A few months ago I heard of a gent from California who was doing some interesting things with old propane tanks. I Googled him, and the images of propane tank creations on his website blew me away.
So I called him. His name is Colin Selig.
I explained my connection to the propane industry and we spoke for some time. I asked him how he came to work with propane tanks, figuring he must be some sort of a veteran propane industry guy who owned a yard of old propane tanks and liked to weld on the side.
Nothing of the sort, it turns out.
The ideas for his on-going project originated in 2010 when he wanted to dispose of a “junk propane tank” on his property. He said that he figured that a lot of energy had gone into forming the “thick steel” into its shape, and concluded that it would be “a shame to let it go to waste.”
He said the curved form of the propane tank stimulated his imagination, and he spent time postulating ways to take the tank apart and reassemble the pieces into a seat. The final product, according to Selig, is composed of “99% post-consumer reused content” with very little wasted steel.
Naturally I wanted to know if any of the works were near me; I really wanted to sit on one of the pieces to check out the comfort factor. Was it comfortable? There are a number of pieces on the East Coast, including some in the Hudson Valley north of New York City, though I have not connected with an owner yet. I found it interesting that none of the piece owners were propane dealers (as far as he knows).
Selig says he has done extensive research to ensure the comfort of the seats, including trials with numerous test subjects to find an ideal relative position of the curved seat to the curved back rest. The goal was to come up with good lumbar support for a wide range of body sizes. The combination of curved seat and backrest allows smaller bodies to slip slightly further back and down into the seat and receive good lumbar support, says Selig, and this arrangement provides an ergonomic advantage over traditional benches with flat seats.
Colin says he considers many of his designs to be prototypes created “with mass production in mind.” He has a series of design patents and a utility patent is pending to protect the concept and process. At some point he wants to automate the process to produce selected designs in volume.
These “propane seats” are out there in both the commercial and residential sectors.
Check out his work at www.colinselig.com
Shane Sweet is an energy and management consultant with clients in the heating oil, propane and motor fuel sectors. He is a partner with the firm of Lake Rudd & Company and is the executive director and technical director for the New York Propane Gas Association. He served the industry as president and CEO of the New England Fuel Institute from 2007 to 2011, and executive vice president/director and lobbyist for the Vermont Fuel Dealers Association from 1993 to 2007. He lives in Shaftsbury, Vt., and may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 802-558-6101 cell/text. Suggestions by readers for future column content, as well as general comments, are welcome.