Intro: Flame Coloring and Making a Steel Flower
The beauty of making sheet metal art is that once you have the right tools, you're really only limited by your imagination in terms of what you can make. This project cost me about $3 in materials, and I could certainly sell it for a lot more than that.
As I talked about in one of my other Instructables, Metalworking is a fun way to relieve stress and make inexpensive items that you can sell or give as gifts.
My previous instructable on Metalworking:
Step 1: Materials and Tools
For this project, we will need a few materials and tools.
- 22 Gauge sheet steel
- Two bolts
- Two steel rods with threaded holes in the ends
- Our printed design
- Spray can of clear coat for metal
- Ear protection
- Ball-pein Hammer
- Tin snips
- Hacksaw or dremel
- Curved metal file
- Needle Nose pliers (preferably toothless)
- A scriber or other sharp metal point
If you have a tool that you think can do the same or better job than one above, by all means use it. This is just what I used.
Step 2: The Design
Our Flower will be made up of four parts; the head, the upper stem, the leaves, and the lower stem.
The design of the petals was done by David W. Wilson in his project, which can be found below:
This design lets us bolt together the pieces, letting us modify and repair the flower easily, and is a godsend for people who don't have access to welding equipment.
I used his petal design but did not make a very tulip-like flower by the time I was done. The leaf pattern I drew freehand. You could use the below image as a pattern that I think would work quite well.
Step 3: Applying Our Design
We want to cut out the designs as close as we can, trying to cut with smooth curves. This will make our job easier later.
Make little loops out of the tape and attach the tape to the backs of the cutouts. Stick them down onto the steel. Now we will trace around them with our scriber or other sharp object. A thumb tack with a handle will do, or you could use a marker if you're alright with sanding it off later.
After we've marked the outline of each shape, we can peel off and discard the cutouts. Don't forget to mark the drill holes at the end of each leaf and petal, and in the center of the 3-petal piece.
Step 4: Cut Out the Design
Next we'll take our tin snips and cut around the shapes. This part can be hard work, and be VERY CAREFUL of the sharp edges left behind. Don't worry about bending the steel a little bit to get the snips into place.
Take the hammer and lightly hit the piece to flatten it out, since it will definitely have become bent during the cutting. The edges are extremely sharp so we need to file them down smoother. File around the edges, looking for metal burrs that are like tiny metal slivers that stick up or out from the edges. File them off or pluck them off with needle nose pliers.
Now that the edges are smooth, we can move on to the fun part!
Step 5: Hammering Our Petals
The first thing to do is smooth the edges of each piece with the hammer. Place the piece on the flat of the anvil and hit around the edges lightly, so that the marks left from filing and the tin snips are flattened and almost invisible. Take a look at the pictures in this step to see what you're going for.
This step requires some experience with metal shaping, because we need to "feel" the hammer and metal, and how and where to hit it to shape it. Resting it on the horn and flat portion of the anvil and striking it with a hammer, squeezing it in a vice and bending it with the toothless pliers is labour intensive, and not really something that can be described. Basically, just keep working on it until you have shapes that you like. If you don't like how it looks, just keep trying. The metal is forgiving and you can do a lot of hammering before the metal becomes unusable. Feel free to practice a bit on some scrap before you start with the petal.
When you're happy, Flatten out the back end of the piece where our drill mark was, so that we can drill it. We're drilling it now because during all that hammering the hole would have become deformed. Drill a hole slightly bigger than the diameter of your bolt so that the bolt passes through with little clearance.
Put the bolt in the 3-petal piece and hold it in place with a screwdriver while sliding the outer petals onto the bolt. If everything is satisfactory, thread the rod onto the bolt. to get it tight, put the rod in your vice and then while holding the flower petals in one hand, turn the screwdriver and tighten it up.
Step 6: Flame-Coloring the Petals
Now that its bolted together, lets leave it gripped in the vice. Take the blowtorch and slowly heat the piece evenly until you begin to see color changes happening.
Heat it carefully until its the colour you want. You can heat different parts of it to different colours, but be very careful to not overheat unintended parts of the flower.
Make sure you have good lighting while you do this, to make sure you can see the colors well.
I colored mine so that the tips of the inner petals turned purple, and the rest of it was golden/straw colored.
Take a look at the color chart below, shamelessly stolen from member jtobako who stole them from http://www.tpub.com/content/aviation/14018/css/14018_664.htm and http://www.giantimpex.com/colorchart.htm
Step 7: Hammering the Leaves
To make the leaves, we are first going to put it in the vice horizontally, half-way protruding. Now, hit the leaf with a hammer so that it develops a bend in the middle. Squeeze the leaf in the vice until it has been folded in half. Use a flat-head screwdriver to pry the halves open, and place on the anvil and hit with a hammer and bend with pliers until it opens up almost flat, but still has a crease in the center.
Now, we are going to hammer a curve into the tip of the leaf. Hammer the tip flat, and then hammer it against the curve of the anvil horn until it is curved the way you want it.
We need to flatten out the base of the leaf so that we can drill a hole in it. If it is still folded, place it on a 90 degree corner of the anvil and hit lightly from behind until it opens up, then rest it on the flat of the anvil so it makes an upside-down V shape and hit from behind until its flat.
Drill our hole in the marked spot.
We need to saw the head off our second bolt with a hacksaw. Grip it in your vice so it sticks out horizontally, and saw the head off. Be careful and try to keep the blade in one place so it doesn't damage the threads, and cut as straight as possible.
When that's complete, screw one end into the upper portion of the stem, put the leaves on the protruding bolt, and screw the lower portion of the stem on. If it doesn't stay, try some lock-washers or using a thread locking compound like Lock-Tite.
Step 8: Flame Coloring the Leaves
Repeat the flame coloring process for the leaves and the stem. You may want to remove the flower head from the stem to make sure that no further discoloration happens to it.
Run the torch over the leaves and stem, moving up and down to heat it evenly until the colors begin to show.
After it has cooled and we're happy with everything, we can move on to clear-coating the flower.
Step 9: Finished!
So now that we're done, what to do with this thing?
I'll be giving mine to my girlfriend tomorrow, hopefully she has a positive reaction. Some ideas of what you could do with these are:
- A bouquet would make a good centerpiece for your dinner table
- Add a longer stem and stick in your garden
- A much smaller version could be made into a broach or large hair pin
Another thing you could do with it is stick a candle down the center of the flower and make a dining table centerpiece out of it.
Thanks for reading, and good luck with your own projects. Your imagination is your limit, so get to work!