NEW CUMBERLAND, W.Va. — Ken Sinsel says he’s just an average guy.
But the front yard of his New Cumberland home tells a different story.
“It’s been like this for about five years,” he explained, surrounded by a huge dragon, a horse, a bull and a tricycle he created by welding scrap metal into larger-than-life works of art.
On his property across the street, there’s a cow, a windmill, a space biker and a Minion look-alike among other designs.
As a hobby, Sinsel started making small yard decorations out of wood, but discouraged that they didn’t hold up to the elements, his urge to make things took a different direction, thanks in part to the urging of his father-in-law, Carl Quinn, of New Manchester.
“My father-in-law talked me into getting a welder, and that was the end of it,” he chuckles. “He kind of showed me a little bit how to use it.”
The Weirton native graduated to welding all sorts of scrap metal, transforming waste into wonder.
The horse was his first project, and like the others, a spring-to-fall undertaking timewise.
“I think from the ground up, it’s probably about 7 foot tall,” Sinsel said, assessing the horse whose legs, for example, are made out of wrenches, among other things.
An idea in his head and some on-paper possibilities combined to make the horse translate into a reality.
“There are no measurements or nothing like that,” he said of a process where he figured this would work here and that would work there.
“What I did, I got a piece of paper, and I kind of like sketched it out, but there aren’t really too many measurements or anything like that.”
The finished work got a lot of attention.
“Everybody would drive by and look at it and tell me how nice it was and they’d be taking pictures,” Sinsel said of the reaction the horse generated.
“A lot of people,” said Sinsel, who lives on the main thoroughfare that snakes through New Cumberland along state Route 2 north.
One finished project, though, begets the start of a new one.
The horse needed company, Sinsel decided.
So next to it is a bull, its creation process and size similar, its makeup a collection of hundreds and hundreds of pieces big and small all welded together in sections in Sinsel’s nearby work area.
He said he’s still working on it.
One bookend to the horse-and-bull centerpieces is a three-piece project, a “monster” green dragon whose head doubles as a barbecue pit. When Sinsel fires it up, it produces smoke that filters out of the dragon’s nose.
People get a kick out of that, he said.
Because of the position of the dragon’s three parts, it gives the illusion of movement.
“It looks like it’s going in and out of the ground,” said Sinsel, who offers no rationale for what prompted him to design a dragon.
“I don’t know — I just figured I’d make a dragon,” he said, smiling.
“It’s all scrap metal, it’s got clutches in there, shovel handles, hubcaps, saw blades, catalytic converters, wrenches, all kinds of tools,” he said. “It’s got thousands of pieces up in his face.”
“If you look inside the dragon you see 55-gallon drums and that’s what I started with,” he said. “I’ve still got the tail to do on it.”
The other horse-and-bull bookend is a gigantic tricycle complete with a passenger.
“The wheels I found at a scrap yard, and I said I’ve got to have them, so I went and took them and figured out what I was going to do with them,” he said, estimating that the bicycle is at least 10 to 12 feet tall.
He’s willing to part with it, he said, to sell it, which would make room for another work he’s interested to create.
“Once I get rid of that bike, right in that spot I want to build Mothman, but I can’t build him until I get rid of that,” Sinsel said of his hope to make a three-dimensional work.
“I’ve already got it in my mind how I want to do it.”
According to West Virginia folklore, the Mothman is a creature reportedly seen in the Point Pleasant area from Nov. 12, 1966, to Dec. 15, 1967.
The pieces Sinsel uses in his creations are a mix of what he finds and what he’s given.
“A lot of things people donate. I will come home from work or whatever, and people will drop it off, and I go to the scrap yard and garage sales,” he said.
The works get lot of attention and visitors, and that makes Sinsel happy that they’re appreciative.
A group from the Steel Valley Antique Car Club, for example, stopped for a recent visit organized by George and Harriet Hinchcliffe and were not disappointed.
“We had a good 30 to 40 people in the yard,” said Sinsel, who met the Hinchcliffes at a car show, a springboard for the recent visit.
Sinsel’s yard is even a site for geocachers, players who use GPS receivers to track down a container or cache that might contain any number of small items or a logbook for players to sign.
“You’ve got to find how many people are on the dragon or saw blades on the humps,” Sinsel offered.
“I get people from all around, different countries, too, from Germany, people from Belgium,” he said.
The horse, though, is Sinsel’s favorite work. “Probably because it was the first and how it turned out,” he said, noting his wife, Theresa, also likes it the best and sees it as part of the family.
While his hobby is a means of enjoyment, it’s a form of recycling, too.
Sinsel likes what he’s created and the stir it generates.
“Come up and enjoy and take some pictures,” he said.
He also welcomes people with scraps they don’t want.
“They’re appreciated,” he said.