Making leaves of brass grass

by shelbyvision on January 28, 2009

I’m not doing anything new or exciting right now, so I decided to dig up something interesting (I hope) that I came up with a couple years ago. I had an idea for a sculpture of a bird perched on a clump of grass. Making blades of grass by hammering strips of brass was not something I even wanted to try, so I made a die and extruded them.

The first picture shows the die, along with some strips of brass, cut about 3/8″ wide. The die is just a piece of steel bar stock, 1/4″ x 2″. there are two openings so the drawing can be done in two stages. (This is 16 gauge brass, so it’s not an easy job.) The openings in the die were made by drilling holes in the steel, then cutting the shape with a jeweller’s saw, and finishing off with various burs and polishing devices.
The second picture shows the first stage of drawing. The die is clamped to an upright beam in my building. I found that a dab of ordinary grease did wonders for being able to pull the brass through. The third picture shows the results of the first stage.
1st draw1st draw done
The fourth picture shows the second stage drawing, the clamping of the die being more obvious, and the fifth shows the results. The ends, of course, are all chewed up and ugly, so they had to be cut off and re-shaped.
2nd drawdone
The last picture shows the final finished product.
Bird1 by Steve Shelby

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Jerry Fowler January 30, 2009 at 5:33 pm

For someone with Cynthia’s skills with the hydraulic press I think a right/left half with one die would wok out OK. Then solder them together. Nice job with the grass.

shelbyvision January 30, 2009 at 8:03 am

Cynthia, the bird is about 3-1/2″ long. It’s made in two pieces, top and bottom, the top being much larger than the bottom. They were raised and fully planished before being soldered together. This was my first bird sculpture, and it was while making the top half of this one that I realized I could probably make a bird in one piece.

Cynthia Eid January 30, 2009 at 12:34 am

Oh, I love this! what’s the scale?
Did you make the bird in two parts? Or, can you give us any other hints about how you made the bird?

Teri Baskett January 28, 2009 at 11:55 am

This is really a great sculpture…I love the openness of the blades of grass with the bird balanced/perched on them. And the inventiveness of the custom draw plates—really a great idea! Thanks for sharing with the community! Teri Twitter: Teri_B

Michael Johnson January 28, 2009 at 11:13 am

I meant simplified, as in abstracted from the natural form. But, I do realize that these are very complex.

LOL, I was struggling with pulling wire for almost a year or so before I found that proper lube makes for less strain. I can relate.

Also, you do a great job of showing us some insights into your process. Kudos!!! I wish that I had enough workspace to give making something larger. You’re giving me an itch to try some of this larger forming and forging :o)

shelbyvision January 28, 2009 at 9:18 am

Thanks, Michael. Simple forms, complex geometry? Having done 3d computer art for several years, I discovered that some of the simplest appearing forms are extremely complicated when it comes to describing them in terms of geometry.
Pulling the brass strips was nearly impossible until I figured out the right way to lubricate them. 🙂

Michael Johnson January 28, 2009 at 8:58 am

Beautiful work. I love the simplified abstract forms, but yet they show a delicate skill you’ve used in forging these complex volumetric forms. Simple, yet complex, if that makes any sense :o)

I bet pulling those brass strips was a work out.

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