Artist Transforms Propane Tanks into Sculpture

Washington artist Richard Allen has come up with a novel way to reuse old propane tanks. (image:

They once contained high-pressure liquefied petroleum gas for powering home heating or firing up backyard summer grills. But when Washington artist Richard Allen has finished with his old propane tanks they’ve been transformed into barely-recognizable works of arts.

The 65-year-old from Point Roberts used to make bells but turned to old fuel tanks when he wound up without a foundry, reported.

“I take old propane tanks, cut them in half and sculpt them,” he said. “I’m recycling – welding and etching to turn a simple propane tank into a work of art.”

Allen’s themes range from abstracts and designs drawn from Mayan art to images inspired by Northwest wildlife: orcas, eagles, hummingbirds and butterflies. Designs can be etched into the polished metal or built up with bronze, copper or other metals.

He started making bells in the mid-1960s before eventually opening his own foundries in Colorado and later in North Dakota. He continued making bells but also moved into bas-reliefs and three-dimensional sculpture.

In 1981 Allen found the ocean and embarked on a 22-year maritime career before moving to Point Roberts in 1991. He returned to sculpture in 2005 but without a foundry had to use other materials such as propane tanks, crafting his unusual pieces using a welder. He has also created elaborate fence panels and wall hangings.

“I’m at a time in my life (65 years old) that I simply enjoy creating,” Allen said. “I don’t make it for anyone but me, and if someone likes my work they can have it.”

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