Saturday, August 22, 2015

The Making of "Steampowered 57 Chevy brooch II"

On July 2, 2015 I completed my second interpretation of the classic 1957 Chevy.  It is a brooch, approximately 3 inches long, and comes with a frame so that it may be displayed when not being worn.  It is made of pewter, brass and copper with a nickel silver pin back.

Like my first 1957 Chevy brooch, it is "steampowered" and interactive.  This time it includes three moving parts.  The door opens/closes, the steering wheel turns AND it has a coal bin - the bin lid opens/closes.

I am often asked how my pieces are made.  The process does differ somewhat from one piece to another.  Having said that, the making of this piece is more or less typical of how I make my wearable sculpture brooches.  I took photos as I made it chronicling the process.  Those photos follow with explanations of the process.

But first, pictures of the completed piece itself and in its frame.

The creation process:

First - the sketch.  In the first photo, the paper with the images I was working with sits on my bench. The image that I used has been cut out.  The next photo shows the body of the brooch cut out of solid pewter plate stock WITH the sketch still glued to the pewter.  The pewter stock chosen is 9 mm thick.

I have removed the paper and "made notes" on the pewter.

Shaping the body has begun - using saws and grinding tools:

Here is the the body (in early stages) shown with the piece of pewter plate that is was sawed out of:

I sawed out the door and the passenger compartment.

I then added some brass parts.  The first of these were two pieces of brass angle stock.  These are not only decorative, but also functional.   I added them to underside and outside edges of the passenger compartment adding strength to this thin (and hence, weak) part of the body.  "Rivet" details were hammered onto one side.  On the underside I drilled a number of holes and inserted brass pegs - when completed, these will make nice details.

Brass details were also added to the fin area - a piece of sheet with rivet details was fitted as well as a brass wire (adding some height). 

This BOTTOM view photo also shows that I have been hollowing out the body in the wheel well area.  Extensive hollowing out of the piece is necessary so that it will be light enough to be worn without "pulling" fabrics.  Also visible in this photo is some pewter weld that I added to replace a small area of pewter that was removed in error.

I set aside the body for a while and started work on the boiler.  I had made a boiler out of pewter and brass for the first 1957 Chevy brooch.  Before using that boiler, I had a mold made and had several castings made in brass.  The boiler for this piece began with one of those castings.

I made a number of pieces and parts to be attached to the basic boiler.  The exhaust transfer pipe was made from brass rod.  The steam transfer pipe was made from brass rod and a piece of brass tubing with turned (as on a lathe, but I use a hand held machine) details.   The air intake was fashioned from two pieces of tubing and a brass rod.

After assembling the boiler parts (no pic) I began making wheels.

I sawed circles out of pewter stock, drilled a hole in the middle and soldered a brass rod in place.  This enabled me to attach the pewter wheel-to-be to my flexible shaft machine for turning (as on a lathe).  The first part of the turning process was to "true up" the circle - making it perfectly round.

and bring it to the desired diameter.  

Next the wheel starts to take shape and tread lines are cut in.  Earlier, I had made a hub cap and had it cast in brass.

The next step is to make a proper seat for the hubcap in the new wheel.

This process was repeated for the second wheel.

Time to work on other parts.  I made the hinge for the door and attached 1/2 to the door - also began construction of the door handle.

Also, the windshield; which began with brass square tubing, cut and bent to shape and cuts soldered close.

Additional parts were made and soldered into place (this one is ready for soldering).

After all of the parts of the windshield were soldered together, the windshield was soldered to the car.
Note that the wheels and hubcaps are already soldered in place.  Also, I build and attached front and rear bumpers.

Next up was the steering assembly and hollowing out the coal bin.  Also, the final boiler location was determined and a hole made for the exhaust transfer pipe (fixing the boiler location).

Before the steering unit could be soldered into place, the instrument panel gauges needed to be soldered.  Then the steering was soldered in two places - the column was soldered into its notch and the post was soldered to the floor.

There was also additional hollowing out (to reduce weight) and the coal bin cover hinge was begun.

I usually make hinges by soldering tubing onto plate and then sawing apart (using the thinnest saw blades generally available).

After the parts for the hinge were made, one section was soldered to the boiler, the other is shown next to the coal bin lid - I will be soldering them to each other next.  Also, there will be a handle for the coal bin which will be constructed and also soldered to the coal pin lid.

This wearable sculpture is nearing completion.  But first, two more parts.  I made a headlight in the style of nineteenth century calcium stage lights out of three pieces of copper & brass; and I made a hood ornament from a brass wire.

In addition, many of the parts received a "cleaning" (smoothing out of rough spots, etc).

Here are the parts ready for final assembly.

Here is the "completed" piece (after final assembly and "cleaning" but before "finishing").

The last process is "finishing".  The piece is washed, "blackened", and shined (the high points are brushed go give them a shine).

The final result, several views:

I may be contacted about this piece at .

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Steampowered '57 Chevy #II brooch completed

My newest Wearable Sculpture Brooch has finally been completed.

My first Steampowered '57 Chevy was sold the day after it was completed - very few people got to see it.

I made another, which is now finished and available at Frog Hollow Gallery in Burlington, VT - offered at $2495.00.

Here are a few pic:

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Framed Brooches

The next wearable sculpture brooch (with frame) is my Gear Drive Rocket Ship.  It is available at: - offered at $885.00.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

My "Steam Locomotive I" wearable sculpture brooch is available at: - offered at $2950.00

There has been lots of interest in this piece.  It took me more than a year to make.
I photographed much of process and thought that I would share the process with you here.

The Making of Steam Locomotive I

First, pictures of the finished piece - by itself and in its frame.

I started with a picture of an old steam locomotive.  I cut up the picture, rearranged parts and       made changes.

Then I decided which pieces should be made out of brass, and which should be made from pewter. The next decision ... of those parts, which ones am I likely to want to use more than once?

With that decision made, it was time to get to the workbench and make parts.  The parts that would be used more than once (like the drive wheels) I would make ONLY ONCE (as "models") and have someone else cast them for me.  The following pictures show the original models of the parts that I sent to the caster.  The wires leading to the parts are called "gates" and are the pathways that the liquid metal passes through to fill the mold.

I used Schaler Mfg, in RI to do the casting for me.

The above four pictures are of parts to be cast in brass.

The picture just above are parts to be cast in pewter.  Only one of these is part of the locomotive - the others are parts for me to use to make future rocket ships and airships - all four of these are pictured together, because all four pieces went into the same mold.

Once I had all of the cast parts, they needed to be "cleaned."  That is the process or removing gates and irregularities (sawing & filing) and, in general smoothing things out.  Also, wheels needed to have holes drilled (for the axles to go through, and for the connecting rod to go through).

Next, I started making other parts and began assembly.  The undercarriage was first - the pewter plates first; the brass plates added to the outer pewter plate function as a baring for the wheels and are decorative.  Holes were drilled for the axles.  Then I used mini brass bolts to keep the plates in place and the proper distance apart.

Then I made the wheel assembly - soldering the connecting rods to the linkage and then attaching that unit to the drive wheels.  Next the very important step of fitting the wheel assembly into the under carriage - making sure that everything was going to fit AND work.

Once I was satisfied that the wheels fit properly, I set them aside to wait for final assembly.

Time to work on larger pieces.  The cylindrical "barrel" was welded to the undercarriage; and the cabin was constructed.

The cabin began with the floor, which butted against the "barrel" and rested atop the undercarriage, in effect, tying the cabin to the rest of the structure.  The rest of the cabin parts were made and assembled in the order indicated.

Then I cut out the window and engraved a line around it.
The little decorative corner at the top of the cabin was soldered into place.

I turned (like on a lathe, but I used a hand held machine) the remaining larger parts:

smoke stack, piston, steam dome, sand dome.

Of these, the smoke stack was the first to be soldered into place.  Then the steam dome.
I used brass wires to make the four pieces of "strapping" that run bottom to top around
the "barrel."   Then the sand dome was fitted and soldered into place.

I made the "walkway" from brass sheet & wire and fitted it into place - making sure that it
would not rub against the wheels after final assembly.  The handrail came next, made from brass wire.

I fitted nickel silver tubing into the holes where the drive wheel axels would be inserted to make
sure that the axels would go in smoothly.

The pewter piston was fitted to the front, just over the small forward wheel.

Before doing the final wheel assembly, I did the final detailing of the cabin and textured the "barrel." And soldered the bar pin onto the back.

Next - importantly - I spent nearly a day grinding away any bits of metal that did not need to remain on the piece - this is a brooch after all, and it would not do to have it too heavy to wear!

Before soldering the wheels into place, I added one final detail ......  the brass steam whistle!

Then the painstaking job of getting the wheels into place and working correctly.

Then going over the whole piece smoothing out any imperfections.

Now the brooch is "complete."  But it is still not "finished."  
Finishing requires blackening the metals and shining the parts that need to be shined, which was next.

Finally finished this brooch, a modest 2 inches long
took about 68 separate pieces of metal were fashioned (57 are part of the brooch, the others were gates made for the models) and 90 individual soldering/welding operations (72 on the brooch and 18 to assemble the models).  

And, still to be done, the framing.

My concept is to have the brooch beautifully displayed in a frame BUT easily removed from its frame so that it can be worn and then easily put back into the frame and displayed.  I was especially keen to have the wheels sit on a brass rail when the brooch was in its frame.  

First I secured a great frame from Dostie Brothers Frame Shop near my studio in Burlington, VT.

Then I proceeded to make the two metal parts necessary to make my plan work. 

1st - a brass piece with two hooks (just enough hook to hold the pin on the back of the brooch - but not sooo much hook that getting the brooch in and out would be difficult.)

2 nd - a way to hold the rail the correct distance from the back of the matt, 
and to keep it (firmly) at the correct hight (relative to the hooks). 

After getting everything lined up so that it worked properly and looked great, the pieces were bolted to the matt.  All of which took way more work than I had imagined.

And, again, the finished piece:

You are invited to share this post and to leave comments.

- Mark Eliot Schwabe, SteamSmith