Joe Meineke

Copper Heart Paperweight

Some time ago I was contacted by a friend on Etsy, (see her shop, “nottoto,” by clicking here), who asked me if I could create a small custom item for her Aunt.  She decided she wanted a heart mounted on a metal base.

I know she had originally envisioned me making something out of solid steel (her idea was inspired by the crosses that I make), but I had this vision of making one out of copper and flame-coloring the piece and applying a traditional beeswax / boiled linseed oil finish.  So, hopefully she doesn’t mind, but I took a little artistic license in making it!

Her original concept was based on the following sketch:

I didn’t capture the forging process for this piece since honestly there’s nothing terribly special about making a loop over the horn of an anvi.  In a nutshell, you shear off the correct length of copper that will make 1/2 of the heart and then hammer out the loop. You then repeat the process for the other half of the heart making it identical (or as close as possible) to the first piece.  Then, you file (or grind) the joints flat at the angle that they meet and braze them together.

For brazing, I used brass rod and two small torches – a plumbers torch to pre-heat the whole piece, and then a small Sears oxy/mapp gas setup to do the brazing.  After joining the two halves, I ‘spot’ brazed some random areas of the heart to make the joints not stand out so much (they stand out anyway, but with the random brazing going on around them, they look like part of the organic whole).

Unfortunately, about 3/4 of the way into the process I ran out of Oxygen and didn’t get to apply as much brass as I had originally hoped.  Argh!  Sometimes art happens that way, though, and the finished piece has that as part of it’s story.

All in all, it turned out well in spite of the fact that I didn’t get to braze as much as I wanted.  Maybe it kept me from over doing it (which I sometimes have a tendency to do!)

Here’s the brazed / wire brushed heart (oxy/mapp setup in the background) next to some raw copper rod (the same stuff used to make the heart).  Click on any of the pictures below to see them enlarged:

Next I cut out the base.  I had some half-inch thick stock left over from my bench project that would be perfect, so I scribed a line and cut out a 2.5″ x 2.5″ square:

The final steps involve cleaning the base (sanding, wire brushing) and then texturing the whole piece.  To texture the heart, I used a 12 ounce ball-pein hammer.  For the base, I did a ‘burst’ pattern radiating from the center and ‘running’ down the sides using my cross-pein hammer.

Next, the base and bottom of the heart are drilled and tapped to accept a screw, and the base is counter-sunk so that the screw can be recessed.  I decided to thread the whole base so that the screw could be moved in our out to allow for the heart to be screwed down tight (but not over-tightened) at either an angle or parallel to the edges.  She originally drew the heart straight, but I decided that I liked it angled.  I’ll let her decide when she puts it together how she likes it.

These pictures should pretty much tell the story or the texturing / drilling / tapping / mounting:

Rotating the base while hammering gives a nice burst pattern:

I use a block of wood while texturing the sides of the base.  If you don’t have a softer side, you end up flattening out the texturing you did on the opposite side.  It takes a much harder blow from the hammer, but it saves the integrity of your pattern:

This is what it looks like prior to flame coloring & coating.  I love the shine, but in this state it (the base) will definitely rust if left untreated.  I use traditional finishing techniques on all of my work to protect it and make it last.  I guess I’m a bit of a romantic when it comes to antiquity.  There’s just something magical about the way things were done “back in the day.”

Next, the proper sized hole is drilled (already done in this step) and then it is threaded (tapped).  I have the tap inserted into the hole and am in the process of threading:

Here’s a picture of the hole I drilled int the base of the heart.  I had already threaded the heart at this point:

Next, I drill an over-sized hole so that the screw head will be recessed under the piece.  It is deep enough to allow the screw to be backed out a little for fine-tuning the mounting of the heart.

In hindsight, I probably could have done away with the threading of the base in general and just made the hole a bit bigger than the screw, but at the time I guess I was thinking of overall strength / stability of the piece.  If somehow the heart is ever stripped out, the screw protruding from the threaded base will provide a firm post that the heart could be glued onto:

After some flame coloring and burning on the beeswax / boiled linseed oil, here’s the final product.  The beeswax / linseed oil forms a great protective shell that will preserve & protect this piece for a very long time.  Don’t let “wax” and “oil” fool you – when it bakes on, it actually creates a hard shell – sort of like seasoning a cast iron grill with oil, but this stuff doesn’t turn black.

One of these days I’ll get a real touch-mark, but for now I just chisel in my initials 🙂

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