Sunday, September 16, 2012

Solder On...

Structures were the theme of flowerflinging Camp here at my studio in the Berkshires in August. 

One structure that I wanted to create got lost in the merriment and the more fascinating ideas.  Above is the forlorn project in the garage.  I have to confess I have an inordinate fear of soldering. Copper tubing is a wonderful, shapeable material and it comes in coils of various diameter.  The larger the diameter the stronger the tubing.   

Last year at the Philadelphia Flower Show, the MOG and I combined it with various orchids swooping in and out of glass containers with great results – we won our class and Best of the Day.  True confession: we found a handyman to do the soldering.

The first time I worked with copper piping was on a long-ago entry at Philadelphia.  The Pinkster and I were in a class called “Un Gran Gourmet”.  We made a giant whisk-looking structure which, as you see, was not without bumpy imperfections. The whole design was close to six feet tall. After the installation, a fellow exhibitor told us about plumber’s tube bending spring set which keeps the copper tubing smooth and kink free.  Just slide it on and then slowly work the curves of the copper.

Here are the tools of the trade. Clockwise from top left, the tube bending spring set (what a mouthful); JB Kwik Weld - acts like solder (Mr. GCA kindly sent this over for me to try); an example of two pieces of tubing ‘glued’ with JB Kwik Weld; a piece of copper tubing with a spring set slipped on it.  In the center is the gismo that cuts the tubing.

Here’s the gismo in action!  It goes round and round til it cuts through.  With the narrowest tubing for refrigerator ice makers, you can simply cut the end with wire cutters but you are left with a crimped end. 

Using the two glue tubes mixed together, spread the glue at the places (noted with blue tape) where the copper pieces meet.  It is important to use enough of the black goopy glue and have enough surface where they meet up.     

Back to my project! My goal is a spaghetti-like structure to which flowers or other plant material might be wired. I worked the copper shape to fit in a tray pan (14” square,   These gladioli are attached to the tubing in more than one place so they stay put. The thin copper wire is supposed to be decorative.  Not sure I worked the fine wire attractively, though.

Water fills the tray so that a half inch of the stems are submerged.  For this group of montbretia  (Crocosmia aurea) stems, the tray is also filled with crushed shells (Michael’s Crafts).  These are so pretty and they echo the warm tones of the flowers and the copper while providing another texture.

My nemisis……fear of soldering.  I’ll take the twelve step program and try to conquer it, but just not now……


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