I have had many people tell me that they would like to see how I make my brass sculptural pet urns. I finally got around to photographing myself at work on a dog urn, and have put together a pictorial chronology of the process. I have divided the process into “stages” with the piece being annealed before starting each consecutive stage. Stages 1-6 are raising the simple dome form. Stages 7 and 8 are the transformation of that simple dome shape into a sculpture.
1st Stage: This piece started with an 11 in. diameter circle of 16 gauge brass, annealed. I have drawn, with a compass, concentric lines to serve as a guide for uniform raising. The first step is radial crimping, done with the raising hammer on the special wood block shown in the first picture. Next is the stake I made just for this purpose, 2-1/2 in. wide and 12 in. long, the raised part on the right end has a special purpose that will be shown later. The hammering starts at line 1, 2-1/8 in. from the center. The lines are 1-1/8 in. apart, and I hammer a course on each line and halfway between. The resulting diameter is now 9-3/4 in.
The next four pictures show the results of stages 2-5. The piece is annealed between each stage.
6th Stage: Annealed again. Now the metal gets bent over to 180 degrees from where it started. This is where the special part of the stake comes in. A line is drawn 7/8 in. from the edge for a guide. Resulting outside diameter is now 6-7/8 in.
7th Stage. Annealed again. Now it starts getting interesting. I have tried to picture all of the tools used, although I may have missed some. I have arranged the pictures so that the tool is pictured before the process for which it is being used.
In the first picture, there is no tool other than the hammer. Next, tool 3 is an all-purpose slightly domed stake which gets used more than any other. In the process shown, I’m creating the the separation between the dog’s nose and rear. Next, tool 4 is being used to push out the ears at the place where they fold over.
On to the next group of pictures, still stage 7. Tool 5 is an almost-flat stake with a straight part to make it useable at the bottom edge, as shown. Tool 6 is a special little stake to form the dog’s muzzle. I have four of these for different sizes and shapes of dogs, and one for cats. Tool 7 is for flattening out the bottom flange, which has gotten all wavy and distorted in the previous processes.
The next pictures deal mostly with what I call rough planishing. There are also some other types of refinement going on. With a big hammer I smooth out all the bumps, dents, and irregularities created in the raising process. Tool 8 is used for rough planishing around the bottom. Tools 9 and 10 are different size balls used for rough planishing the rest of the piece. Smaller tools, such as tool 3, are used on the head and other places where the curvature is smaller. Tool 11 is for tight areas down against the bottom flange. At the end of stage 7, it looks like a dog, but still pretty crude. It can’t be refined any more without first being annealed.
8th Stage: Annealed for the final time. Much of this stage is further refinement of the same steps taken in stage 7. Tool 12 is used to further define the line between head and rear. Tool 6 is used again to refine the dog’s muzzle. Tool 13 is for giving the ears more definition.
The next two pictures show the final planishing, done with a small planishing hammer with a very flat, highly polished face. In the third picture, all the refinements are complete.
The next tool, #14, is very special. Made from a found shaft already bent to that shape, it is ground in a way that allows me to recess the bottom flange in order to accept the cover plate properly.
Next, I buff the piece with tripoli to get rid of any small scratches and to expose any defects that need to be fixed. I don’t leave it with the polished finish, however, preferring a satin finish. I apply a patina to darken the brass, and then rub it with steel wool. The resulting finish is very stable, and is the most practical for objects that get handled a lot. In the next picture the holes have been drilled and tapped and a rubber gasket set in place. Next, the cover plate is screwed into place, then it’s done.
Putting this pictorial together turned out to be a bigger project than I expected. I hope that it will be educational and helpful to someone. If there is anything that I have not made clear, please let me know and I will be happy to answer any of your questions.
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