Thursday, July 21, 2016

Working to the limitations of your materials.

In my last post you saw the big ass coil of 1 inch copper banding I picked up at the scrap yard and while a very good find it's obvious I won't be manufacturing any 2 inch round medallions from this materiel.   While I'd certainly like some nice flat copper plate  I'm going to get my practice in, stretch my range of designs and make some money from my existing investment before I start throwing more money at materials

So I now have copper at 1 inch by several hundred inches at what I think is about 20 gauge, (I need one of those gauge measuring dooleys but a piece of plate with notches in it for $20+ seems just stupid). So what do I do with it?

While the material has sections that are almost perfect there are dents, warps and other imperfections to work around so the best/easiest use is of course to hammer the copper.  Between hammer and torch I can make a variety of pieces that hide or alleviate any issues with the materials, including simple hammered cuffs, pendants, earrings 

The cuffs require cutting to a cuff-ish length, most around 7-7.5 inches, flattening the ends, trimming and sanding the corners to make them safe and then pounding the snot out of them.. While I have a metal anvil I like using a tree stump for this work, less chance of marring the metal and pounding on wood is much easier on my carpal tunnel.  The average cuff can be hammered out in 15-20 minutes but requires being torched and quenched 3 times to soften the work hardened metal..  

As I pound the cuff the stretched copper naturally curls in on itself and requires softening and flattening so I can actually hammer the entire piece which is why it takes 3 torchings, at this point for texture I'm use 2 sizes of ball bean hammer , one that goes to a cone like point and finally the sharp end of a light machinists hammer.  For the cuffs at least I'm liking the look of the machinist hammer which gives lines rather than dimples.   After heating and quenching I soflty flatten the cuff and start hammering on a new area until complete or it requires softening again.  After a final softening I hammer the cuff around a tree limb that's nearly round giving it a final shape and hardening it just enough it will bend but not too easily.  

For any of these projects I have the option of using the fire blackening and just sanding off the high points for contrast and texture, or cleaning them right up to a high polish,, using liver of sulfur to age them brown, using other techniques to bring a real green patina up, using patina paints, or alcohol inks to give different finishes.   In most cases I use fine wet sandpaper to clean up the pieces, take off any rough or sharp edges the hammering might have caused,  final sanding is with steel wool and buffing wheel should one want a high finish or get every bit of patina off.    A final seal with car wax will stop any new corrosion ad keep your arm from going green.

The limitations of the size of the copper banding still allows me a variety of rectangles to play with, as long as I keep in small I can cut squares, diamonds, harts and other shapes for hammered projects.  I took these 3 pieces, 3 cuffs and and a selection of beaded chain mail earrings to a pub night with friends and sold 11 pieces.  So yes there is a market, no I don't have enough friends and pub nights to attend ;)

Another way I've started to use this copper is for etching,, I've tried electro etching but I'm having better but unpredictable results with peroxide and muriatic acid.   There will be an entire post on etching in the near future.   So long as this material is flat other imperfections can be covered up/burnt away by the acid.

Once again the use of patinas or inks can make two pieces with similar patterns into distinct pieces.   Perhaps the owners of the first pieces of etching I made and sold (without documenting) will send me pics to use.

At this point getting two pieces similar enough to for earrings is iffy at best but I've have a number of one offs quite suitable for pendants or broaches.   I'm not all that sure I'm looking for uniformity in my pieces I just hate to take something out of the etch and have to toss it back in the recycle pile.  I only have so much time to play and I hate using several hours prepping and etching to have a failure,, pottery will kill me.

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