Copper And Brass Accented Brazed Nail Wall Sculpture

This my most recent metal art composition.  It is listed as a midcentury modern square nail sculpture in my etsy shop JTB metal designs.  This is a geometric piece hand brazed from masonry square cut nails. The point of focus is wide circle made from steel rod approximately 12 inches in diameter. The circle features strategically placed nails in a rectangular pattern supporting two accents. Accents are hand hammered pieces made from copper and brass sheet metal. Entirely torch welded by hand, this piece is given a brushed metal finish to add various levels of sheen and texture. A durable protective clear coat is applied for long lasting protection. The entire piece is 22 inches at its widest point and 14 inches in height at tallest point. The sculpture does not extend past 1/2” from the wall so mounting is extremely easy and intuitive.


Brazed Metal




Accented Braze Nail Sculpture

A lot of my work revolves around braze  welded     square cut nails.  This concept was originally developed during the mid century movement in the 1950’s,1960’s, and 1970’s.  It has seen somewhat of a comeback. Personally, I love the aesthetic quality the brass joints contribute to the steel nails.  I put my own personal twist to this concept by creating and using my own accents.  The piece pictured above, Eames Era Accented Brazed Sculpture, is a perfect example.  I took a scrap piece of round steel bar, cutoff pieces of pipe, a rectangle of expanded sheet, and assembled them into unit that dominates the sculpture.

As can be seen, I stuck with the natural steel finish.  It is wire brushed in places and not others to combine to give both a polished and rustic finish.  A gloss lacquer finish is applied to protect.

Design by Desperation-When Everything Fails, Invent a Solution

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Frustrating Development

I have been working on a large mid century nail sculpture since early April.  I finally completed the work to customers satisfaction.  This week was the time to build a shipping crate.  I had everything measured and cut and it all looked well.  I had 6 mounting blocks to secure the art in the crate. one for each mounting hook.  It was when I was trying to screw the art into blocks I hit a snag.  Apparently, I was not going to get a washer to hold down the hook.  What was I to do?  I surely was not inclined to open my wallet and buy a solution to my problem.  I needed to use what I had on hand.

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Big Ah Ha! Moment

Once the thought of using some kind of wire to secure it, I knew I was not far from a solution to ,my dilemma.  That is precisely the moment I opened one of my storage bin drawers containing a couple hundred paper clips.  I said YES!  Already, I realized I can use TWO screws and TWO washers instead of one to secure each hook.  Also, since they are steel wire they can bend to the contours of the surface for added support.  Just to be safe I used two paper clips, one on top the other to distribute the load and keep the tension.


This is a demonstration of the problem solving skills developed in creative endeavors such as making sculpture.  It is my belief we were all born to create and we can all grow from exercising this ability.

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.




Brass Covered Nail Project Completed!!



Major Project is done

The week before I took off for Orlando, Florida June 16th, I finally completed my brass covered nail project!  I showed my latest images to the customer and he approved!  Now came the nerve racking part.  It was time to build a wood  crate to ship this sculpture safely.







Not only did I want to make sure that I had at least 2 inches of space between the sculpture and the crate on all sides,  I actually bolted the art down to the supports.  This kept it snug and it would not move or shift in shipment.  Afterward, the crate was filled in with packing material to absorb shock.  This was well worth the extra effort.  Three days after I sent the art by motor freight, the customer responded with glee and was very pleased. 

Bare Bronze vs. Flux Coated Brazing Rods

Utility of braze welding

Whether you are a HVAC technicial, a plumber, or a metal artist, braze welding is a very useful and versatile method for making metal joints. The utility of braze welding lies in the fact that different alloys and metals can be joined together. Whats more is that the heat required is significantly lower than that used for welding so heat distortion is minimized. The braze welding alloy is much more fluid that steel filler metal and actually flows into the braze welding joint by capillary action.
In order for a solid braze welded joint to form and the bronze filler rod to be able to flow, a flux is needed. Flux is a chemical mixture that actively dissolves oxidation naturally present on metal surfaces and also provides a shield against the oxygen of the air during heating so the filler metal can flow into the joint.

What is brazing exactly?

Brazing practiceBrazing is a process where two metals being joined are heated and a filler meta,l which usually melts at a lower temperature, is added to flow into between workpieces creating a bond. The most common brazing alloys used are bronze or brass. Sometimes it is necessary to use silver bearing brazing alloy. Most metals can be brazed except aluminum, magnesium, or titanium. Another benefit to brazing is that dissimular metals can be joined. For example, you can braze steel and copper together with bronze brazing rod.

Flux coated rod

Flux Coated RodsOne product line available to the braze welder is the flux coated brazing filler rod. These come in various compositions for joining different alloys. The main benefit is the flux is already on the rods and does not need to be pruchased separately.  The disadvantages outweigh the benefits and the convenience in my honest opinion. First, if you are working with new metal or at least relatively clean metal, you would need to scrape as much as 3/4 of the flux off the flux coated rod. The flux is tanacious and somewhat glassy due to the high level of borates. If you overheat the joint and use to much flux, it will form an incredibly hard black mineral glass that is next to impossibly to remove. Flux residue removal is essential if any painting or surface finish is going to be done. What happens if any flux is not removed, the flux will effloresce causing it to “bloom” into a crystaline crust. This will lift and rupture any paint or lacquer exposing the joint to further corrosion and moisture from the air.

Bare bronze brazing rods

Brazing FluxAn alternative to flux coated brazing rods is to use bare bronze rods with a paste flux. This involves less work because their is no flux to scrape off when brazing clean metal. With paste flux, you can use as little or as much is needed. This is important as different alloys need different amounts of flux. For instance, stainless steel needs a little more flux due to the tough oxide coating. The flux paste I use is used for all commonly brazed alloys. It has borates like on the flux coated rods but with a little fluoride. This facilitates easier removal of flux residues with a wire brush and hot water. The fluoride fumes are corrosive and toxic so you must be mindful of ventilation.

Starburst Sculpture created by braze welding

StarburstThis is a great examply of what I do with braze welding. I make home decor. Notice how the bronze joint not only is functional but decorative due to the contrast with the grey steel. For more photos and information please visit this link to the listing in my Etsy Shop.

Brass covered nail project Part 3 coming along



The large brass overlayed steel nail project is really taken shape.  It is getting bigger.  Started with several subassemblies.  These subassemblies are then braze welded together.  As the size increases, the weight does to and it becomes more fragile.  When full sized it will need some support braze welded to the back.  These braces will also feature the mounting hooks.