Introduction: 3D Metal Flowers

About: Collaborative workspace with digital and traditional fabrication tools, 3D printers, CNC machines, classes, events, and professional consulting services.

Have you seen those beautiful metal flowers at fairs or online? Normally, they are welded together, so they require special tools to make. This guide will show you a couple of alternative ways to assemble your flowers so that you can make your own - no welder required!

Step 1: Getting Started

Let's gather all of our materials. For this project, you'll need:

- Thin gauge sheet or plate metal
- Wire or metal rod
- Pattern (provided in .pdf) and other layout materials

We'll go over many different tools you can use to make your flower. Depending on what materials you choose, some tools will be more appropriate than others. If you're not sure of what tools will work the best, try different methods to find the best option. Wire, thin tube, rod will all require different attachment methods.

Step 2: Layout Your Pattern

Print the PDF or make your own pattern. If you use the provided pattern, you will need two petal pieces, one inside piece and one sepal. Roughly cut out the patterns with scissors and attach to your metal with an Elmer's glue stick (or trace the shapes on to your metal with a Sharpie). Place them far enough apart on the metal so you'll have space to cut them out.

Step 3: Cutting Your Pieces

Get your general shape with some rough cuts. You can do this with a sheet metal shear, an iron worker, a band saw, or even tin snips for thin material. Cutting the material down and separating the parts from each other will make it easier to make the small cuts.

Use a band saw to get the actual shape cut out. For thinner, softer metals such as aluminum, you may be able to use tin snips to cut your parts. Tin snips have a hard time getting into tight corners or making smooth curves and have a tendency to bend or gnarl material, so a band saw is typically better for this part.

Step 4: Drill

Look at your stem and determine what size hole you will need for your petals. If you will be crimping a thin tube or bending the ends of the wire for affixing your petals, get a drill bit as close to the outside diameter of your stem as possible.

If you have a rod, you will need to tap the stem and petals. Measure what diameter your rod is. You may be able to thread your rod directly and tap the petals. If your rod diameter is not close to a tap-able size, you can drill a hole in the top of the rod, thread the hole and attach your petals with a bolt. In these cases, drill a hole that is an appropriate size for the tap you need to use. Drill size charts for tapped holes can be easily found online or in the shop.

Drill completely through the sheet metal pieces and only about a half inch into the rod (if you need to drill into the rod).

Step 5: Deburr the Edges

Remove all the sharp edges and burrs from your pieces. You can use files and deburring tools for the holes and tight spaces. For longer edges, you can use the hand or belt sander.

You can put a finish on the pieces at this point with the pneumatic grinders, orbital sanders, wire brushes, Scotch-Brite, paint, etc.

Step 6: Bend the Petals

You can make the petal bends with a sheet metal brake to get nice, crisp bends. Make sure that the petals fit together when you bend them. For the sepal and the inner piece, you can bend them with a vice and a pair of pliers.

Step 7: The Stem - Crimping

If you're using wire or very thin tubing, get a pair of pliers - we're going to make a stop in the stem. Either crush the portion of the tube right under where you want your petals to sit with your pliers, or bend a stop in your wire to make a point your petals will not slide past.

Step 8: The Stem - Threading

If you chose the rod method, this is a little more time consuming but gives a a great and very cool result.

If your rod is an appropriate diameter to thread the outside, grab a tap and die for the selected thread size, a tap handle, a die handle, and some tapping/cutting fluid. For the sheet metal parts, you'll use the tap and for the rod you'll use the die. Taps create internal threads while dies create external ones.

Place your pieces in a vice one at a time. Clamp the pieces so they will not rotate. Begin to tap the hole by pressing the tap into the hole and turning a full turn clockwise followed by a quarter turn backwards. Tapping fluid is used to lubricate the cutting of the threads, not using Tapping Fluid can result in tap/die breakage or the threads not cutting properly. Repeat this process until you have reached the full thickness of the tap. Do your best to keep the tap perpendicular to your piece. There are alignment devices out there to aid you with keeping the thread straight. Back the tap out carefully and your piece is threaded. For the rod, you'll repeat the same process only with the die.

If you put a hole in the top of your rod, follow the same process (but only tap the inside of that hole) and make sure to find a bolt with the same thread.

Step 9: Bring Your Flower to Life

Now you can assemble your flower! Slide or screw all of the parts onto the stem. Crimp the top of the tube or fold over the top of the wire to lock the petals in place. Enjoy your never-wilting flower!