Working with Copper

The next thing that I did in my small metals workshop after working with pewter was working copper. This involved the shaping and manipulation of copper rather than melting and pouring the metal.

The first stage in this process was to figure out what I want to make with the copper. I decided that I wanted to try and make a bird skull and a wing. I sketched them out in my sketchbook and and then made a template as shown below.

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Scribed copper with the templates.

I then took a pointed tool and scribed the metal using my template as a guide. Once this was done I needed to anneal the copper. This was a pretty straight forward process, first I needed to place the copper onto the heating station which was a couple of bricks placed on a worktop to make sure the area was protected. Once this had been done I needed to use a blowtorch to heat up the copper by moving the blowtorch slowly along the copper. Once this was finished I needed to turn the blowtorch off and submerge the copper into some water to cool it off. Once it was dried off, it was ready to use.

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The copper plate in the annealing station.

I annealed the copper and then used a jewellery saw to cut out the shape of my bird skull. This took a little while and I accidentally broke a couple of saw blades but I managed to cut out my shape as shown above.

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My annealed copper.
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Cutting through the copper with a saw.
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My fully cut out shape.

Once I had cut out my shape, I annealed it again to ensure the copper was ready to be worked. I started by shaping the top of the skull using a hammer and a heavy metal cube that had various size domes to help shape the copper.

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Using the cube to shape my bird skull.

I decided to anneal the copper again and then worked on folding the beak section of the skull. When this had been done I used a hole punch for metal to make some holes for the eye sockets and nostrils. Once this had been done, my bird skull was completed as shown in the images below.

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The next thing I wanted to work on was the wing. This shape took me a very long time to cut out and I broke a lot of saw blades but I managed it in the end. I had decided to stylise the wing in a very jagged fashion because I thought it would look better with the skull this way.

When the wing had been cut out, I annealed it and used the metal cube to give it a more rounded shape and make it more interesting. I also spent some time filing the edges of the wing to give it a nicer finish.

Once I had finished filing the edges, I thought that it would be good to clean the wing up a bit since it had gotten a little dirty in the annealing process. I cleaned this up by pickling my wing for a few minutes and then cleaning it with a cloth. I was amazed by how much cleaner it was and this also meant it was ready for enamelling.

The enamelling process was a lot different to what I was expecting. I chose some colours to make my wing and then I poured the powders onto the wing. Because of how curved the the wing was it was a little tricky to cover it. I also messed up the enamel a little because I knocked the copper causing the powder to move when trying to pick it up. However once I’d put it in the kiln and taken it out, I was surprised with how much I liked the result. I used some tongs to place it in some water in order to cool it down and my object was finished.

The final thing that I made was another bird skull because I wanted to improve on the last one since i wasn’t entirely happy with it. The main change I made was with the actual skull part rather than the beak. I made it so that more parts of the skull could be manipulated in order to get a more accurate shape.

I also decided to pickle and enamel this piece. I put white and black enamel powders on it because it seemed like the most obvious choice to me. I put it in the kiln and I wasn’t entirely happy with the end result and I’d like to try and make another bird skull and try to improve my skill with manipulating copper.

 

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