Fish out of Water, hammer-formed brass sculpture

by shelbyvision on October 26, 2009

It’s been about two years since my first try, and I’ve tried several times since then to make an interesting fish shape using the same method I use for my birds. The biggest problem was that I wanted the fish to be curved, to make it more dynamic and interesting, and that turned out to make it infinitely more complicated than a straight fish would be. After several failed tries, I realized I was going to have to have a better way to create the pattern for the flat piece that it starts with. I finally came up with a method that works fairly well: make a clay model, and dip it in dip seal. Dip seal is a flexible rubbery plastic stuff that melts at 360f and makes a nice coating, which can be cut at the same place the seam will go, then removed from the clay model. This can then be flattened out, more or less, onto a piece of paper, and the outline traced with a pencil, yielding a pattern for cutting out the metal piece.

The first three pictures show the clay model before and after dipping, and the dip seal pattern removed and ready to use.


The next three pictures show the annealed flat piece I started with, then when it was ready for the second annealing, and the third annealing.


The next pictures show a little bit of the hammering, and the piece further along, ready for annealing again.


Then, some more hammering, closing it up. It took four separate soldering steps to complete the seam.


Once the piece was soldered I did a lot more hammering to refine the shape, and planishing to get a nice smooth surface. The finished piece, on a smooth table top, will rock and wiggle around like a fish out of water when given a little nudge.


{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

shelbyvision February 9, 2012 at 2:12 am

I got the dip seal from McMaster-Carr online. Here’s a link to the page: It’s “Hot-Melt Reusable Peel-Away Protective Coatings”, selection F.

EK February 9, 2012 at 12:44 am

This is fabulous. Beautiful work. Thanks so much for sharing.

I’m wondering… where can one purchase Dip Seal?


Taueret November 12, 2009 at 5:13 pm

I just love this one. (I love them all but i LOVE this one)

shelbyvision October 28, 2009 at 7:36 am

Hi Pat. If you try it, get the right kind; there are several. What I used is resin-based, and it works really well.
Thanks Hans. I trust you made it through hurricane season unscathed?
Jason, I put the seam in the only place I thought was logical to put it, so there was really no decision to make.

jason October 27, 2009 at 2:36 pm

Awesome as always.

How did you decide where to put the seam? I realize it’s positioning is similar to your other pieces, but the shape of the piece is sufficiently odd, as you mentioned, that it seems like you could have split it in several spots and still been able to get it to work with your insane skills.

hansmeevis October 27, 2009 at 12:03 pm

Excellent work, as always

patpruitt October 27, 2009 at 1:04 am

The dip seal technique looks cool and very practical for what you do….im going to have to try this some time…

shelbyvision October 26, 2009 at 9:24 am

Thanks Michael. Actually, this is the first one I’ve done this way. In the past, if I couldn’t just guess the shape, I would make a clay model and measure the circumference every half inch or so. This is the first one I’ve done where the seam was a curve rather than a straight line, and that made it a lot more complicated.

Michael Johnson October 26, 2009 at 9:06 am

I’ve been wondering how you determined the flat 2D shape. I love the clay/ dip idea.
The moon face from your last blog and this one are my favs :o)
Thanks Steve, wonderful work as always.

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