- Sailing a felucca down the Nile River
Apr 05 2016
- Music Inspirations: Sunday Morning
Mar 13 2016
- Journal Entry: Venice
Jan 10 2016
- Poem 4
Nov 01 2015
- Poem 3
Oct 24 2015
- Poem 2
Sep 17 2015
- Poem 1
Aug 10 2015
- Journal Entry: Train ride to Scotland
Jun 13 2015
- Japanese prints
Nov 23 2014
- a note about inspiration
Aug 02 2014
- Creating Deliberate Art: Choosing a Medium
Dec 07 2015
- Creating Deliberate Art: Introduction
May 30 2015
- Creating Deliberate Art: Compositional Elements
Apr 24 2015
- Creating Deliberate Art: Unifying Theme
Mar 17 2015
- Creating Deliberate Art: Capturing the Inspiration
Feb 10 2015
- Technique: pierced metal
Dec 30 2014
- a note about process
Sep 09 2014
- Venice, June 2000: Masquerade of Intimate Affection
Feb 24 2016
- Like a Fly
Dec 29 2015
- Art Nouveau Necklace
Jul 03 2015
- African Padauk Wood
Jan 06 2015
- Castle by the Sea
Oct 16 2014
Technique: pierced metal
Piercing is a great low-cost, easy way to make really interesting designs in metal. When this technique was first introduced to me, it blew me away. My early artistic career was all 2D, mostly oil painting and pencil still life. Working on my BFA at Grand Valley State University (a program and school I highly recommend), I took a course in creative problem solving. As a part of the coursework, each student needed to come up with a collection of objects and display them in some kind of container. I decided that my container would be water and so I needed objects that could stay wet for indefinite periods. I ended up choosing copper, but then what objects to make? I was directed to our shop supervisor for ideas. After a brief discussion, he handed me a jeweler’s saw. What?! You can saw copper?! Totally mystified, I tried it out. I, like most people, first thought of metal as something so stiff and unrelenting that only really heavy industrial machinery would be able to manipulate it. How wrong I was! Most metals are actually very soft and flexible. You can bend, twist, stamp, puncture and cut the following metals with simple tools found in most garage workshops: Copper, Bronze, Nickel, Brass, Silver, and Gold. Other metals such as Steel, Iron, Aluminum, and Pewter can also be manipulated, but they either take a little more skill, or more specialized equipment. The ease of manipulation is directly related to the metals thickness. The thinner the metal, the more flexible it is, and easier to cut.
This is what you will need:
-flat metal sheet, ideally around 20 gauge
-jeweler’s saw frame and blades (I use a super fine 00 blade)
-drill and small driver
-fine point Sharpie marker
-rubber cement or spray tack glue (optional)
-bench Pin (optional)
Although there are many online suppliers of metal tools, I try to buy local whenever I can to support the economy of my local community. Doing a quick google map search for any of the above items or ‘metal supplies’ with your zip code is a good way to research suppliers in your area. I recommend the following suppliers nationwide:
Armstrong (my local, great people)
To begin. For piercing to be the most effective, start with flat metal sheet. If you go thinner than 24 gauge, the metal becomes difficult to work with because it is too flexible; if you go thicker than 10 gauge you will break your saw blade often, your arm will tire, and tight corners will be very difficult.
Plan your design. You can do this a few different ways. The most time-consuming, but with the greatest room for correction, is to put your design down on paper first. Your drawn design will need to be the exact size you want in the finished metal object. You can start with pencil, erasing any mistakes until you achieve the exact lines you are looking for, and then when you have them, mark over them again with permanent ink. (I suggest a fine point Sharpie in a dark color) For the technically savvy, you can use Adobe Illustrator or other graphic designing program. Pretty much any paper will do the trick, though I would avoid heavy fibrous paper like construction paper because as the saw passes along the lines it will tear the paper and create a fluffed up edge, making your design difficult to see. I find regular computer paper works best. Once you have your design, use a glue to adhere the paper to the surface of the metal. The glue needs to completely connect with all areas between the paper and metal. The two glues I have found work best are rubber cement brushed onto the entire surface of the metal, or any aerosol spray glue sprayed evenly across the entire back of the paper. Press the paper and metal together, and wait to dry. Another way to apply your design is to draw right on metal. This is often how I do it, and again, I recommend using a fine point Sharpie. I will generally use a light color to map out the initial design, correct with a different light color, then go over the final design with a black line to guide my saw.
NOTE: Remember that the thinner the metal, the more flexible it is. So if you have a line or shape that starts at the far end of the sheet, and cuts right through to the other side, chances are your finished object will bend at the connecting point and your sheet will loose it’s rigidity. Also keep in mind that you are removing material from the metal as you cut. Therefore, think carefully about shapes inside of shapes. The shapes you want to keep need to be completely connected to the rest of the design structure otherwise they will fall out. Think of shapes in terms of the negative space they will create, or think about the way stencil letters have broken forms to keep their shapes intact.
Pierce the metal. Now that you have your design you can start piercing it out. I always start with the interior shapes first and work my way out to the edges. This way the metal is strongest for the most difficult cuts. Use your drill to put a small hole in the metal either on a line, or an inside space in the design that will be removed. For this, I find a drill press works well, but you can also use any household drill as long as you can secure the metal to something stiff while you drill. (A vise clamping the metal sheet to a block of wood works well.) Thread your jeweler’s saw through the hole and attach the blade back onto the saw frame. Now lay your sheet metal flat onto a stiff surface and move the blade up and down perpendicular to the floor. Keep your blade moving up and down and spin the metal to curve the line in different directions. To support your metal, I recommend a bench pin with a ‘V’ cut into it. Another handy supply to have on hand is beeswax. This can be periodically slid it over your saw blade to help it bite through the metal without too much friction, which can hamper the effectiveness of the blade’s motion.
Finish. Once you have completed piercing your design, you can remove the extra paper still attached to the metal. Then step back and admire your work. At this point you can survey your lines and look for inconsistencies. Go back over your lines with your blade if necessary. You can also use a small file, sand paper, or a polishing tool (like a Dremel) to clean up the edges. Please note that unfinished edges will be sharp so take care to smooth any edges that will be held or otherwise come in contact with skin.
Congratulations! You now know how to pierce metal! Experiment with different shapes, lines, variations in metal thickness and/or saw blade thickness until you have the experience to conquer more and more complex designs.
To purchase this item please click here:
To see other examples of how I have used this technique in my work, please have a look at the Arianna jewelry line here:
*Metal isn’t the only thing you can pierce! Expand your crafting repertoire by using this same technique on the following mediums: Wood, PVC (or any plastic), and plexiglass. Pretty much if you can drill a hole through it with a regular wood driver, you can pierce it.