Brass Starburst Sculpture "for reals"

 I say "for reals" because I have only made these out of wooden skewers, not actual brass before.
(see sculpture here and light fixture here)
I decided to go for the real thing for this one...
 I have a client that saw this and loved it, but not the $$$$ attached to it...
Having welded my kitchen lights this winter with my Dad's help I felt ready for the challenge.  
I also took jewelry design in art school and inhaled my fair share of lead making stained glass so I thought "no big deal"... its actually quite a big deal.  This is a level 7 on a scale of 1-10 for difficultly.  
*If you don't have a soldering gun or trust yourself near high heat, spray some drinking straws gold and then glue them together. See tutorial for that here*  

So, I picked up some 36" long 3/8" brass tubing at my local True Value Hardware store, a soldering iron, solder-without lead cause that is BAD for the brain, and a mini tubing cutter...
 These tubes also came in 12" lengths, which is what I will be using for my client, but I wanted to make a smaller "sister" burst to go with it/ practice on.
I marked the 36" tubes at 9" intervals..
  Then I used a great little contraption called a mini tubing cutter.  Best tool I tell you!  All you do is put your tube in and tighten the clamp.  Next twist the tube once and tighten the clamp again.  Repeat until the tube cuts in half.  Its like magic!
 It took me 3 twists/ tightens to make this happen...
 They are so smooth I'd drink from them if 
I wasn't such a "don't know where that tube has been" type!
 I made (12) 9" pieces from (3) 36" tubes...
 Now for the hard part... soldering.
I used a piece of leftover ceramic tile with a layer of aluminum foil for my work area 
since this gets VERY (900 degrees) HOT!
Gather your soldering iron, solder and some fine steel wool.
 You will need to rub the tubes down with the steel wool to make sure they are clean.
Very important!  If there is any coating on the brass the solder will not stick and it will just break off.
 I recommend having three arms for the next step if you are new to soldering, so grab a friend.
Here's the deal... you need to hold the soldering iron to the metal areas you want to solder until they reach a temperature that will melt the solder.  It gets tricky because the tubes natural want to roll, so I used masking tape to hold the end in place that was farthest away from the heat source.
I used a solder with a rosin flux core (this helps it spread easier and bonds the metals together).  If you use basic solder be sure to treat the area with flux separately.
 I touched the solder to the brass until it melted and then I quickly lifted the soldering iron.  This takes a lot of practice!!!!  Next, let the solder cool before handling.
Please note my messy soldering marks... rookie.
 I kept adding tubes and using tape to hold ends in place since I didn't have a third arm or a buddy...
 It's my first attempt so it's quite obvious...
 I used my Krylon Paint Pen to cover up the majority of silver solder marks...
Here is the breakdown on cost...
The actual tubing cost less than $18:
(3) 36" brass tubes @ $5.99 each
This is the "tools" cost, so if you own any of this you are ahead of the game...
Tubing Cutter $9.49
3 oz. Solder $11.99
Soldering Iron $31.99
About $50.  Gets pricey, but just think of all the cool stuff you can now make!
Now I am off to practice some more and make one for my client.
I'll keep you posted!

5 comments:

The Sterling Cherub said...

Danika, are you using flux when you solder? I didn't see where you mentioned that. When I solder, I use a liquid flux, but you can get it in a cream or paste form as well, which might be easier to control on a rounded piece of metal. The flux might help make your joins smaller. Just a thought.

Best,

Kimberly

Kristin@bliss-athome.com said...

This is awesome! Where in the world do you get brass tubing from though?

My Interior Life said...

Looks amazing! You are a DIY guru! I would surely get third degree burns or burn my house down if I tried this. So wish I was more skilled! I saw a somewhat similar project that didn't involve a soldering iron.

http://holtwoodhipster.blogspot.com/2013/09/diy-decorative-brass-objet.html

Danika Herrick said...

Sterling Cherub-
I used a solder that had a rosin core- was told that acts like flux. I always used flux in the past, and think it is easier. Not quite skilled with this type yet.

Kristin- I got mine at my True Value store, but google brass tubing and there are a few online options. It also comes in 12" if you don't want to cut it.

Just added a version to the blog of this sculpture made out of drinking straws for those that just want to glue and stay away from heat.

Thanks all!

Jenna LaFevor said...

SHUT UP! This is so freaking awesome!! I love it!

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