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Customer Success Stories

How sculptor John McKenna used TIG Brush electrochemical weld cleaning process to simplify and speed up cleaning of more than one mile of welds on his 33-foot stainless steel sculpture.

09 June, 2021
3 minutes
John Mckenna leads the collaborative group ‘Art for Architecture’ (A4A), an informal association of artists, designers and craftsmen who work together in a wide range of media on public art commissions. John’s own work varies in scale from portraits and small private commissions, to large works of public art.

In 2014, John and A4A were the proud winner of the Port Glasgow Sculpture competition, the criteria of which was to create a lasting tribute to the shipbuilders of Glasgow. Four artists paid to put forward their proposals however, the people of Port Glasgow chose John’s idea. In his own view “a very democratic process”.

Titled Shipbuilders of Port Glasgow, the sculpture features two 33-feet high stainless steel shipbuilding figures at work on a ship’s hull. Having taken approximately seven years to complete, the sculpture will be positioned in Bay Park, near Coronation Park, Port Glasgow, UK.

Once installed, this enormous sculpture will make a mark on the global art community given the sculpture’s impressive size. The original installation had been planned for November 2020 however, due to COVID this has now been set back to begin in the latter part of this year. This magnificent and colossal tribute in recognition of the UK and Glasgow community’s shipbuilding history will be positioned close to the water in Bay Park, near Coronation Park in Port Glasgow.

John's challenge

The project has taken approximately 7 years from idea to finish and is the longest & biggest work John has executed. The thousands of pieces of 316L stainless steel sheets were joined by small plug or spot welds that suggests the rivets of the shipbuilders; masses and masses of them, so John had loads of heat mark cleaning to do as well as making sure all pieces were passivated prior to installation. John needed a process that was simple to use, faster and safer than pickling paste, and also guaranteed the highest quality of passivation.

The solution

Long established UK TIG Brush distributor, Engineering Utilities, demonstrated the TIG Brush’s capabilities to John and he was sold on the process. McKenna chose to exclusively use the TIG Brush for his weld cleaning needs given the speed, efficiency, and safety of the technology. “As a professional sculptor, artwork fabricated from stainless steel has the potential to last hundreds of years given its durability, but because it is such an industrial process to create, it can be a real challenge to work with,” McKenna said.

The result

Prior to using the TIG Brush, John had used pickling paste to clean the stainless steel welds. He emphasizes, “before discovering the TIG Brush, we would clean stainless steel using strong chemicals that were unsafe to breathe or touch, and we knew we needed something better. We were amazed at how easy and safe the TIG Brush was to use and how quickly we could get a clean weld — you put your clamp on, dip the brush in and run it across the weld. Comparing the TIG Brush electrochemical weld cleaning process to the lengthy pickling paste process I have used in the past, it’s a no brainer for steel fabricators to use.”

“I bought an Ensitech TIG Brush electropolishing machine four years ago and have been using it to clean the stainless steel Port Glasgow Shipbuilders Sculpture. It's a safer more efficient electro polishing cleaning system compared to the more traditional chemical pickling pastes, which often contain some very seriously strong toxic chemicals and pickling pastes can etch off the stainless steel - leaving a different finished surface. Ensitech have generously sponsored the cleaning chemicals and consumables on this colossal job that has a massive amount of cleaning to finish it. In a time when corporate sponsorship of the arts is waning, Ensitech have really helped me out on this colossal art project. Thanks, Ensitech.”
John McKenna
Sculptor
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