Wednesday, March 4, 2015

My "Steam Locomotive I" wearable sculpture brooch is available at: - offered at $2950.00

There has been lots of interest in this piece.  It took me more than a year to make.
I photographed much of process and thought that I would share the process with you here.

The Making of Steam Locomotive I

First, pictures of the finished piece - by itself and in its frame.

I started with a picture of an old steam locomotive.  I cut up the picture, rearranged parts and       made changes.

Then I decided which pieces should be made out of brass, and which should be made from pewter. The next decision ... of those parts, which ones am I likely to want to use more than once?

With that decision made, it was time to get to the workbench and make parts.  The parts that would be used more than once (like the drive wheels) I would make ONLY ONCE (as "models") and have someone else cast them for me.  The following pictures show the original models of the parts that I sent to the caster.  The wires leading to the parts are called "gates" and are the pathways that the liquid metal passes through to fill the mold.

I used Schaler Mfg, in RI to do the casting for me.

The above four pictures are of parts to be cast in brass.

The picture just above are parts to be cast in pewter.  Only one of these is part of the locomotive - the others are parts for me to use to make future rocket ships and airships - all four of these are pictured together, because all four pieces went into the same mold.

Once I had all of the cast parts, they needed to be "cleaned."  That is the process or removing gates and irregularities (sawing & filing) and, in general smoothing things out.  Also, wheels needed to have holes drilled (for the axles to go through, and for the connecting rod to go through).

Next, I started making other parts and began assembly.  The undercarriage was first - the pewter plates first; the brass plates added to the outer pewter plate function as a baring for the wheels and are decorative.  Holes were drilled for the axles.  Then I used mini brass bolts to keep the plates in place and the proper distance apart.

Then I made the wheel assembly - soldering the connecting rods to the linkage and then attaching that unit to the drive wheels.  Next the very important step of fitting the wheel assembly into the under carriage - making sure that everything was going to fit AND work.

Once I was satisfied that the wheels fit properly, I set them aside to wait for final assembly.

Time to work on larger pieces.  The cylindrical "barrel" was welded to the undercarriage; and the cabin was constructed.

The cabin began with the floor, which butted against the "barrel" and rested atop the undercarriage, in effect, tying the cabin to the rest of the structure.  The rest of the cabin parts were made and assembled in the order indicated.

Then I cut out the window and engraved a line around it.
The little decorative corner at the top of the cabin was soldered into place.

I turned (like on a lathe, but I used a hand held machine) the remaining larger parts:

smoke stack, piston, steam dome, sand dome.

Of these, the smoke stack was the first to be soldered into place.  Then the steam dome.
I used brass wires to make the four pieces of "strapping" that run bottom to top around
the "barrel."   Then the sand dome was fitted and soldered into place.

I made the "walkway" from brass sheet & wire and fitted it into place - making sure that it
would not rub against the wheels after final assembly.  The handrail came next, made from brass wire.

I fitted nickel silver tubing into the holes where the drive wheel axels would be inserted to make
sure that the axels would go in smoothly.

The pewter piston was fitted to the front, just over the small forward wheel.

Before doing the final wheel assembly, I did the final detailing of the cabin and textured the "barrel." And soldered the bar pin onto the back.

Next - importantly - I spent nearly a day grinding away any bits of metal that did not need to remain on the piece - this is a brooch after all, and it would not do to have it too heavy to wear!

Before soldering the wheels into place, I added one final detail ......  the brass steam whistle!

Then the painstaking job of getting the wheels into place and working correctly.

Then going over the whole piece smoothing out any imperfections.

Now the brooch is "complete."  But it is still not "finished."  
Finishing requires blackening the metals and shining the parts that need to be shined, which was next.

Finally finished this brooch, a modest 2 inches long
took about 68 separate pieces of metal were fashioned (57 are part of the brooch, the others were gates made for the models) and 90 individual soldering/welding operations (72 on the brooch and 18 to assemble the models).  

And, still to be done, the framing.

My concept is to have the brooch beautifully displayed in a frame BUT easily removed from its frame so that it can be worn and then easily put back into the frame and displayed.  I was especially keen to have the wheels sit on a brass rail when the brooch was in its frame.  

First I secured a great frame from Dostie Brothers Frame Shop near my studio in Burlington, VT.

Then I proceeded to make the two metal parts necessary to make my plan work. 

1st - a brass piece with two hooks (just enough hook to hold the pin on the back of the brooch - but not sooo much hook that getting the brooch in and out would be difficult.)

2 nd - a way to hold the rail the correct distance from the back of the matt, 
and to keep it (firmly) at the correct hight (relative to the hooks). 

After getting everything lined up so that it worked properly and looked great, the pieces were bolted to the matt.  All of which took way more work than I had imagined.

And, again, the finished piece:

You are invited to share this post and to leave comments.

- Mark Eliot Schwabe, SteamSmith

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