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.




Brazed Cut Nail Sculpture

Art from Square Cut Nails


During the 1950’s and 1960’s was the modern art era now affectionately referred to as midcentury. Becuase of the rise of technology and the excitement surrounding the space race. This gave rise to a more contemporrary art style with hard lines and geometric shapes. And with that movement we have art made from cut nails, or more commonly called, masonry nails. The wedge shape of these nails allows them to be welded
into countless arrangments. The most striking pieces are ones made by braze welding with a bronze brazing rod. This allows the natural contrast of the two metals steel and bronze to shine create a mood.

Adding Various Accents


Creating dimensional wall sculptures with cut nails does produce an eye catching work of art.  But then again, what could possibly be wrong with a little of embelishment.  Take for instance this Eames Era wall hanging.  It features some verticle accents made from braze welding RG45 rod together.  Also, There are three strategically placed hemispheric accents that are actually fence pipe weld termination ends.  They are painted in three different colored metallic paints to draw in the focus on the piece.

A seven frame sculpture

7 frames When I made this, I wanted to create something different than I had before. So I made these frames with a nail going diagonally through them. I also included 3 semipheracle pipe ends as accents.

Creating work of smaller modules

3 stars This is where I wanted to create a set of smaller units. This way ideas that come from smaller pieces can be considered. These 3 stars have an ancient appeal to them for sure. I hand brazed each one and they can be arrange anyway you wish. This gives flexibility for people with a discerning eye for efficient use of space. The art is available at this Etsy listing. Just click and see more details

Pyrrole Red Artist Pigment

Pyrrole red a modern color innovation

this lens' photo

            For centuries, when artist wanted a bright red color able to withstand sunlight and maintain its intensity, they naturally had to rely on mineral pigments. The most commonly used was the cadmium based pigments. Although these are very durable and light fast, the pigments themselves are very toxic. This toxicity makes these pigments unsuitable for spraying.
Over the years, researchers have developed organic alternatives but they have been inferior to cadmium based reds. Either the tint was not as strong, they lacked covering power, or they faded or cracked with age. Pyrrole red is a recent innovation that not only addressed the shortcomings of it predecessors, it is a viable alternative to cadmium reds with much lower toxicity.
A Gift from the Automotive Industry 

FerrariMany artist may not realize it, but many modern innovations in pigment development have their roots in the automotive industry. Automobiles are. for the most part, exposed to the elements. Without a durable scratch resistant finish, the metal that cars are constructed of would rapidly corrode in the outdoors. Part of a durable paint job, is the pigment. A pigment that has covering power, and light fastness is important. The automotive industry put forth a lot of money for research especially for a durable red pigment for high end sports cars. What the research came up with was pyrrole red. In fact, the color Ferrari Red is in fact Pyrrole red.
Bold statement with 3D art in Pyrolle Red   

Pyrolle Red Wall HangingNow we have a general idea how pyrrole red came to be an artist pigment, I want to present a 3D sculpture painted in this bold pigment.  Yesterday, I wrote about this sculpture in bright red paint.
The sculpture featured here is a 3D geometric wall hanging painted pyrrole red. The modern style and warm bright red color will make a bold statement in your office or home.
The photo below shows a close up of the sculpture and you get a sense of how this warm red enhances this 3D sculpture.
Color Mixing with Pyrrole Red 

Color MixingPyrrole red is an organic low toxicty lightfast warm red pigment. Being warm means that the red is shaded to more of the yellow or orange range. Mixing with blue will not yield a bright purple however. Therefore, mixing pyrrole red with a bright yellow such as Hansa yellow to give a brilliant orange. But, when mixed with blues the resulting purples are muddy and muted.

 Resources for More Information

Color Mixing with Pyrrole Red
An informative page about mixing pyrrole red with other artist colors.
Wikipedia article on Pyrrole
A scientific article on the structure, uses, chemistry, physical properties and preparation of pyrrole.

Mixed Media Sculptures


More than one material


Mixed media sculptures incorporate more than one type of media. Sometimes an artist wants to work in one medium and specialize. Most of the time this is fine but sooner or later, the advantages to other materials eludes the artist when he/she wants to present a new sense of dimension or a unique texture.

Take, for instance, the rusted assemblage below. Sure it was nice once I welded it altogether and applied the rust patina followed with an oil finish. The problem was it seemed incomplete. I decided that it needed to contrast with wood grains. I purchased a block of cherry from a woodworking store and bolted it to the rusted assemblage. I applied a polyurethane finish to add shine to the wood. The sculpture is called Rusted Developement and is availabe at my Etsy shop in the link provided.


Wood Weighs Less 

Eye of Horus

In this recent sculpture,Eye of Horus , after the stainless steel frame and the mild steel iris, I felt this piece needed a substantial support. Something rectangular and thick that could can take on a lot of color. The problem was that if I used a steel plate of the same thickness as the wood, the finished art would probably weighed more than 50 pounds. That would make it hard to mount on a wall without special mounting brackets not to mention the horrendous shipping charges if I were to sell this cross country. So I used a piece of poplar wood with primer and airbrushed water based acrylics to create the colorful background.


Mixed media helps to convey a message by contrast

Wire art on drift woodSometimes, a visual artist really needs to get a message across. This statement does not need to be in words so much but it can be in the materials chosen. Take for example this wire peace and love sculpture for sale on Etsy. It features wire human forms adorned with wooden beads and sheeps wool to convey color and texture. The 3 figures are mounted on driftwood to add a rustic and upcylced appeal to it.


Reclaimed metal

Reclaimed Metal Wall Art
Yet another example of metal mounted on wood. Here it is obviously for the unique grain of the wood piece more than weight savings. The artist used leftover bits from a railing job. This is upcycling in its truest form. No pretense or over zealous environmentalism, just using left over materials instead of throwing them out.

Unique Garden Art

Rock flamingo garden artHere is a stunning example of novel sculpture made from the most mundane materials. This rock flamingo would add intrigue to virtually and garden and the materials used to make it are largely available for free or very low cost.


Bike Sculpture

Bike Art
This is another metal art sculpture attached to a wood bckground. You can see the grain in the wood suggesting that might be a tinted stain. Not only does the red tinted stain add depth and contrast to the wooden background, but it enhances the metallic colors of the bike. This is using a comparitvely lightweight material to add bulk and applying unique finishing techniques to enhance depth at the same time.


Photos Uploaded to My Facebook Page



This is one of the 15 photos I just posted on my facebook page.  It is a work I recently did by cutting the steel shapes by hand and braze welding them to a geometric sculpture made of masonry square cut nails.


This piece is what inspired a commision project I am currently working on with a customer.    Of course, the customer only wanted a sculpture with nails only.  All is not lost though, this sculpture was an experimentation on applying more than one color with an airbrush.  Some pretty shading and color effects can be created even with the most basic spray gun.  The possibilites are limited only by your imagination.