I'd never had the chance to work with non-ferrous metals, so in Fall 2022 I took a metalsmithing class. These are my projects from that class.
Planetary Gears Belt Buckle (Fall 2022)
I wanted to design a functional set of planetary gears that could be worn on a belt buckle and rotated by the wearer. I decided to mount the assembly to a backing plate in order to give it a similar form factor to a traditional Western belt buckle and provide an attachment point for a belt. The ring gear protrudes slightly, providing a convenient grip location.
The gear teeth were roughly triangular in profile, but rounded over at the top to improve their fit. I formed each with a triangular file followed by a small flat file to bring the tooth to final shape.
When the sun and planet gears were complete, I test fit them. I found the teeth that didn't mesh, filed them a bit more, and repeated. This was the most challenging and time-consuming process of the build.
After repeating this process with the ring gear and forming the remaining pieces, I assembled the buckle. I used loose-fitting tube rivets for each planet gear and wire rivets for the rest of the components. Wherever the rivet would rub against another piece of metal, I used countersunk blind rivets and sanded them flat.
I'm very satisfied with the way this build turned out. Filing the gear teeth and reducing friction in the assembly were very difficult, especially since the entire buckle was made by hand, but in the end it came together and I learned a lot in the process.
Boxwood (Fall 2022)
For my second piece I wanted to create something more sculptural and organic. As someone fascinated with the interface of nature and technology, I find the humble stump to be a very interesting object. They are organic in nature but bear the imprint of human tools. They also frequently serve as tools themselves. A stump can be a seat, a chopping block, or even a work surface for metalsmithing.
My concept was a stump sculpture that could hinge open to serve as a box, another sort of tool. I made the "bark" out of copper and the "cut" faces out of bronze.
I started by joining a copper sheet together using an overlapping joint. I cut tabs out of each and thinned them so they would join cleanly and (fairly) seamlessly. Once they were silver soldered together, the joint was strong enough for me to start forming.
I roughly formed the stump using delrin mallets. Then I created detail and texture with a variety of raising and planishing hammers.
I made the hinge from a sectioned brass tube which is soldered to the top surfaces. A pin runs through to hold the hinge together.
I etched the top surface with ferric chloride to create a tree ring pattern. I also added a small bronze handle which is riveted in place. Finally, I treated the entire sculpture with liver of sulfur to darken the piece and emphasise its textures.
I like how different this piece is from anything else I've made. The sculptural nature of the project pushed me to think and work in new ways.
Alienation (Fall 2022)
For this project, I wanted to create a mask that would cut off the senses to create a feeling of alienation. I made it from scrap materials, which is not uncommon for me, but took a very different approach.
As someone schooled in engineering I tend to plan things out meticulously. This is generally good, but too much planning can snuff the creative spark in a project. I decided to jump into this project with only a few minutes worth of ideation and sketching.
I barely remember what happened during the creation of this project. I more or less turned off the logical side of my brain and frantically riveted pieces of scrap metal together for several hours.
I riveted torched aluminum cans in the gaps to act as panels, secured nails to the forehead, and sewed a leather strap onto the back so the mask can be worn.
With more planning, this project certainly would have gone more smoothly. However, it also may have lost expression and character in the process. That's just the double-edged sword of creation.