Making the base part of “Emergence”

by shelbyvision on March 8, 2010

This sculpture (see previous post) was a big project, so I’m breaking up the process into several parts. The base was the first part I made, and the first attempt was a failure. I did not realize that the stem portion needed to be bent into its final almost-upright position before closing up and silver-soldering the form. One very large piece of bronze wasted.

The material is 1/16″ silicon bronze, which is much more resistant to forming than the 16 gauge brass that I’m used to. I had to devise a way to bend that neck, something that could exert a great amount of force in just the right way. What I came up with is a large block of maple, carved out in the shape that I wanted to have the piece conform to. a clamping device was added to hold the piece securely. There’s a 1/2″ bolt going all the way through the block to provide the clamping force. The pictures below show how it was used. The steel rod extended out about six feet, and I had to push down on the end with all my weight to bend the metal as shown.

base01 base02 base03

After bending, I hammered out the kinks with the piece still clamped in the jig. Then the piece was annealed and formed on a cone-shaped block as shown below, and on a variety of stakes. The pictures below are actually further along in the process. I had to bend, anneal, hammer-form, anneal, several times before I was able to get the desired shape.

base04 base05

Once the piece was closed up, it could be silver-soldered. This was done in several stages, as it is impossible to close up the entire seam all at once. It has to be closed in one place, clamped and soldered, then closed some more, clamped and soldered, and so forth. The curves in the neck were done after the piece was silver-soldered. For the larger part near the bottom I clamped the piece in in the jig and put a piece of 1″ black poly pipe over the stem, then a piece of larger steel pipe over that to do the bending. The smaller part of the neck I was able to bend by hand. In the last picture the piece is mostly done, polished up some and ready for some final planishing.

I have a spin-off in mind for this (since I went to all that trouble I’d hate to only make one): A lamp base, with a hand-blown glass shade.

base07 base08

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

shelbyvision March 23, 2010 at 11:12 am

Thanks Nancy. I have lots and lots of small brass scrap pieces. Maybe we could work something out.

Nancy Standlee March 23, 2010 at 9:42 am

I’m so glad you’re on the art map and glad I checked out your site. I took a 2 day metals/metallic workshop with Carol Nelson in Denver earlier this month and boy oh boy could we have fun with your scraps embedding them in paintings. Love the hearts.

shelbyvision March 8, 2010 at 2:31 pm

Thanks Jason. The bronze is much harder to work than brass or copper, and It doesn’t take silver solder as well. It’s also twice as expensive as brass and only available from about three distributor in the entire USA. It doesn’t come in the same gauge thicknesses as other sheet metal, but is actually sold as “plate”, so it comes as fractional inch sizes. 1/16″ is the thinnest available most places, except Atlas Metals, where I got mine, has one thinner size, but you have to get a piece 2 ft. x 5 ft., which is more $ than I can currently afford.
That being said, I love the way it LOOKS. It has that classic appeal of bronze that everyone is familiar with from great art in museums. I think people are more likely to take a sculpture seriously if it is bronze, rather than brass. That may be unreasonable discrimination, but it is reality. I will be doing more of it.

jason March 8, 2010 at 2:01 pm

Beautiful work, as always.

How did you like the Si-bronze? Are you going to use it for more projects in the future?


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