Sculptor, fabricator join forces pay homage to author Ray Bradbury

July 23, 2019 2:38 pm

Metal statue portrays Fahrenheit 451 author riding a rocket, holding a novel, displaying a characteristic smile


By Eric Lundin

If you remember Guy Montag, a fireman charged with setting fires, specifically to burn books and extinguish the free thinking they inspire, you remember reading Fahrenheit 451, a Ray Bradbury novel. Known for fanciful, mystical, and occasionally dystopian stories, Bradbury reveled in fantasy, science fiction, and horror, which formed the basis for many novels, short stories, and screenplays. His fourth novel, Something Wicked This Way Comes, is a tour de force, combining fantasy, the supernatural, and horror while telling a coming-of-age story in a good-versus-evil setting.

If you venture to Bradbury’s birthplace, Waukegan, Ill., in late August, you’ll find a decidedly lighthearted homage to the author in the form of a sculpture that depicts him riding a rocket, a carefree smile on his face and a copy of Fahrenheit 451 in his hand. Rockets, trips to outer space, and ventures to other planets are themes that occur throughout Bradbury’s work. Designed by artist and sculptor Zachary Oxman and commissioned by E&E Metal Fab. Inc., Lebanon, Pa., the sculpture is destined for the grounds in front of the Waukegan Public Library.

Although the Ray Bradbury sculpture didn’t require all of E&E’s capabilities, the company is well-equipped to take artist Zach Oxman’s visions from start to finish. The company can provide waterjet cutting, manual and precision plasma cutting, sheet metal bending, tube rolling and bending, milling, turning, and, of course, welding (GMAW and GTAW). It also provides surface sanding, part tumbling, and polishing.

A Meeting of the Minds

“Zach needed a casting made, and he found a casting shop here in Lebanon,” said Willie Erb, owner of E&E. “He needed a fabricator for the same project, and we’re right across the street from the casting company, so he came over here for a tour,” Erb said. It was quite a good stroke of luck. E&E turned out to be a good fit for Oxman’s work.

“We have saws, presses, a plasma cutting machine, a waterjet, and a machine shop,” Erb said, listing the most prominent equipment. The company does quite a bit of large-scale fabrication.

“Our typical clients are industrial. We do a lot of work in the railroad and heavy truck industry. We also do a lot of work in systems for processing wastewater—we make a lot of tanks and pumps,” he said. “We don’t do routine fabrication work. We don’t just cut and weld.”

Erb counted about a half-dozen such projects the shop has done for Oxman since that fateful day in the 2011 time frame, and said that his staff enjoys the challenges that come from such unusual projects.

“The parts for the rocket were cut on a waterjet and then rolled to close tolerances,” he said. “We couldn’t allow any gaps from one section of the rocket to the next. It had to be close. The parts have stitch welds around the circumference, but between the welds, you can’t see any gaps.”

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