This project functions as a fun, small, accent piece to brighten up and decorate a space.
Things you will need:
- *Wood lathe
- *Wooden mold
- *5 1/2" Aluminum disc
- *Metal shaping tools
- *Metal lubricant
- *Tool rest and leverage peg
- Protective eyewear
- Fake plant
- Light source
*Items required for turning your own cup, should you choose to do so instead of purchasing one
Step 1: Turning a Cup
To start this process, you must first attach your wooden mold to the lathe. The aluminum will be forced in, toward the wide portion of the cup, so this is where the mold will attach. Next, the disk must be wedged between the tail end of the mold (on the left), and the stop block (on the right). Once secure, ever so slightly lessen the pressure on the stop block such that the disc can be pulled on and moved, but not so much so that it will fall from the mold.
Start the lathe spinning and very carefully take a small, straight piece of wood to bump the disc to center it on the mold. To do this, place the wood at an angle between the leverage peg and disc while the lathe is spinning, such that it is not yet making contact with the metal. Slowly and carefully begin to straighten out the wood so that it begins to touch the disc. Continue slowly moving the wood until you feel the disc center itself. This will feel like the contact with the metal has suddenly smoothed out. Retighten the stop block.
Now that the disc is centered, it's time to start shaping the metal. Position your dominant hand palm-up on the end of the handle closest to the metal portion of the tool (on the brass piece). The wooden portion of your tool should be held up in the crook of your arm. With your other hand, grasp the leverage peg. Your tool will rest between your hand and the tool rest, to the left of the peg. With the lathe spinning, slowly start pushing the disc from the base of the mold to the outer rim, and back again (the backward pull will make sure that your metal will shape evenly). All of your control comes from your core, not your arm or wrist, so nearly your whole body will move to shape your piece, with your arm simply holding the tool in place. Also, be sure that you are using the rounded portion of the tool to move the metal, or the disc will tear. This process takes finesse and slow, rhythmic movements, rather than physical strength and pressure. Patience will ensure a solid piece!
Once you have made your first couple pass overs, take a rolled cloth and apply the metal lubricant to the disc. This will make the motions smoother, and eliminate the threat of the horrendous sound that is metal scraping on metal. Be sure to wear eye protection, as the lubricant may be flung from the spinning of the disc.
Continue slowly shaping your piece and periodically adding lubricant (you will feel an increase of resistance while shaping, which will indicate that you need to add some more lubricant). Pull until there is roughly 1/4 - 1/3 of an inch of metal that is not flush with the mold. Using your wooden piece, press on the opposite side of this portion until it begins to bend backward. This will be the starting point of rolling a lip of the cup. You will need a shaping tool that has a small wheel on the end of it. Placing it on the tool rest, press inward directly on the backward bent piece such that it fills the groove of the wheel. Once the lip is shaped, turn off the lathe and carefully pull your cup off the mold. Grab a cleaning cloth to whip off any excess lubricant, and you're good to go!
Step 2: Creating the Look
Using a drill, create a pattern of small holes, in any design that you'd like! I chose a nautical star and snowflake for mine. It may be a good idea to map out your pattern beforehand with a marker if you're not comfortable going straight to the drilling step.
For the flower portion, I used some foam and chose a fake succulent to fill the cup. I cut into the plastic stem of the succulent to get down to the metal wire, then pushed that through the center of my shaped foam. I also added a washer to the end of the wire and bent it over so that I could pull on the flower to get the foam back out.
Lastly, find any lighting source you'd like to illuminate your design (I used small LEDs) and bring your piece to life!