Monday, November 8, 2010

First Metal Experience Ever

During the summer of 2009, I took part in the Art Educators Retreat at SFA. I learned some things about teaching, because our guest speaker was a teacher, but mostly it was just a place for art teachers to make art. I felt pretty out of place because I was the only person in the whole retreat who wasn't a teacher. I needed the retreat for a class credit. One of the sessions was a metalworking class. Overall I think we were supposed to spend about 5 hours working in the metal shop over the course of the week. Several of us decided to ditch the other projects and only work on metals. I think by the end of it, I calculated that I spent about 15 hours working in the metal shop that week. Since part of the assignment for credit was to document the retreat with pictures (for an end presentation), I have step-by-step pictures of what I made. This is the only instance for which anything but the end result is documented.

Here you see my two sheets of metal-one brass, one copper (both about 2x3 inches), along with my sketch and a material (I think it's actually some sort of Christmas garland) that I planned to use for texture.

 Ahhhhh, my first experience with the rolling mill. So wonderful and exciting to see plain sheet metal go in, and textured sheet metal come out!!! Basically, you make a metal "sandwich" with your texturing material in between both sheets, and you run it through the rolling mill. The mill presses the sheets together, and stretches them just a bit. The end result is two sheets of textured metal, and one really messed up texturing material. Any material used for texturing will get very messed up, so it's not a good idea to use something that you want to reuse or that is hard and brittle. Fabrics work really well, along with screen, wire, ribbon, file-folder paper, and sand paper. 

 My next step was to cut circles out of my metal. I was going to have to saw each little circle out, but then Lauren showed me the wonderful Pepe Disc Cutters. I love the disk cutters because they are so fast, easy, and they make perfect circles. A quick file on the under side of the metal and you're done! I ended up making matching earrings out of the left over circles that I cut out.

Since I was doing a two-layered pendant, I wanted the top layer to have some dimension to it, so I used the hydraulic press. The press is really cool, though anyone who works on cars probably thinks it's the most mundane, everyday thing. We have several pre-cut dyes in our studio, along with some materials to make our own shape if we desire. You take a dye, which is made from thick plexiglass (about 1/2 inch or 3/4 inch), and place it over your metal. Then we have some urethane pads of varying hardness (we use the yellow one the most, it's the most squishy) and a nice spacer. You put all that in the press and start pumping. To get a good, dimensional form, we pump to about 3500. Then voilĂ , formed metal. 

Uumm so at this point, my picture taking went down the drain apparently. After forming the top dome, I cut both pieces into circles. I then drilled holes in each and riveted them together. Riveting was very difficult for me, but again I only had a quick explanation in a room full of people. I understand it a lot better now, and consequently I am a better riveter now. Anyway after the riveting (and somewhere along the way I bent some scrap into a quick bale for my pendant to hang from), Lauren helped me change the color with some liver of sulfur. This is a stinky, yellowish chemical that turns copper and silver varying shades of brown/black, depending on how long it's in there. Since the bottom was brass, it didn't turn any color.

Then I waxed it with paste wax to keep it from fingerprinting and this is how it looked at our final show at the end of the retreat! As you will see, I became a metals addict, and I have no desire to recover.

1 comment:

  1. I like the simplicity in it, but the details and the layering make it really special and "design-y."

    I'll definitely commission you in the future to do some jewelry/accessory pieces for my collections.

    This is becoming a great site for your "mini-portfolio"...especially since it documents your work progress.
    So...take your own advice and document/save as much as possible!!!