This is a documentation of the creation of my sculpture, "An Easy Solution". I make art and structures that analyze the relationship between human development and the alteration of biological systems. If you want to know more about or see my work, go to my portfolio at the Society of North American Goldsmiths' website. The link is in my profile here.
Please note that this instructible is not meant for the for the actual physical reproduction of my art and intellectual property, only as an example of the possiblilities of creating art metalwork using a combination of hand skills and technology.
Step 1: What You Will Need
In order to engage in making high skill art metalwork, you will need access to a number of tools and materials. You will also need to invest quite a bit of time.
Drawing Tools and Materials
Various abrasive papers
Various taps and dies
Wood Working Tools
Various chisels and gouges
Wax Working Tools
Vacuum investing machine
Flexible shaft machine
Various steel plate
Various steel sheet
Various bronze sheet
Various bronze wire
Various bronze tubing
Various bronze chunks
Various silver sheet
Various silver wire
Various silver tubing
Various silver grain
Various acrylic sheet
Various patina solutions
Various paints and sealants
Step 2: Research
I travel as much as I can. I get a much riher appreciation of making objects by vistiing ancient sites (especially cemeteries and mausoleums), studying historic metalwork and archeology, and become steeped in the processes and cultures of other civilizations.
Step 3: Drawing
Before I start making an object, I do quite a bit of drawing. Large drawings, sketches on the backs of meeting agendas, technical drawings, studies, etc, all go into it. Some pieces take several years to ideate and come to physical production.
Step 4: Play
Believe it or not, I also play with legos. It is a great way to loosen up my mind and make quick decisions. The legos themselves are also a good metaphor to the simple approach that humantiy makes when manipulating the environment.
Step 5: Software
After I have enough materials to begin the construction of an actual object, I move into modeling software. It is integral to my working process. Rhinoceros 3-D is what I most use, but I also employ Autodesk Inventor for some solid operations. These programs allow for a high level of accuracy, and some forms just not possible by hand.
Step 6: Production Begins
Usually, when I begin to make a piece of art, I start with the most complex part. This helps to eliminate variables at later stages, and stem the flow of sometimes necessary design changes. Subsequent parts are easier to change. It also helps the creative process to clear the most technically challenging hurtle first.
I really wanted these flat steel mechanical shapes to taper to an elegant form before connecting to the base of the sculpture. I began here.
Step 7: The General Form
I created this overall form using a number of surface tools in Rhino. These are, but are not limited to sweep rail commands, loft, revolve, curve networks, extrusions, and later some boolean operations.
Step 8: Divided for the Sake of Economy
Although 3-D printing costs have decreased in the past few years, printing the entire fluted form would have been prohibitively expensive. As a non-wealthy artist, I decided to instead invest a much larger amount of time in other processes. This made everything else much more difficult, but is was a necessary decision. I divided the form into a part 1/16 the radial section of the overall form. Notice the notched sides that will allow for an accurate assembly, later on in the making.
Step 9: To the Printer
I sent the file to be printed at a 3-D printing service. I was printed in resin on an Objet printer in high resolution. It was crisp enough not to need any further finishing before the next step. In the second image, the construction notches are clearly visible.
Step 10: Duplication
I next made a mold of the printed part. I used a silicon rubber made by Smooth-On called Oomoo. It is durable, but gives a smooth finish.
Step 11: Making Wax Models
Then, the mold is repeatedly filled with a soft wax. This is a special formula of microcrystalline and paraffin. It yields a rigid wax with a smooth surface. About 50 of these waxes were poured, and 20 were prepared for the metal casting process.
Although only 16 were needed, 18 waxes were then cast in bronze, using the lost-wax-casting process. Here, you can see two of the unfinished bronzes.
I also included an image of a bronze pour, although not the same one that yielded these pieces.
Step 13: Assembly of Sections
After casting, the pieces were cut, filed, and finished by hand. This represented the largest percentage of work in the entire sculpture. They were then TIG welded together, providing a "tack" to hold them into place. Shown is the first connection. Remember those notches? Now they come into play, providing registration for the entire assembly.
Step 14: Final Assembly of Sections
After a temporary hold, the sections are secured using silver solder. This is an image of the final product, from the side.
Step 15: The Plates
Other parts of the sculpture also required an integration of technology. The next step was the design and cutting of these thick steel plates and sheet. I try to procure all of my materials from recycling scrapyards.
Step 16: Preparation for Waterjet
The designs for the plates were created in Rhinoceros. This would allow for high accuracy, and for some aid in later assembly. Here is an image with design construction lines, and another prepped for cutting.
Step 17: Waterjet Cutting
The files were then prepared for cutting on an OMAX 2652 waterjet cutting system. I included an image of a path being programmed into the system. It is one of mine, but not of these plates in particular.
Step 18: Large Plate Steel
Here you can see one of the plates back in the studio. These are also all hand-finished.
Step 19: Plate Details and Assembly
Although each piece of steel is cut with a waterjet, some detalsl can only be done by hand. Here are some templates for final layout and assembly. The rivets that hold the plates to the flute assembly are only each 1/16th of an inch. They must be drilled by hand.
Step 20: Riveted Plates
This is the top of the plates. Rivets are at edges.
Step 21: Smaller Sheets
All of the smaller metal sheets were cut by hand. Here are some of the templates. Those are then ink-jet printed onto paper and cut by hand.
Step 22: Other Castings
There were many other metal parts cast also. These were primarily found objects in the form of legos. They were molded and cast in the same manner as the fluted section. You can see some the originals, molds, and casts here.
Step 23: Acrylic Part
The flourescent green organic shape was simply cut from sheet.
Step 24: Part Assembly
Here are some of the smaller plates, castings, and acrylic in working assembly.
Step 25: Assembly Details
Here are those parts in final form.
Step 26: Architectural Salvage
The bottom of the sculpture is salvaged porch decking, circa 1890.
Step 27: Template for Decking
The design was then adapted for the decking. Shown are the parameters, as well as the lumber part lines, and steel and plywood reinforcing sctructures. The plywood is cut by hand, he steel by waterjet.
Step 28: Construction of Decking
The decking was cut using a bandsaw, with the use of paper templates.
Step 29: Final Assembly
Here are all of the parts in working assembly.
Step 30: Completed
Here is the sculpture again, assembled and finished.