In a couple weeks, on November 13th, I will be giving a class on how to make fruit bowls from old license plates.  It is planned and organized by Dabble, an internet startup located right here in Chicago,  and will be held at the ReBuilding Exchange, at the corner of Ashland and Webster.  Dabble provides a platform for experts in any field to design, pitch, and deliver a class on just about anything.  They have a full slate of lectures and demonstrations on how to brew beer, make pasta, speak in public, build your online business, and get in shape.  It is a  great idea for a start-up, connecting audiences with folks who have something to share.

In 2008, with the acquisition of my first road sign, I started experimenting with home-brew metal-bending techniques.  Sheet metal, mostly aluminum or thin-gauge steel, is typically manipulated with a brake.  However, breaks are big, heavy machines and cost quite a bit, especially box-and-pan brakes, which allow you to make more complex, 3-D shapes.  So, my first attempts revolved around drilling a series of 3/8" holes, 1" on center, then beating the signs into the desired shape with a rubber mallet.  To hold the folds, I pinned them in place with machine bolts.  I made chairs, tables, and fruit bowls this way.  However, it was a laborious process that burned through drills, bits, and my back.  Each fruit bowl, at only 10" x 15", required 62 holes.

The Nine Square Chair, my first road-sign experiment.

So, this summer, I pioneered a new process, simply scoring the signs with a circular saw instead of drilling them out.  It was a bit tricky to get the blade set to the right height to cut only 1/16" into the signs, but, after some trial-and-error, broken signs, and wobbly cuts, I perfected the new technique.  It dramatically cut down on the amount of time it took to make each bowl, especially when I made them in batches.  I also replaced the machine bolts with pop rivets, which was cheaper, faster, and resulted in a much cleaner appearance.  In my spare time, after work, I pounded out about fifty bowls, for sale over at Etsy.  

Scored signs, awaiting the hammer.
While experimenting with the road sign bowls, I happened to come across a stash of vintage license plates in the attic of a house I was working on.  Years before, I had made some bowls out of my car's old plates, so I adapted the process to these antique pieces, taking care with the brittle metal.  License plates bend a lot more easily than aluminum signs, so I was able to cut them with tin snips, hold them over an edge, and hit them with a mallet to get the desired shape.  These bowls, with the added allure of being made from vintage plates, sold out quickly.  For my Dabble class, I managed to get ahold of thirty vintage Illinois plates, mostly from the 1970s.  

License plate goodness.
I'm excited to give this class; I think it's a great way to meet some folks in my new town and introduce my work to a new audience.  For people out there in Chicago, it's a fun way to spend a Sunday afternoon, get your hands dirty, and walk away with a vintage piece of pop art for you kitchen.  Dabble is the best of Web 3.0, combining social networking online with real interaction offline, connecting people and skills in a real way, instead of poking them, prodding them, or tagging their virtual walls.  

So, come on out on Sunday, November 13th, and let's get to know each other over some tin snips and pop rivets!  Look for the class listing on Dabble, coming up by the end of the week.