Moving parts get new life as stationary objects

Dave Stevens isn't one to collect cars. He and his wife share a Ford F-150 as their sole means of motorized transportation. Yet his basement is filled with pistons, cylinders and other parts from all sorts of vehicles.

His collection of components are the fuel for a hobby that Stevens started decades ago, turning used car parts into one-of-a-kind lamps.

Stevens said his hobby started with a broken washing machine. Back in the 1990s, he and his wife set out to shop for a new appliance, but spotted three early-model Porsches at a used car dealership across the street from the store.

"Instead of buying a washer, we bought a Porsche that day," Stevens said.

The car served the couple, and their entire family, for some time before it started to smoke.

"I wasn't experienced with Porsche engines," Stevens said. But that didn't stop him from popping the hood and rebuilding the motor. Having replaced the car's cylinders, he thought they could be put to a better use than sitting in a landfill.

"I thought, that might make a neat lamp," he said.

"Ever since then, I've been kind of obsessed with parts and where they come from," said Stevens, who has created hundreds of lamps from automobile, motorcycle and even airplane parts through his company, Flying Circle H Metal.

Stevens prefers cylinders for the lamp base because of their weight and stability, and pistons tend to make the best shades. He's also made use of hubcaps, but not just any will do. The parts that go into his lamps have to be special, he said, even if that's only to the person who owned the car from which they were removed.

"If somebody wants one, I'll find a way to make it work," said Stevens, who also has created a lamp from a customer's prized guitar and a glass table from a car steering wheel.

Through the years he's learned to polish different metals, making the parts shine like new before introducing them to their next life as a table lamp.

Stevens said his vast and growing inventory of car parts isn't carefully cataloged. It doesn't have to be.

"I can tell by looking at them where they're from," he said.

The logo for Flying Circle H is borrowed from the Hinsdale Tool Company of the 1920s, Stevens said. He combined the long defunct company's H with the Triumph car logo to create his own.

Stevens also enjoys working on cars and motorcycles. His current projects include a 1999 BMW convertible and a 1968 BSA motorcycle. This, along with his lamp making, give Stevens plenty of ways to use his free time. The problem, he said, is finding enough of it, as he also works part time driving auto parts from a warehouse in Willowbrook to Champaign. It's a trip he makes every weekday morning.

Stevens' lamps typically sell for $200, but selling isn't his primary motivation.

"I like the idea that this stuff isn't thrown into a garbage dump," he said.

Author Bio

Sandy Illian Bosch is a contributing writer to The Hinsdalean