- Associated Press - Sunday, May 28, 2017

NORFOLK, Neb. (AP) - When it comes to Pinterest projects, Steve Bahr and Janie Olson have this one nailed.

The Norfolk-area residents make fire pits - but not your average run-of-the-mill fire pits. The fire pits they create are so elaborate they could be considered works of art.

Janie is, in my opinion, the true artist,” Bahr said. “I just have the knowledge of how to use a plasma arc.”

A few of their finished products are on display in front of Zippy Lube in Norfolk.

The duo’s mission to create the attention-grabbing pieces began with Bahr looking for a fire pit for his own backyard. An online search resulted with him stumbling upon a picture of a large steel sphere that had been cut to bear the outline of an angel.

Bahr, a retired maintenance worker with welder certification, said he figured he could make something similar if he could find a steel ball.

That proved to be the first challenge.

The website on which Bahr found the photo gave the information he needed regarding the necessary thickness of the steel and the dimensions of the sphere, but Bahr said he believed the person who created the one he was looking at had repurposed a steel buoy.

“Where are you going to find a buoy like that in the state of Nebraska?” he asked.

Bahr eventually realized a similar object could be made by cutting and re-welding together the end pieces of a 500-gallon propane tank.

That idea proved to be the second challenge.

Using a new tank was cost prohibitive, and the dealers with whom he spoke were unwilling to sell old or defective tanks because that could pose a liability issue, he said.

“They’re sort of like hen’s teeth; they’re hard to come by,” he said.

Bahr said he’s been fortunate to find the nine he’s made into fire pits thus far.

Transportation from one location to another and movability of the raw spheres has provided another challenge. Bahr has a third party weld the tank ends together to create the ball - which is about 37 inches in diameter - before he brings it back to his home. The raw sphere weighs about 300 pounds.

To maneuver it for easier finishing, Bahr uses a ramp to lift the heavy ball onto a device he custom-designed. The device allows him and Olson to roll it in place to finish the design and cut it without the need for assistance from others.

Bahr also has manufactured a base for the finished product that is wide enough to house a 25-pound propane tank or a five-gallon bucket to collect the ashes that result from burning wood.

The artistic design of the fire pits is Olson’s endeavor. After the steel ball has been prepared, Olson uses chalk to draw the design pattern that Bahr will eventually use as a guide for cutting with a plasma arc.

Their first fire pit was an angel similar to the one Bahr had found online. Olson also has designed fire pits featuring the tree of life with and without the root system, as well as a motorcycle theme, which was designed for a friend in Sturgis.

Bahr told the Norfolk Daily News (https://bit.ly/2rVyve8 ) that all of the fire pits they have created have been given away to people like his daughter and his brother, but he would eventually like to start selling them to raise money for his dream project - a pergola for his back yard that features an ornate metal dome similar to the one found at the Sunken Gardens in Lincoln.

“I think I can build that,” he said.


Information from: Norfolk Daily News, https://www.norfolkdailynews.com

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