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Daniel W

Making dew droplets

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This is pretty far from a knife making question, but I'm pondering an idea that I'm not sure will work the way I want it to.

 

I recently sold off an art projects which frees me up to make another little item in about late February.  I've had the idea for a while to incorporate dew droplets on my steel flowers, and I have an idea of how to do, but I'm not sure which would yield a permanent lasting bond to the metal.  So I'm looking for guidance over what material might work best. 

 

The first one that comes to mind is to use a clear resin epoxy.  Which may may work just fine, although in my mind may look a bit 'plastic'

The second idea, which I don't know will work, would be if I could drip beads of molten glass on the surfaces.  I like that idea but I have no idea if the glass will make a lasting bond to the surface.

 

I would just want to make sure that in making some form of this that when someone wants to look or handle the piece, they can't just pick one of the beads off. 

 

I've seen steel enameled before, but not partially.  Any ideas that I can throw into the  mix?

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You could weld drops on, making sure you have very little penetration.   Especially easy if you have a crappy welder and don't really know how to weld...

 

I'm not trying to be offensive or put anyone down here, it's just that I recently took apart (pulled the welds apart by hand) and re-welded a forge frame for a friend of mine who doesn't really know how to weld and who used a harbor freight 110V welder, and the welds looked just like beads on the surface.

Edited by billyO
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Hmm, Never thought about just welding them on.  When it comes to something easy, I usually take the rocky unpaved road. Using weld splatter, I thought about that one point in time, but forgot about that until you mentioned welding. I'll have to try a test run of it too.  Seems easy enough. 

 

I did a small test with epoxy from this last post, and although it did make droplets, they did not stick quite like I would like.  It takes effort, but you can pick them off just by hand. I have a few other tests to throw at it first, one would be to heat the metal before applying to help open the pours on the steel a bit, see if that helps.

 

Another little test sheet I have was to totally coat the steel with epoxy, lightly sand it, apply droplets afterward.  I still don't exactly like the idea of making art work with glue but it does have a potential.  It could make a very nice contrast to have a matte steel finish with very bight 'water like' drops. 

 

As for glass, I understand that is something physically impossible the more I researched.

 

Previously, I've tried to drip solder on the peddles, but that really doesn't work.  It either flows when it's hot enough to stick, or makes a nice slash and doesn't stick at all.   

 

Copper sweating, does not make the look I'm going for but does make for some interesting stuff. 

 

I haven't attempted to braze a little touch of bronze but I suspect that it may work the same as the solder.

 

If I was a real nut, I could raise little dimples on the underside of the sheet, but I'll try welding before I do that.

 

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1 hour ago, Daniel W said:

Using weld splatter,

 

THAT's the phrase I was looking for....:rolleyes:

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19 hours ago, billyO said:

You could weld drops on, making sure you have very little penetration.   Especially easy if you have a crappy welder and don't really know how to weld...

 

I'm not trying to be offensive or put anyone down here, it's just that I recently took apart (pulled the welds apart by hand) and re-welded a forge frame for a friend of mine who doesn't really know how to weld and who used a harbor freight 110V welder, and the welds looked just like beads on the surface.

Sounds like the first forge frame I welded. But the 110v welder I used was a Lincoln. 

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Just now, Jonathanbradshaw said:

Especially easy if you have a crappy welder and don't really know how to weld.

 

A friend of mine who is a welding instructor and certified nuclear weld inspector took a look at my forge hood the first time he came to the house.  The hood is 11-ga sheet steel, and my welder is a 1960s vintage AC stick machine from Montgomery Ward (probably an old Century).  His comment has never failed to amuse me: "Longmire, for an archaeologist you're a really bad welder."  :lol:  I've gotten a bit better, but the hood is still in one piece lo these 16 years later, so I'm happy. 

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When I was in welding school, my instructor (who at the time had been welding for 35+ years in nuclear, automotive, structural, etc.) wanted to demonstrate the difference between a good looking aluminum weld and a poor one, so he ran a gorgeous bead on some pieces of plate, and then tried to run a poor looking bead, and he ran another beautiful one. Tried again to weld poorly, and it turned out great yet again, so he goes "apparently my muscle memory wont let me run a bad weld!" So he looks across the shop at another student, fantastic stick welder going into pipe welding, but a very poor TIG welder, and shouts "Donnie, I need you to come run a bead over here quick!" 

 

Needless to say, he got the poor weld he was looking for! :lol:

 

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For an introduction to welding, I took a class with a master jeweler.  I saw some really interesting stuff. Most of which was done by torch welding.  Which as he broke down torch welding, translates to TIG very well.  You can successfully  bond a lot of materials together with torch welding, its just not really done because TIG has so much more control.  From that class I took that if I can't get two different metals to stick together, braze it.  Wanna stick stainless together, braze it, cast iron braze it. Since then I've been trying to get the time to take an actual welding certified class just for a back up in case my job goes poof.

 

Making good weld splatter I could be on the right path, although in looking for some contrasting elements in the artwork, it may not pull off the effect as well as clear epoxy.  I had a few people within the day take a look at the test piece I made with the epoxy and they overall liked the effect aside from it being a little more fragile than I would like.  Their opinion was it was stuck well enough. 

 

I'm probably going to test out both and see which of the two processes I like more.  If I can heat tint one of the flowers to my liking and then add the weld splatter to highlight some kind of contrast that may be it.  Although my blacksmith mentor said he never wanted to see my weld spatter again. 

I rolled around with the epoxy idea today too, thinking about all the innovative things people are making with it lately, normally in wood work.  I pondered for a while if I could crush glass or crystal to suspend in the epoxy mix to make it look like snow or just make it more prism like  . . .   . . .    . . .   It's just ideas until this week when I can try some things out. 

 

For glass I have an idea, but from my understanding, its really not going to work due to rates of expansion and contraction. 

 

Glitter, you can all say it, I heard it like three times today when showing the little test piece off . . . Just seems to Tacky of an idea though.  Now metal flake maybe, but that's just another form of glitter. 

 

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Instead of spatter, you could also torch weld little "balls" of steel onto the surface. Just heat a single spot and build up a droplet with the filler. Maybe even use brazing rod for gold-ish colored droplets? I'm just spitballing here. 

 

 Would be a lot easier with a TIG. I used to make little metal stick figure men with this method lol. 

 

Edit: if you set it up so your welding vertically, you may be able to push the droplets down to make it look drippy. 

 

 

Edited by Will Wilcox

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Remember the old saying,

"Pics or it didn't happen.";)

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Just a thought- I have no experience with it but I have seen folks use torch fired clear-coat enamels and build up multiple layers on copper for  a dripping effect on necklaces/pendants- maybe this could be an option to explore?

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On 11/24/2019 at 8:20 AM, Daniel W said:

heat the metal before applying to help open the pours on the steel

For the record, this isn't a thing.  Good steel does not have any pores.  

 

My first thought for a suggestion was to make beads (weld splatter is a good starting point, but they can be shaped later if needed/wanted) and then solder/braze them on.  

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On 11/24/2019 at 6:53 PM, Will Wilcox said:

Instead of spatter, you could also torch weld little "balls" of steel onto the surface. Just heat a single spot and build up a droplet with the filler. Maybe even use brazing rod for gold-ish colored droplets? I'm just spitballing here. 

 

Now that's a very interesting idea!  If I torch them on, being this is going to be sheet steel, the smallest torch tip would be more than enough to get a little spot hot enough. Brazing rod, yes, I like that, but what I would like more is possibly hard silver solder. It does not take a color when heat tinting and would remain bright. Also hard solder may not accidentally flow at the usual heat tinting temps.  But that is also the hang up with using solder or brazing rod, get a section too hot that you don't want and accidentally cause one of the beads to flow into the other. Something worth looking into. 

 

5 hours ago, Kerri Duncan said:

Just a thought- I have no experience with it but I have seen folks use torch fired clear-coat enamels and build up multiple layers on copper for  a dripping effect on necklaces/pendants- maybe this could be an option to explore?

I also thought about enamel, seen it done once before on steel.  But that was for something entirely coated with enamel. I will look into that more.  

 

 

 

Edited by Daniel W

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4 hours ago, Jerrod Miller said:

For the record, this isn't a thing.  Good steel does not have any pores.  

 

My first thought for a suggestion was to make beads (weld splatter is a good starting point, but they can be shaped later if needed/wanted) and then solder/braze them on.  

There is another process done in filigree work where beads of molten metal are rolled onto a surface and soldered on.  But that's usually for gold and silver work. I think that might work similarly to how I tried to drip solder on before.  Wonder if there are some options there.

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Daniel- If you have a furnace/HT oven or Kiln you could try "slumping" tear shaped or round cutouts onto the surface as well- Im not sure if it will bond/hold due to oxide films- but in my mind- I see dimpling the surface then slumping into it... I will ask the ceramics guy at the makerspace near me and see if he has any thoughts... 

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24 minutes ago, Daniel W said:

There is another process done in filigree work where beads of molten metal are rolled onto a surface and soldered on.  But that's usually for gold and silver work. I think that might work similarly to how I tried to drip solder on before.  Wonder if there are some options there.

That's called granulation.  It ought to work with a bit of hard solder, the trick is getting the buggers to hold still.  With gold and silver it's a solderless technique, with the beads being made of a eutectic alloy to the ground.  Heat just enough and they bond.  You can cheat and use egg white or gum tragacanth to hold the beads with gold and silver.  It might be you could tin the beads and use the whites or gum to hold them until the solder flashes.  Or not.

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17 hours ago, Kerri Duncan said:

Daniel- If you have a furnace/HT oven or Kiln you could try "slumping" tear shaped or round cutouts onto the surface as well- Im not sure if it will bond/hold due to oxide films- but in my mind- I see dimpling the surface then slumping into it... I will ask the ceramics guy at the makerspace near me and see if he has any thoughts... 

No - no kiln or HT oven, I do know a potter or two I'll have to send them a line and see what they think as well. 

 

16 hours ago, Alan Longmire said:

That's called granulation.  It ought to work with a bit of hard solder, the trick is getting the buggers to hold still.  With gold and silver it's a solderless technique, with the beads being made of a eutectic alloy to the ground.  Heat just enough and they bond.  You can cheat and use egg white or gum tragacanth to hold the beads with gold and silver.  It might be you could tin the beads and use the whites or gum to hold them until the solder flashes.  Or not.

Maybe if I made one out of copper or bronze that could work a little better? I did make a little $$$ on my recent sells and have always wanted to make a bronze rose, and copper is always nice. 

 

I seem to have a lot of ideas to test out, I got some scrap copper around, bronze I have very little.  Making a Silver flower that would be a little over the top but have a real Wow factor. 

 

So far, I've got a reject flower I made about 4 years ago that is serving as my test piece, it currently has epoxy on it.  I think, my first trials will be to try and dob a little hard silver solder on steel, and then try copper.  Just to see if it can bead up like I think.

 

20191123_124641.jpg

 

It's not clean, and a little too "dewy."  Served the idea well, I do kind of like the effect, just not as durable as I would hope to make. 

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FWIW, Daniel, I think the epoxy "dew" looks plenty realistic.  Personally, I'd be totally happy with that, if I were you.

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I agree, the epoxy "dew" looks pretty realistic.  If someone gets the urge to peel one off I imagine it would require a tool to do so, in which case they deserve what they get.  

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Yeah, what Chris and Alan said. The epoxy dew looks very realistic actually. 

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Agree with the above....  How stuck are they?

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Lol, yes, I agree that it does look pretty darn nice and so far just about everyone is liking the test piece I've seen showing.  What I noticed about it a few days ago, while it was sitting on a desk, in lower light, it does have a little of that shimmery quality that catches the eye.  If I go and get a totally clear Epoxy it will probably be even better. 

 

I also noticed that after a few days, that epoxy must have totally cured, because the plastic feel to them has now changed to a very solid and smooth feel.  However there adhesion is still the same.  If I get my finger nail on one, I can just pluck one right off if I'm determined to do so.  In which case, that may just have to be a part of using this method. From what it looks like so far, the epoxy does not hurt the oxidation underneath it so if someone like me goes over and starts to pick at it, might as well pick them all off.  

 

Part of this idea is to be a  little bit innovate and try to make something I have not seen before.  That's why in the future, I still may try and do a few of the other things discussed in the thread. 

 

It is going to take me some time to get a flower together due to my work scheduled, but I'm still shooting to get my home forge running in Feb. 

 

Edited by Daniel W

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There are a couple of proprietary glass formulations that Corning is developing that are more thermally compatible with certain steels.  I believe that Albert Paley has experimented with them.  Still they are not anywhere near widely available, and you would have the problem of learning to manipulate molten glass (which has just as steep a learning curve as smithing) and the extremely rigorous temperature control needed to properly anneal it.  Many common glasses are more compatible with copper, so if you switch to copper flowers it is more likely that you will be successful, but you would still have to learn a bunch of new skills.  It is possible that using enameling techniques with glass frit would work, but I still doubt you would be able to hit the price point you appear to be going after, and I'm not sure it would be appreciably more durable than a good grade of epoxy.

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Wow, that sample flower looks really good.  If a realistic glint is part of the goal, you're going to need something clear like that.

 

Remember that not all epoxy is the same.  Different types of epoxy are designed to stick to different types of materials.   Surface prep plays a big role in how well even a well chosen epoxy sticks.  A clean surface with a little bit of "Tooth" is usually what you want.

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Maybe you could use a punch that makes a cylindrical hole or drill little holes for the epoxy to hold on to, drilling would be tedious though and you might dull the bits quickly if there is any scale, punching would have to be done with flat material which might not work out either depending on how you make the flowers. 

 

Or you could tell people not to pick at it because it's delicate, dew only lasts till the sun is up anyways.

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