Simple Methods To Making Appealing Sculpture Stands And Bases
This article will cover simple shop techniques to create attractive and functional sculpture bases out of metal and other materials. The techniques involve hot connections like brazing and welding as well as an assortment of cold connections. To be more specific, here are the techniques covered:
- plug welding
- threaded fasteners
- two part epoxy
Most of these techniques use tools that are readily available and relatively inexpensive.
Plug welding is simply making a seamless connection by drilling holes in a metal plate, placing other metal piece to be joined over the holes and the holes, then filling holes by welding. The two plates or plate and rod are permanently joined without the unsightly weld bead getting in the way.
To join a steel rod perpendicular to a steel plate, a hole is drilled into the plate the same diameter as the rod. If the rod is 1/4″ or less in diameter, an enlarged hole on the bottom side is not needed. Simply align the steel rod between 1/16″ to 3/32″ above the bottom side of the plate to make a slight depression. Then use arc welder with filler rod to fuse. Grind flat to make plate stable. For thicker rods, drill hole in plate matching rod diameter of rod. On bottom side however,use a step drill bit to enlarge the hole halfway through the plate. This will create a narrow channel around the rod where additional welding filler metal can secure rod to the base. Review photo above for tack welding of rod to sculpture plate.
Very similar to plug welding, brazing uses intense heat to melt a filler metal into a metal joint to permanently attack to components together. Where brazing differs is the parent metal is not fused and the filler metal, with a lower melting point, flows into the joint by capillary action. If brazing a rod to a metal plate base, the fit can be tighter and there is not need for over sized holes to accommodate weld metal. This technique is a good method to join dissimilar metals like copper to steel or stainless to brass etc. For joints that where the filler metal is not a good color match, painting the base after all flux residues are removed.
A relatively simple method of joining materials to make sculpture bases is threaded fasteners. No welding or heating equipment are required though can be helpful in some methods. The simplest approach is to simply drill a hole and use a tap to thread the hole. Then a section of all threaded rod could be insert or a hex bolt with its head sawed off. The sculpture can be connected with a nut that matches the threaded fastener. All threaded rod or a stud made from a bolt could also be plug welded or brazed into a plate hole if using a tap is not feasible.
Tips On Using a Thread Tap
When a threaded hole is desired, a hand tap can do the job nicely. Here are some helpful hints on using them:
- Make sure you select the right sized drill bit for the tap you will use. Fine thread taps use different sized holes than coarse thread taps.
- When the correct sized hole is drilled and deburred, you must hold the tap perpendicular to the work piece,
- Turn tap clockwise in hole one half turn and back up counterclockwise to break the chips. This is especially important when tapping steel.
- After hole is fully tapped, screw tap in and out of the hole at least 3 times to clean remaining chips and shavings from threads.
- Now test hole with the right sized fastener to be sure.
Two Part Epoxy Adhesive
The threaded fastener approach to making joints between dissimilar materials is probably the sturdiest option. Sometimes, though, threading is not an option if one of the materials to be joined is too soft to maintain screw threads. In this case, the better option is a two part epoxy. For this to be effective, the joint must be well designed with maximum surface area and structural support.
There are various epoxy resins for different applications but a five minute epoxy is best for assembly of sculpture bases. The joint must be clean and sanded so the curing adhesive will have something to grab. Then, the epoxy glue is mixed as per instruction on the package. Then when glue is applied to the joint, it is securely clamped and any excess can be cleaned up with acetone or MEK. Do not clean with these solvents if one of the components is a sensitive plastic.
Finishing of Sculpture Bases
There are a variety of materials to make a sculpture base out of. When you consider also the variety of finishing techniques available, the visual effects are limitless. Consider the photo above. A plug welded steel sculpture base with a black patina. This technique and other are discussed in further detail in “Patina Finishes for Steel”.
Wood can be dyed, stained, varnished or painted. With a delicate touch, wood can be slightly darkened with a propane torch to make the grain patterns more pronounced.