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Working with Brass, Part 2 – Bending Brass – Dug’s Tips 14

July 14, 2014 by  

Various tools for bending brass rod, tubing, bar, and sheetsIn the last instalment of this column, we looked at some of the many ways you can cut brass for your automaton project. Once cut, there is a good chance you will need to bend the brass in some way to suit your needs. Let’s take a look at some of the methods for bending brass rod, tubing, bar, and sheets.

How to Bend Brass Wire and Rod

Needle nosed pliers are used here to make a straight bend in brass wireBending Brass Wire with Pliers
For the thinner gauges of brass wire, you may be able to use your hands alone. For the heavier gauges, pliers are an indispensable tool. Use the pliers to hold the wire in one hand, while manipulating the other end of the wire with your free hand. To create curved shapes, crimp, bend, and release the rod at intervals along its length. The closer together these intervals are, the tighter the curve will be. Round-nosed pliers are great for creating tight curves and loops. Simply bend the rod around the rounded jaws. Sharp bends can be made with a pair of pliers in each hand.

These specialized pliers are used to create a curve by crimping the wire at intervals along its lengthVarious types of special metal-forming pliers are great for bending shapes in wire. While these pliers are useful, most of these bends can be made with a pair of flat needle nosed pliers and a pair of round-nosed pliers. If you find that any of your pliers are leaving a lot of unsightly tool marks on the rod, buy some pliers with nylon pads on the jaws or wrap masking tape around the jaws.

Bending Brass Rod with a Jig
Making straight bends using the grooves of the jig and curved bends using the pinsFor complex bends, or bends in wire that is particularly heavy, a bending jig can make the job much easier. The jig can be mounted to a bench or a board, which can then be clamped down if necessary. The jig features a series of slots and pegs. By placing the rod into the slots or between the pegs, you can use your hands to bend the rod to conform to that spot in the jig. In addition to allowing you to use both hands, this tool minimizes the number of tool marks left on the wire.

How to Bend Brass Tubing

The spring tubing bender is slipped over the outside of the tubing and then bent with both handsBrass tubing can be tricky to bend because it has a tendency to kink and crush. One type of tubing bender consists of a coiled metal spring which is wrapped around and/or placed inside of the tubing while bending it. The coils of the spring support the walls of the tubing, reducing the chances that it will crush. They come in various diameters which correspond with many common tubing sizes. To use a spring bender, select one that just fits over the outside of the tube to be bent. Slip it over the tubing so that it is centered on the spot where the bend will be. Using both hands, bend the tubing by pressing your thumbs into the bend. The likelihood of a successful bend are even better if you are able to use another spring that fits within the tubing. These can be made from common extension springs found in most hardware stores. Model airplane enthusiasts and those who work on heating and cooling systems often use a different type of tubing bender. Check out the resources section at the end of this article for more information on these tools.

Bending Brass Bar

Stages in bending a 90 degree angle in a piece of brass barFor thicker brass bars, consider scoring the bar prior to bending it. By removing some of the metal on the inside of the bend, you create space for the metal to fold in on itself. The scored line also ensures that the metal will bend at the spot you intend. Use a permanent marker to draw a line where the score will be made. You can use a triangular file or a square file with one edge facing down. File a groove along the marker line starting at one edge of the bar, working to the opposite edge. You want an even 90 degree trench running from one side of the bar to the other, a little bit deeper than half the thickness of the bar. Once you’ve finished scoring the piece, place it in a vise with the scored line exposed. Bend the piece to form a neat 90 degree angle. Because you’ve removed so much metal, you may even be able to bend it by hand at this point. The finished bend has no visible seam on the outside and a tidy partial miter on the inside. This joint can be soldered if additional strength is required.

Bending Brass Sheets

After clamping the sheet in a vise between two blocks of wood, a third block of wood is used to bend itMaking straight bends in metal sheet can be difficult, but some tools and aids make the job easier. To bend brass sheet, sandwich it between two wooden boards within a vise. Use a third piece of wood to apply pressure to the metal for the bend. The block of wood helps you apply pressure to the entire edge being bent and prevents the metal from be being marred. You can also tap on the wood block with a mallet or hammer.

You will probably find that in many cases you will need to ‘overbend’ the metal — going a bit beyond the shape you want, in order for the metal to retain the desired shape. As with Part 1, this article only covers some of the many methods for bending brass. I recommend that you research other trades, crafts, and hobbies that use brass. You might be surprised by how many techniques you find!

Dug’s Automata Tips, Techniques and Tricks
A quarterly column by automaton-maker and enthusiast Dug North
Copyright 2014 Dug North

Warning: The topics covered in this column include the use of tools and materials that have the potential to cause damage to property and/or bodily injury. Your safety is important and it is your sole responsibility. Always read and follow the safety instructions that come with tools and materials you use. Wear safety glasses, use guards and other forms of safety equipment, follow safety precautions, and use good judgment. Seek the guidance of experienced outside sources whenever required.

Further Reading
Metalwork for Craftsmen
Amazon UKAmazon US

Fundamentals of Shopwork
Amazon UKAmazon US

Complete Metalsmith: Professional Edition by Tim McCreigh
Amazon UKAmazon US

Tools and Their Uses by U.S. Bureau of Naval Personnel
Amazon UKAmazon US

Materials
Brass Rod
Amazon UKAmazon US

Brass Tubing
Amazon UKAmazon US

Brass Sheet
Amazon UKAmazon US

Tools
Mini Plier Set, 8-Piece
Amazon UKAmazon US

Convex/Concave Forming Pliers
Amazon UKAmazon US

Nylon Jaw Pliers
Amazon UKAmazon US

Sheet Metal Pliers
Amazon UKAmazon US

Wire Bending Jig
Amazon UKAmazon US

Tubing Bender Set
Amazon UKAmazon US

Du-Bro 785 1/8″ Tubing Bender
Amazon US

Klein Tools 89030 Professional 4-in-1 Tube Bender
Amazon UKAmazon US

Triangular File
Amazon UKAmazon US

Bench Vise
Amazon UKAmazon US

The Science of Conversation

July 2, 2014 by  


We’re delving into the archives to take a closer look at some of Paul Spooner’s automata. This piece is from 2010.

“Although it’s tempting to think of ways in which I might have been foreseeing the current double-headed political situation in Britain, I actually thought of this machine while talking to my dad. I realised that, in many conversations, the listener is just marking time while the talker is in action, waiting for his turn to engage his brain and put in his twopence-ha’porth. (US 10c)”

The man on left possesses the brain so he talks while the other one stares blankly. Then the tops of their heads open and the brain migrates to the other man’s cranium. The other man (Reg Hughes) is now able to speak. While the brain is in transit both men are struck dumb.

The Science of Conversation by Paul SpoonerPaul’s description of the mechanical details: “The way the brain is made to travel is very silly and time-wasting. One cam lifts the brain out of the brainbox and another, moving at half that speed, makes it go from right to left and back again. Both cams are geared together and work on a linkage to which the brain lever is attached. The resulting movement is rather floaty and imprecise but is better, I think, than a regular arc, which would have been the obviously sensible way to do it”.

The lifting camshaft also carries the head-opening cam so both heads open every time the brain is lifted. Another cam, driven by the input shaft, which goes at 4x the lifting speed, works a linkage that causes both jaws to chatter constantly, while 2 more cams on the traversing camshaft cancel the jaw action of the head whose brain is out of the office.”

Height 27 cm (10.5 inches)
Width 26cm (10 inches)
Depth 9 cm (3.5 inches)

Materials: English oak and plastic

The Science of Conversation by Paul Spooner

Finding the Value

July 2, 2014 by  

In 2011 Peter Madsen left his estate to York Museum’s Trust. Amongst is bequest was his art collection. Finding the Value is an exhibition in which commissioned artists respond to items from the collection and open up questions of the inheritance of cultural values.

Artist Simon Venus has created a mechanical tableaux for the exhibition.

Simon Venus describes Passed On as a eulogy, or tribute, to Peter and Karen Madsen. Items from their collection are arranged in three animated tableaux, which play with the dramas of life, death, identity, depiction and portraiture in miniature theatre dioramas.

Passed On explores mortality and transition in both the spiritual and secular worlds. A triptych, referencing religious altarpieces that often included ‘donor’ portraits to commemorate individuals and their families, there are also elements of ‘Cabinets of Curiosities’ with their usually tightly packed, eclectic mix of interestingly labelled objects.

The artist was intrigued by the fact that the collection was given quietly, with no meeting between the donors and York Museums Trust, accompanied simply by a solicitor’s letter and a second, personal letter from Peter Madsen. The importance of these letters in the transfer of the collection from private to public ownership features in the central tableau.

4th July – 2 November 2014
Open daily 10am – 5pm

Free admission

York St. Mary’s
Castlegate
York
YO1 9RN

http://artinyorkshire.org.uk/events/finding-the-value/

The Stable by Lisa Slater

April 4, 2014 by  

The Stable by Lisa Slater

This eye-catching wall-mounted piece is from automata-maker Lisa Slater, who works in the creative community of Hebden Bridge, England.

‘The stable was created after a weekend stay on a farm in the Cotswold’s. I went out to photograph the stable block early in the morning and as I chatted to one of the horses other heads started to peep out one by one displaying various movements as they awaited their morning oats.
The horses are made from various wet timber woods with the bark attach to create variation in breadth and colour. Horse hair is used for the manes. The stable block is made from oak with sycamore doors. I like to work in woods to create horses, something about the unprocessed timber shows the life in the material. I keep my mechanisms simple focusing the works appeal in the quality of materials. So these chaps are just operated by a range of friction powered cams.’

To find out more about Lisa and her work click here:
http://www.lisaslater.org.uk/Lisa.html

Dims: Width 55 cm (including handle) Depth 10 cm Height 28 cm

£695 (excl. VAT)

Add to Cart View Cart

The Stable by Lisa Slater

Working with Brass, Part 1 – Cutting Brass – Dug’s Tips 13

February 24, 2014 by  

Various tools for cutting brass rod, tubing, and sheets Brass is a metal that looks good with wood, is easy to work, and can be soldered. You can use it for specific parts or create entire automaton with it! If you are going to use brass, probably the first thing you’ll want to do is cut some. It comes in all kinds of shapes and sizes. Let’s take a look at some of the more common formats and how to cut them. Remember to wear safety glasses when using any of these techniques.


How to Cut Brass Rod

When using wire cutters, cutting pliers, or bolt cutters, place the wire or rod deeply into the jaws of the toolCutting Brass Rod with Cutting Pliers
For smaller sizes of wire and rod, wire cutters will do the job. For larger gauges, you may need to use a larger pair of cutting pliers or bolt cutters for the really big stuff. With any of these tools, place the rod as far into the jaws as possible to make the cut. Some wire cutters leave the cut rod with a sharp, unsightly end. You will probably want to file, sand, or grind the end of the freshly cut rod so that it is flat.
Using two hands to cut with a hacksaw. Extending the index finger of the hand that is on the handle seems to help.Cutting Brass Rod with a Hacksaw
Place the rod to be cut in a sturdy vise. Try to make the cut as close to the vise as possible to minimize vibration. The hacksaw is a two-handed tool. Place one hand on the handle and your second hand on the end of the hacksaw frame. The saw cuts when you are pushing the tool away from your body. Start the cut with short strokes using the part of the blade nearest the handle. Once there is a groove for the blade to sit in, use both your arms and shifting body weight to make each cutting stroke. Not much downward pressure is needed, and then only when pushing the saw. A long, steady stroke that uses the full length of the blade is preferable to short, frantic stokes. Pay attention and slow down as you come close to cutting through the metal so the saw doesn’t cut something it’s not supposed to.

How to Cut Brass Tubing

A miniature hacksaw and a small mitre box are used to cut brass tubingSawing Brass Tubing
You can use small and large metal saws to cut brass tubing. I’d recommend doing it in a small hobby mitre box or a groove you have cut into a piece of wood. Place the tubing in one of the mitre box grooves and begin the cut. As the saw makes its way through the tubing, it will begin to cut two walls at once. This can cause the saw to bind, making sawing difficult. To avoid this, slowly rotate the tubing away from you so that you are only sawing through one wall of the tubing at any given time.
Using a tubing cutter to cut brass tubing. Tighten the tool a little and spin it many times before repeating the process.Using a Tubing Cutter
You can buy special cutters designed to cut metal tubing. The tool is clamped to the tubing and a circular blade progresses through the metal. Fasten the tool where the cut is to be made. Spin the tool around the tubing several times. Turn the knob a little to bring the blade against the tubing, and rotate again. Repeat this until the tubing has been divided. Don’t tighten the knob much or the tubing may end up with a crimped end. If this should happen, a tapered reamer can be used to spread opening. File the crimped end off or use a stationary belt sander to finish the edge. Cut the piece a little long to account for any amount that may need to be filed or sanded away.

Cutting Brass Sheet

Cutting brass sheet with straight-cutting aviation snipsCutting Brass Sheet with Shears & Snips
Brass sheet can be cut with metal shears and snips. The type I often use are called aviation snips. These come in three varieties: right-cutting, left-cutting, and straight-cutting. These usually have green, red, and yellow handles respectively. Despite the name, the straight-cutting variety can be used to cut curves — outside curves at least. When cutting a circle, trim the corners off the piece repeatedly until it starts to look like a circle made of straight cuts. Then, make the final curved cut using the inside of the jaws. If precision is required, it’s a good idea to cut outside of the desired line, then use a file to finish the job.
Cutting brass sheet sandwiched between two sheets of thin plywoodCutting Brass Sheet with a Hacksaw
Straight cuts in brass sheet can also be made with a hacksaw. Place the brass between two sheets of scrap plywood and clamp all three pieces in a vise. The wood supports the metal during the cut. If you need to see a marked line on the surface of the brass, place a sheet of plywood on the back side of the brass only. Be mindful to only exert downward pressure when pushing the saw.
A jeweler’s saw and bench pin will allow you to cut complex shapes from brass sheetCutting Brass Sheet with a Jeweler’s Saw and Bench Pin
With practice, a jeweler’s saw used in conjunction with a bench pin will allow you to cut very intricate shapes out of brass sheet. The V-shaped notch in the bench pin is used to support the metal on both sides of the blade. The saw is held vertically, with the handle on the bottom and the saw teeth facing away from you. You basically look down on the saw as you make a cut. Here are a few rules of thumb I’ve found helpful.

First, make sure the blade is taught in the saw frame and the slant of the saw teeth point down toward the handle. Rub beeswax or a commercial lubricant such as “Cut Lube” on the back of the saw blade. With the metal resting flat on the bench pin, start the cut with the saw at a 45 degree angle, the top of the saw frame pointing away from you. Once a groove for the blade has been established, bring the saw upright so that it is perpendicular to the material being cut. Use long, slow, rhythmic strokes and don’t force the saw. When cutting curves, turn and guide the metal into the blade. Never place a finger in front the blade — even if it is some distance away. These thin blades break often.

Cutting Brass with a Rotary Tool
A handy motorized rotary tool can also cut brass rod, tubing, and sheets. See Tips article number 6, 21 Rotary Tool Tips and Tricks for Automaton-Makers, for details on how to use this tool to cut metals. Be sure to clamp the rod in a vise, put on heavy gloves, and wear eye protection.

This article only covers some of the many ways to cut brass. There are more techniques to discover used in a variety of trades and crafts! I hope you’ll find and share them.

Dug’s Automata Tips, Techniques and Tricks
A quarterly column by automaton-maker and enthusiast Dug North
Copyright 2014 Dug North

Warning: The topics covered in this column include the use of tools and materials that have the potential to cause damage to property and/or bodily injury. Your safety is important and it is your sole responsibility. Always read and follow the safety instructions that come with tools and materials you use. Wear safety glasses, use guards and other forms of safety equipment, follow safety precautions, and use good judgment. Seek the guidance of experienced outside sources whenever required.

Further Reading
Complete Metalsmith: Professional Edition by Tim McCreigh
Amazon UKAmazon US

Tools and Their Uses by U.S. Bureau of Naval Personnel
Amazon UKAmazon US

Materials
Brass Rod
Amazon UKAmazon US

Brass Tubing
Amazon UKAmazon US

Brass Sheet
Amazon UKAmazon US

Tools
Cutting Pliers
Amazon UKAmazon US

Hacksaw
Amazon UKAmazon US

Mini Hacksaw
Amazon UKAmazon US

Hobby Saw Mitre Box
Amazon UKAmazon US

Tubing Cutter
Amazon UKAmazon US

Aviation Snips
Amazon UKAmazon US

Jeweler’s Saw and Blades
Amazon UKAmazon US

Bench Pin
Amazon UKAmazon US

Cut Lube
Amazon UKAmazon US

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