Making Tea Wrex, Part Three

by shelbyvision on June 24, 2011

This is the final installment, continued from Part One and Part Two.

The final parts to make are the two little arms. Originally, when I hadn’t gotten any further than the clay model, I thought I would use repoussé techniques to make the arms simply embossed on the surface. I soon came to realize that would not be desirable or even possible. I didn’t really know how I was going to make the arms until it was time to make them. I decided to sculpt them from solid 1/4″ copper rod. The first step was to remove metal where it needed to be thinner. I could have done this on a lathe, but it is much easier and quicker to chuck the rod in a drill and with the drill running, use the belt sander to remove the excess metal.

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The two pieces were then annealed, and then bent at the elbow, using a hole in a steel block and a mallet. Then with a special punch and die made for the purpose, the knob of the elbow was formed. Then some hammering to bend and flatten where needed. The two fingers were formed by sawing down the middle and then doing a lot of filing, grinding, and polishing.

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Next the arms get silver-soldered to the body. I first applied silver solder to the part of the arm that would be joined to the body. Then, to hold the arm in place, I used something called “Extra Hands”, that is a fireproof putty-like stuff that can be formed into any shape. The hard part was getting the heat where it was most needed. The thick copper absorbs heat and draws it away so well, I was afraid of ruining the existing solder seams before I was done.

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At last, all the assembly is done. Now it’s a couple days of finishing: removing excess solder, polishing, refining the surface with further planishing, removing scratches, polishing, tweaking the fit of the lid, polishing, more planishing.

Here’s a tool I made to make the ridge on the back come to a sharper, more precise edge. It’s a rotary planisher/burnisher, a steel ball with flats on four sides. I found that it created an interesting texture, like tiny hammer marks, except it did it very quickly. Since it looked different than the rest of the planishing, I decided to extend it out some so it becomes part of the design, and blending with the rest of the surface along its edges. After all that, the whole thing gets buffed with tripoli. This is actually a higher polish than it ends up with, but the tripoli cuts fast and removes superficial scratches and smooths it nicely.

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The final step is to scrub the whole thing thoroughly with a stiff brush and pumice, after a soak in very hot water and strong detergent. Then dipped in liver of sulfur a few times to give it a nice mellow coloring. Finally, a rubdown with fine steel wool, which gives it a fine scratch finish and burnishes at the same time.

teawrex1 teawrex2 teawrex3 teawrex4

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

shelbyvision October 6, 2011 at 1:31 am

Thank you.

Metal Art October 5, 2011 at 7:40 pm

Wow i really like the design on this. This would be the perfect gift for my wife. She loves the stuff.

shelbyvision July 1, 2011 at 1:39 pm

I appreciate your comments.

jason June 29, 2011 at 12:17 am

Just like the rest of your work, absolutely beautiful.

I’m kinda running out of superlatives to describe your pieces.


Jay June 26, 2011 at 11:01 pm

Thanks for sharing this whole project. It’s like a semester in slides!!!

shelbyvision June 25, 2011 at 1:21 am

Thanks everyone.

Barbara June 25, 2011 at 12:34 am

He’s a beautiful tea rex. Superb craftsmanship resulting in a real keeper of an item. Thank you for sharing.

linda Britt June 24, 2011 at 9:20 pm

What a lovely conversation piece. Beautiful craftsmanship and full of whimsy.

Iben Harridsleff June 24, 2011 at 9:02 pm

Thank you for sharing the process, its really impressive work! Have learned a lot from some of your previous projects as well, much appreciated.

Gee Backhouse June 24, 2011 at 3:36 pm

Wonderful piece of metalsmithing. Your patience and craftsmanship has yielded a truly tactile creation. Love it!

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