Introduction: Recycled Copper Butterfly for V-Day

This project's goal is to create a Valentine's Day gift using recycled electrical wire, misc. items from the household and hollowed out light bulbs.

This is my first instructable, and constructive criticism is greatly appreciated. The core of this will be to explain the copper butterfly build, and how I put it into play with the stuff I had around the house.

I now call this the "Butterfly Garden" since it will soon sprout plants.

Step 1: Materials

Your imagination is needed for some supplies unless you have the same type things available at your place.

1. Copper wire in various gauges. I used electrical wire, that salvaged when my employer opened a new place, for the main pieces. I then used solid core speaker wire, along with some teflon coated electrical wire aquired from the new store as well. How much you need depends on the size you want. Draw it out first like I will explain so you can get a general idea.

2. Various hand tools like pliers, wire cutters, razor knife (for stripping long pieces of wire) a vise helps as well.

3. Metal files. I put a small area of filing on the support in order to mask imperfections on it. So pick which files you need, but at least use one to file down the copper edges after cutting it.

4. 4-5 standard socket light bulbs. Use whatever wattage/size you want, but by using a standard socket you have tons of options.

5. Soldering gun and accompanying accessories. Flux is a must when doing thick copper wire.

6. A base stand. I used an old candlestick. You can use lamp bases, copper tubing, PVC or anything similar.

7. The support pole. I used a very old drapery rod. Good old fashioned steel that was HARD to bend in to shape. Again copper tubing or something similar is good. Keep in mind it will support 4-5 bulbs full of water.

8. A means to connect the pole to the base. I used the insides of an old trophy. Seems that long screw was just perfect. I topped it off with the butt-end of a knife sharpener handle.

9. Paper, pencil, pen or marker.

10. Steel wool and some fine grit sandpaper. For cleaning up soldered areas on the copper.

11. OPTIONAL - Rocaille Beads. I used these for the inside of the wings. I strung them on speaker wire to support them and hold the angles.

12. MUST HAVE - An open mind and imagination!

This is my first big project with copper wire, as well as a soldering gun. So prior experience in these areas is not really needed.

Step 2: The Light Bulbs

This instructable will fill you in on "gutting" light bulbs. Get 4-5 cleaned out for the project, but for now we only need one.

We are going to make the hangers for the light bulbs using copper wire. The nice thing about these hangers is that they are removable, just screw the light bulb out whenever needed.

Step 3: The Light Bulb Sockets

The first picture shows how the assembly hooks on to the support pole.

Let's make some!

Picture2 - Make a hook on the end of a 1.5-2 foot wire.

Picture3 - Start at the glass end of the threads and wrap the wire around and to the end of the bulb. You want to stop on the opposite side of the hook to prepare for the next step.

Picture4 - Bend the wire out from the bulb, and lay the hook down agains tthe bulb on the other side.

Picture5 - Now bend the excess wire over the bulb to create a handle.

Picture6 - Make a hook with the excess to cinch the two together. You'll need 4-5 of these assembled for the next steps.

Picture7 - Coil some wire around your future support pole. It is important to use the same pole you will use so that the size is not too big or small. We want the sockets to be a snug fit. Make as many loops around the pole as you have sockets.

Picture8 - Cut the loops and form them into circles.

Picture9 - Now we take the loops and solder them on to the handles of the sockets. We want them in the center point. So I set the handle on my finger, marked the point where the bulb was hanging center, and soldered there.

Picture10 - Once done with those, you can get fancy. I made the Vday socket for my girlfriend. It's the "primary".

Step 4: Let's Fly! Make Some Wings!

Ok, we need to draw out our plan if you haven't already. This not only informs you of approximate wire length needed, but also serves as a bending guide.

1 - This is my plan. Inside are the future beaded wires, but for now we are doing the framework. For stability (even though the wings provide no support in this project) we are going to make the top wings from one piece, and the bottom wings from another piece.

2 to 7 - Bend, bend, bend. Time to strain the fingers! Notice how I use the plan to make the bends. I constantly place the wire on the plan to ensure it's going right. Now we aren't going to be perfection here, a little give and take here and there is quite ok, just try to stay symmetrical.

8 - Here we have our basic frame. Lets lock it down if it's acceptable. Then trim up and clean the edges with sandpaper/file and then steel wool.

9 - Check your frame, then flatten it out. You can do this between two pieces of wood in a vise, or books while standing on them ect. We just don't want any major waves going on.

Step 5: The Butterfly Body

I wanted to make a unique body for the butterfly. Everyone always uses a simple "stick" theory with two antennae stuck on it. Or, they choose to coil wire and put a marble on top. Plus I needed some way for the butterfly to hold, and support, a light bulb with water in it. So here goes...

Picture1 - Enter the secret bending tool, a sharpie marker. Let's bend a circle in the middle of a 2 foot wire.

Picture2 - Put a 90 degree bend in the circle, as well as bringing the excess wire in to lay against each other.

Picture3 - Tricky move here. Bend the circle over to touch the two excess wires. Then form a "V" as seen in the picture. This will force the two wires to seperate, yet again. It's ok, they are about to be re-worked anyway.

Picture4 - Form curves with the excess wire, let them long for now, do not begin cutting yet. But, set this aside, your done with the top of the body.

Picture5 - Grab another 2 foot wire and bend it over to touch itself. We want a good bend here, sharp angle, so you might squeeze it slightly with some pliers.

Picture6 - Form a curve with this piece and bring the ends together as in the picture. Notice it also has a spoon like curve. Now set this piece aside, you're done with it.

Picture7 - Now get another 2 foot piece of wire and lets find something to coil it on. I used a screwdriver bit. Simply because we want the coil to taper at one end. So I started on the large side, and ended on the actual bit side. You will have long excess ends, leave them!

Picture8 - Now lets seperate the coil a bit. I ran a small screwdriver inbetween the coils, which gives it even seperation.

Picture9 - Time to piece it together. Grab the top half of the body and solder the coil to it at the back end. Notice the excess towards the front is at a 90 degree angle to the body...leave it! It will later become the hook for the bulb!

Picture10 - Now get the bottom half and solder it to the assembled top and middle. Notice I used wire to hold it in place.

Picture11 - This is what I used for extra support. A copper plate I cannibalized from an old PC motherboard. You can bet, if it's copper, I'm keeping it. I clipped one of the fingers off and wrapped it around the base of the body.

Picture12 - Body secure. Straighten out the excess to run parallel to each other, but do not cut yet.

Step 6: The Inside of the Wings

Time to do the inside, saved the best for last...yeah right. You might use Rocailles like I did, or something else. My girlfriend had a lot of Rocailles around that I aquired, so lets try em out.

Now there is no right or wrong way, that I know of, to string beads onto copper wire. I used a simple method of putting the beads in a tray, and rolling the beads onto the wire one by one. It didn't take as long as I thought it would.

My advice is to string beads on a really long piece, and cut it little by little to fit what you need. Simply because getting the beads in and out is a pain, you always lose some. I used the solid core speaker wire for my beads. It's small, yet solid enough to hold it's form.

Once you get the beads on the wire, it's time to put it on. I first went in and marked a small place where each wire would connect to the frame. I then filed down a small knotch to hold the wire in place. I did this so I would not have to solder each wire, then have cool down time before the next one.

Picture1 - Using your plan, mark the edges and file them slightly to secure your wire. There is no right or wrong place to start this, but I suggest a simple line first.

Picture2 - Start your line by wrapping the wire around the frame. Don't worry about it being bulky right now, we can file it down later.

Picture3 - Run the wire (don't worry with bead neatness) to the destination and check the form of it. Once it's about right, then we can tighten the beads in. Secure the wire to the other side with the same wrap around.

Picture4 and 5 - Showing progress on the bead lines.

Picture6 - This shows how I instersected one bead line into another. It was suprisingly stable.

Picture7 - Beginning the top bead lines.

Picture8 - The finished lines. Now its time to solder them on. I made sure each line was tight, then clipped the excess with fine wire cutters. Minimal solder is needed to hold this thin wire.

Step 7: Form the Body to the Support Pole

Now it's time to form those excess wires on the body to the support pole. Those long wires will be the support for the bulb. Trick is the lower section is going to be the main support.

Picture1 - You should have two wires coming from the lower section, and one from the middle coil. The copper piece from the motherboard plate also doubles as a stop in this case. It will rest against the support, although my design is not arched enough to worry with that.

Picture2 - Take the two wires from the bottom section and wrap them around the support pole. Choose your own design if you wish, but I liked the weave effect. Then solder them together and trim them down.

Next bring the single wire from the middle section up and over the other two. Bring it back towards the body and cinch it down. Apply a bit of solder to secure it to the previous two wires and file the area down.

Picture3 - Now take the body and wire it to the wings. Check for fit, position ect. If everything looks good, solder it down. Remember it does not have to be weight bearing solder, the wings just rest on the body.

Picture4 - This is what you should have now. Notice the weight bearing wires on the support pole. Trust me, electricians wire, especially when bent and hardened from friction, will support the weight.

Step 8: The Support Pole Visited

As previously stated, I used a steel drape rod for my support. Depending on what you use you may use your hands to bend it to your liking.

I had to vise bend mine. And further, I wanted a spiral effect with my small candle base that seemed to defy gravity when the bulbs are placed on. I had to bend, rebend, bend some more, then bend again to get the effect I wanted.

Picture1 - This is a shot of the support pole before bending. You can slightly see the imprefection on the bottom. It was a good chunk of metal missing. So I did some filework, seen in photo 2, to mask that area.

Picture2 - The finished bend! Note the filework placed sporratically on the pole. That is where the bulb sockets will rest. To test it I simple clamped the pole to my desk and filled the bulbs with water to place them on. Small wood clamps held them in place while I played with teh weight load.

Step 9: The Base

Now I used a candlestick for my base. It was a 1 inch taper candlestick. The reason I chose the candlestick is obvious, it's awesome, but never used. Made of silver and brass it was perfect.

To mount the support bar I simply unscrewed the top of the candlestick, revealing a hollow middle.

I then cannibalized an old trophy of mine to get that long screw. The screw didn't even need to be cut off! You may have seen the support bar had a hole at the base, perfect for mounting.

Insert trophy screw from bottom of candlestick, strategically placing a nut on the bottom to keep it from comign through the center. I then bolted the support pole to the candlestick, only to encounter a problem. It looked rather unsightly with that big metal bolt and nut right in the middle.

So I delved through some stuff and located one of those handheld butcherknife sharpeners. On the bottom end it had a removable steel cap, that was originally used to hang it. It fit the bolt perfectly and was placed on the top to ease the looks.

Step 10: Put It All Together

Time to put it all together! What's nice about the bulb hangers is they fit perfectly on your fingers once you fill em up with water. Nice carrying them that easily.

Don't forget to bend the wire on the bottom of the body to fit the bulb hanger for the front bulb.

Here are some shots of the finished product, along with a second butterfly I did, that involves copper inside the wings.

And to add to the project, a poem would be nice. I wanted to etch a piece of sheet metal with this using the Altoid Tin etch instructable, but I ran out of time.

"For my special girl, I let my creativity whirl.
From trash to treasure, it will now last forever.
Not unlike my feeelings for you, the love in this gift no one can ever undo.
One question is on my mind, will you be my ever lasting Valentine?"

Comments

author
SilverMa made it!(author)2008-11-07

This is awesome, your girlfriend is a lucky gil!! I just love it, thanks for instuctions!! SilverMa

author
GroundedDreamer made it!(author)2008-07-19

I bet vivaterra would be interested in this item.....make yourself some $$! :) great instructable...beauty and recycling in one....AWESOME!

author
iBurn made it!(author)2008-06-24

It'd be even cooler if you used the light bulb candles instead of just filling them with water. Add to the romance and all that.

author
rusticgal made it!(author)2008-03-25

Absolutely BEAUTIFUL. Very artistic. Have you thought of entering it into a show. Have you patented the patern and idea. BEAUTIFUL, I LOVE IT!!!!!

author
CandyMarie made it!(author)2007-02-20

I just wanted everyone to know that I have the most amazing boyfriend in the world. I absolutely love my Valentine's gift! I can't wait to get some plants into the lightbulbs. I will say that the pictures don't produce the same effect as it has in real life - it's beautiful! :)

author
leebryuk made it!(author)2008-02-13

It's a nice thing for you to recognise and thank your boyfriend on the board. Nice move.

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incorrigible+packrat made it!(author)2008-02-12

Man! That is slick times 33 and a third.

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Seanzee made it!(author)2008-02-05

This is really cool, and i don't know if anyone else has pointed this out or even remembers the game but it reminds me of an old Windows (or maybe it was Dos) game called "Lighthouse".... it looks like a prop that would have been in the game lol. Great Job!

author
Legionnary made it!(author)2007-02-22

Thanks again for the compliments. Yes it did take longer than I expected, because Iwent through some trial and error on certain parts. Add to that I was learning to solder copper. Do you always begin soldering with getting too much? I strongly considered the food coloring in the water. I, like you, think it would add a nice touch. But I'm going to check in to what food color would do to plantlife, since that's my ultimate goal.

author
stellertony made it!(author)2007-02-24

I know certain flowers, like white carnations and daisies, will turn the colour of the dye if you cut them and place them in the water...not sure if that would happen with live plants or not.

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mever made it!(author)2007-02-22

amazing work, it was worth the time you put into it.

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dhoncave made it!(author)2007-02-22

how about putting different food coloring into the water in the bulbs for a livelier piece.

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T3h_Muffinator made it!(author)2007-02-21

Wow, just wow! This is amazing and must have taken some serious time, but it seems well worth it. Excellent job!

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Legionnary made it!(author)2007-02-19

This siteinspired us to plant water plants in the bulbs. I'm in the process of making a "tool" to help with cleaning, arranging in the bulbs. Thank you so much for the compliment! My g/f loves it, and is ready to take it to work as soon as I quit adding things, lol.

author
jah_temp01 made it!(author)2007-02-18

Wow. This looks absolutely phenomenal. One thing, though; you said you'd be putting plants (cut flowers, I assume?) into the bulbs, but you've got the holes positioned directly underneath the support loops and there's really not much clearance. Anybody building this might want to consider leaving a little more space between the top of the bulb and the support loop. All in all, though, I love it.

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