TYLER, TX (KLTV) - The Gregg County Historical Museum has come up with a heavy plan to promote something light with their Lift Off 2020! Balloon Sculpture Project.
They plan on selling metal balloon sculptures to businesses around Longview, a bit like Jacksonville’s giant concrete tomatoes. The metal balloons will be made right here in East Texas.
It’s supposed to be lighter than air, but in actuality it weighs about 220 pounds. That’s the lightest they could make it at Modisette Welding and Supply.
Production Manager Shane Austin was given the project by his camera shy boss:
“Chris Modisette, the owner of the company has spent hours upon hours upon days drafting this stuff up; figuring it up,” Austin said.
He started with sketches and progressed to software to produce plans, but:
“A computer can only take you so far,” Austin said.
Shane and others had to physically make it work.
“We have hand-rolled everything. We purchased a roller, started hand-rolling everything. It’s tricky,” Austin said.
Of course before the roller is used to bend the metal into a balloon shape, it’s cut with a plasma torch. But they don’t just weld the panels together.
“There’s actually a three layer frame that is on the inside of this. It was all custom cut on the plasma machine,” Austin explained.
It takes a kind of skeleton.
“So you start at the top and everything rolls down and there’s another ring on the inside that everything attaches to,” Shane said.
And they had to keep mounting options in mind.
“Actually the frame itself will bolt to the ground or you can set a pole and it mounts to a pole as well,” Austin stated.
They plan on powder coating the steel to make it paintable, but plan on offering a simple paint job, no graphics.
“Had my painters go over it with a fine grit portable sander,” Austin pointed out.
Taking off any sharp spots. But suddenly oil field business picked up.
“You had to go back to your real job,” I offered.
“Unfortunately we had to go back to our day job,” Austin said.
They did manage to get a prototype painted before the heavy work started rolling in, but they’ll be ready for lighter duty when orders come flying in.
The Gregg County Historical Museum will start taking orders in the next week or so. Austin says the first metal balloon took a couple days to put together, but they expect to cut that time in half.