built and installed the making of the custom oriental style finials to fit on each bridge post could begin. The post trim on decorative garden bridges (if any) are usually round wooden finials from a local hardware store. These are great for a Victorian staircase bannister but are not an exciting option for a Japanese bridge. With this in mind we decided to design our own oriental style finials that would enhance the Japanese flavour of the bridge.

A common finial shape on Japanese bridges is an onion-like sphere mounted on round bridge posts. Our bridge had square posts so the onion shape was combined with traditional Japanese roof design so it would fit to the posts. The final result compliments the Japanese style of the rest of the bridge. To keep costs to a minimum it was decided to cast the finials in plaster. Hessian was used around the edges where it was thinner to add reinforcement to the plaster. Several “drop tests” were made which proved the plaster cast to be very robust and suitable for dressing the bridge. The finials were sealed with shellac and finished in gold enamel paint. The bright gold dulled over a period of weeks to leave a nice metallic bronze finish on the finials.

The completed oriental style finials will now be fitted to the posts of the Japanese bridge.

Oriental finial mould making

Oriental style finial ready for making its latex mould

Final latex mould

Completed latex mould of the finial ready for casting

Completed Finial mould

The completed finial mould ready for casting

Oriental finial plaster castings

Completed plaster casts of the finials ready for sanding

Finials sanded and sealed with shellac

Finials after sanding and sealed with shellac

Completed custom oriental finials

Finials completed with a coat of gold enamel

Concrete Footings for Bridge

The next step in the construction of the decorative Japanese bridge is to build concrete footings in its required position in the garden. The two main arch supports were first joined together to form the basic bridge structure. This was then braced with steel and fitted with steel support brackets on the end of each arch section. These brackets will be set into the concrete footings as shown below.

The concrete footing alignment frames were first squared and levelled in their required positions. The bridge arch framework (with attached support brackets) was then suspended over the holes that were previously dug within the alignment frames. The holes were next filled with concrete up to the top of the alignment frames and left to set.

Several days later after the concrete had cured sufficiently the Posts and rails were bolted to the arch with stainless steel bolts. It is important to lubricate the stainless steel bolts to prevent galling (or cold welding) of the nuts. I used Loctite 771 which also has nickel additives which is best for stainless bolts.

All the bridge parts had previously been painted with timber preservative to offer long term protection against fungal and insect attack. A final two coats of oil based enamel will be applied to all timber parts before fitting of the base planks.

Japanese bridge main arch

Clamping the two bridge support arches together

Main arch steel bracing

Completed Japanese bridge arch section with steel reinforcement

Digging holes for concrete footings

Setting bridge arch over holes for the concrete footings. Steel brackets attached to the arch extend into the holes.

Concrete footing poured

Concrete poured into bridge footing holes. Pieces of wood hold the bridge at the correct height until the concrete sets.

Concrete footings completed

Concrete footings for the Japanese bridge completed. It will need several days to cure properly before any further work can be done.

Fitting posts and rails

After the concrete footings had cured the posts and rails were attached to the arch sections with stainless steel bolts.