Torch Firing Vitreous Enamel to Abstract Copper Sculpture Accents

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Melting Colored Glass On Metal

Just when I thought of every conceivable way to add to the methods of enhancing metal sculpture, I discover a whole new world of artistic exploration.  This time, encouraged by my father, I am examining the world of vitreous enamels.  More specifically, the enamels designed for metals.  In this post, I will be applying a transparent enamel directly to copper. Below, you will see the supplies I have for applying enamel.  I have a bottle of a gum solution used as an adhesive. The gum solution dries fairly quickly and when the powdered enamel is fired at roughly 1500 Fahrenheit, no residue of the gum remains.


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I also have a 2 ounce jar of Thompson Enamel 2410 Copper Green, a small sifter, and two fold formed copper panels.

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I first brush on the gum solution straight from the bottle onto the fold formed copper panels. Without wasting too much time, I get my sifter and extract some of the enamel powder from the jar.  I gently sift onto the panels.

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I shake off any excess enamel and put it back in the jar for later use.  I have a defunct toaster oven preheated to 250 Fahrenheit.  I place my enameled panels in there to dry the gum solution.  I usually wait fifteen minutes to be sure the copper is thoroughly hot and the adhesive is completely dry.

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I then get out my heating stand and very carefully hold a neutral oxy acetylene flame near the panels.  The oxy acetylene is actually too hot for enameling so you must be alert and intently focused to prevent burning through the copper.  A transparent enamel allows one to see all the phases of torch enameling.  First the copper oxidizes under the enamel as it begins to fuse.  Just then, the enamel will acquire a orange peel texture.  It still needs more heat at this point.  The next stage is some of the opacity is changed into a more transparent affect.  It looks as if you are driving tiny bubbles out of the enamel.  Also the oxides will start dissolving into the enamel.  This allows for a more metallic look under the enamel.  When the desired look is achieved,  the torch is turned off and the panel is allowed to cool.

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After the panels are cooled off, I place them in a copper chloride etching solution.  I made the etchant myself from water, muriatic acid, hydrogen peroxide, and scrap copper.

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For the first ever try at torch enameling, I did not do half bad.  They look rough due to the lack of metal prep but I am after the brutalism look anyway.

Small Tabletop Heating stand for heating and enameling


Convenient Hands Free Stand for Heating

I recently obtained a couple of jars of Thompson Enamel that I want to apply to copper.  I had some scrap hex steel bar and some left over square bar.  I hand bent two equal length hex bar sections into brackets that were welded together to form a square frame with rounded corners.   The legs were made from 1/4 inch square steel bars.  It stands a little over 9 inches tall.  This is a perfect height to put a torch under what ever small metal work that needs to be heated.   This stand is ideal for enameling copper, brass and silver or for annealing copper alloys for hammering and shaping.


Here is the metal stand with a scrap piece of hardware cloth.  This offers a porous support for heating copper sheet for shaping, fold forming, and copper enameling.  Another way to utilize this versatile stand is a trivet.  This is a solid metal support.  If I need to heat with the oxyacetylene torch,  I need something stronger than hardware cloth.  That is because the intense heat from the torch can melt through and burn the wires of the hardware cloth too easily.  When I need a less intense heat, like for annealing copper, I use MAPP gas torch with the wire cloth.  Pictured below is the triangular trivet I made today.

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I want a triangular trivet in a tripod format.  The tripod shape allowed for both the maximum support and open area so I may have plenty of room to navigate my torch flame around the work to be heated.  I started by measuring three triangles from some scrap 16 gauge steel sheet.  Each triangle was 1 1/2 inch high and 2 and 3/4″ long.

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Once I had all my triangles ready, It was time to weld them in the desired patter.  I brought out my heavy duty handmade fixture.  The idea was to temporarily tack weld the triangles into position  like so.

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The third triangle was welded instead at the vertex.  Then I used the angle grinder with a cutoff wheel on the first tack weld.  I was able to easily pry the newly made trivet off my welding fixture.  I proceeded to grind the surface smooth for the next task this fixture will be used.

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Above you will see that I added reinforcing welds to both sides to increase the integrity of the trivet fixture.




Spring Has Finally Sprung!


The Harshest Winter of a Generation

Yes spring has finally arrived.  It could not come soon enough.  This winter has been the snowiest and one of the coldest in 30 to 35 years!  The photos above sums up pretty much the weather pattern from New years until about March 10th.  A long series of severe winter weather events, each followed by subzero cold.  There were a couple times we would have a warm up and thaw but it was usually only for a day maybe two.  Most of the snow from the previous storm would remain only to be added to by several more inches from a new storm system. By the way, the photos on top were taken on a frigid Saturday morning that was 4 above zero!


The Meaning of Spring

Spring is the season of new life and beginging.  It is a time of birth and awakening.  For me it represents new inspirations for creative endeavors.  It is also inspiring for reorganization.  Many times, you have clutter collecting dust in the winter because it is too cold and dark to get motivated to do anything about it.   This spring is very special due to the severity and ruthless nature of the winter season.  I built a steel shelf with the promise of better weather and longer daylight hours.  I have several organizing projects in line to make my creative process a much smoother and pleasurable experience.


Well it has been interesting.  Now it is the middle of April and we have left the snow and ice behind.  Now we a on roller coaster wetted by rain.  We rotate between near summer warmth to damp coolness associated with later winter or early spring.  May will bring better conditions.

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I have done less of the creative metal work lately.  I have instead been occupied with objects of utility such as steel shelving and welding fixtures.

Handmade Heavy Duty Welding fixture

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A Welders Helping Hand

If you have ever worked in electronics or know someone that has, you probably have seen one of those helping hand rigs.  They usually come with two alligator clips at the end of two articulated arms and a magnifier in the middle.  It is usually mounted on a base of substantial weight to stabilize it.

Well, at one point or another, a welder or metal smith will require some assistance.  A virtual third hand if you will.  That is how I came up with the contraption featured here.

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Some One Inch Steel Block and a Non-working Clamp

When I came upon this really thick block scrap, I knew it was destined for welding fixture use.  Just was not sure how I would approach the concept.  Once I had my stick welder plugged in and the blocks in my hand, it did not take long to come up with a plan.  I first wire brushed the two blocks and set the angle block on the larger rectangular one.  I then ran beads of weld all the way around to be sure they would NEVER part ways. The angle surface serves as a base where I can temporarily tack weld round or odd shaped objects to it to hold pieces steady while I weld other pieces to it freeing up one of my hands.  See the rear view for the angled block below.

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It was at this moment that I could make my fixture truly my own.  I remembered I had this old clamp that was crooked and never worked right.  I bought it at an auction to get the other two really nice ones.  Auctions have a funny way of putting duds in a lot to get rid of junk slyly.  Well, never fear, that clamp has a new purpose in life.

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I cut off the offending bottom piece and welded what remained on the block.  I will possibly modify this further in the future.  I am just now thinking of possibly cutting a 3 inch piece of 2inch angle iron and welding it upside down on the end of the clamp so it can hold tubing and well as flat metal objects.  More on this later.




Decorative Steel Ring Candle Holders


Simple Yet Elegant Ring Pattern

I was inspired yet again to create some wall mounted candle sconces.  This time, I am cateriting to larger candles such as the Yankee style cnadles.  This is a pair of welded, handmade, candle holders features 4 and 1/2 inch bobeches mounted to an assemblage of rings made of hollow steel tubing.


They are finished in a matt coating of iridescent bronze to adorn nearly any decor.  Although they appear quite substantial, the hollow tubing makes them surprisingly lightweight.  They are 26 inches long and 8 inches wide at the largest ring.  You can also visit the listing for this item in my shop or check out my other items.