Sunday, February 23, 2014


The next piece of equipment I learned how to use was the spinning lathe. 

I had never used a lathe before and was looking forward to knowing that by the end of the class I would have learned how to use two different lathes (spinning lathe & machining lathe).  The spinning lathe allows a person to shape flat pieces of metal into a hollow vessel.  By using different wooden chucks (pieces of wood that have been spun themselves into the shape the metal will become) and pushing tools, the spinning lathes allows you to get a symmetrical, hollow vessel to then use as you please.

Here is an image of the spinning lathe I used.  You can see my aluminum disc (which I have already started to spin) and the wooden chuck.

Here are a few samples next to a flat disc like the one I started with.

Once I finished with my sample pieces I moved to spinning copper.  The class assignment was to create a votive holder with top and bottom, out of spun copper.  The first step in the process was to cut my copper disc from a sheet of copper.  I believe it was about 20 gauge.  Once the edges were filed, I annealed to copper to soften it for working, then pickled, rinsed and dried. The next step is to center the disc on the chuck and lock it into place in the lathe. I applied wax to the outside of the copper, turn the lathe on and begin pushing the metal into a new shape.  After a few passes of the pushing tool, the copper was no longer malleable and needed to be annealed again.  There was a lot of annealing during this process. 

 I continued to anneal and push until the top and bottom of the votive were shape I desired.  I then decided to have pierced leaves for my design motif.

I enjoyed the process of spinning vessels very much.   

Saturday, February 15, 2014


Another technical process I learned was powder coating.  Which for this class was process of applying a colored powder onto a metal object and electrically bonding the powder to the metal.  Once the powder is applied, then you heat the object in a small oven to cure it.  Below you can see my sample.

Even though this process seems straight forward and like an easy way to add color to an object, for some reason it was difficult for me to get right. I had a hard time getting the powder to thoroughly coat my small object and cure well.  As such, since we weren't required to do a powder coat final, I chose not too and just incorporated a powder coated element into the class final project which you will see in a few weeks.

If you are interested in learning more about powder coating, check out this great video by  Michael Dale Bernard

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Mirror, mirror

After finishing the electroforming sample it was time to move on to my electroforming final project.  The assignment was fairly open with the goal being to create a wearable that had been electroformed.  At this same time I was working in Dallas in homes with beautiful antique items.  I was struck by the intricacies of all of the ornate, gilded mirrors.  I decided to create my own.

For the initial trial of this process I covered a small mirror and created my design with wax.  The goal was to plate the wax with copper and then melt the wax out leaving a hollow form holding the mirror.  I followed the given procedure but once I removed the mirror from the plating bath I immediately realized two problems that I had neglected to address beforehand. The first one, which might seem obvious to some of you, is that once I melted the wax out of the form, the mirror would no longer be held in place by anything.  I would have needed a different design to make that work. And secondly, the copper just wasn't thick enough to support the delicate petals of the flowers and I was afraid of breaking. I ended up leaving the wax inside the copper plating which effectively made it unwearable in the Texas heat where it was created.

 Here is the first mirror in the series. I was unhappy with the way the copper looked on the wax and so my solution was to gild it with gold foil.  It added more texture and helped to define the floral design more.  I made the chain out of brass wire hammered into ovals.

My new plan was to cover the mirrors with sculpey clay and to adorn the mirrors with flowers and swags in the same manner as i did with the wax.  I figured that once the clay was baked on, the leaves and flower petals had a structure to keep them strong and to support the copper. I applied at least 2 coats of copper conductive paint being careful to try and cover all of the clay. This was a crucial step because any place that was not covered with the paint would not have copper adhere to it.  Once the paint was completely dry I suspended the mirror in the plating bath for many hours until the thickness of the copper was at the desired level.
 The mirror above shows what the copper plating looks like.  I can see some areas where the paint didn't cover and so there is evidence of the sculpey clay hidden beneath.

The round mirror above was my favorite of the set.  I used gun blue patina to paint the leaves and create color contrast with the copper flowers.  I made the chain from copper wire that I hammered into flat ovals.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

G is for Gems!

In the fall of 2012, I took Metals II: Technology taught by James Thurman, at the University of North Texas. The next handful of posts will be about the projects that came out of that class.  The processes we used in the metals lab were: Electroforming, Metal Spinning, Machining and Powder Coating.  We were also introduced to creating and using vector drawings which were then capable of being laser cut out of a chosen material to create design components.

For each technology I was responsible for creating a sample piece and a final piece, as well as a comprehensive final piece for the class that encompassed more than one of the processes we learned.

The lovely G below, is my sample for the electroforming process. Electroforming is a process by which you coat an object with metal particles, in this case I was essentially copper plating.

I started with a gem studded G that I made out of wax.  I then coated the wax with a copper conductive paint, making sure to leave at least one small space for wax removal, and allowed it to dry completely.  Once the paint was completely dry, I suspended the G into the plating bath for many hours. 

When I finally removed the G from the plating bath, all of the wax was covered by a layer of bumpy copper.  I placed the G into a pan of water and brought it to a boil coaxing the wax out of the now hollow copper G, and into the water.  Using an annealing torch with with pan below, I gently heated the copper to melt off any remaining wax before putting it in the pickle.

Once the G was cleaned, I used enamels to add color to the G and to create differentiation in the gems.