Sunday, January 5, 2014

Metals are not all equal

©2014 Barry Smith - First 5 Leaf Letter Openers off the production line
To make the 55 Leaf Letter Openers I recycled and cut up probably about 8 silver plated trays that varied in size, pattern, age and material (some copper based, some brass and some with nickel in the brass). I thought the metal looked pretty safe and would deal with the punishing hammering and folding and unfolding process. As you can see from the photo below metal from two of the trays just can't handle the stress of the process - one because it had scored markings on it as part of its design which split in the unfolding process (bottom leaf form); and one that just seemed have a very crystalline structure in the metal which split right along the fold even on the first gentle unfolding stage (the top 3).

©2014 Barry Smith - Split leaf forms
I'm not sure how many pieces of those trays have been cut and folded - but I'm thinking I will have a failure rate of about 20% - so I guess I will be cutting and making about another 10 to make up 55 quality pieces for the commission. I'm hammering, annealing and unfolding 5 of the pieces I folded in the earlier stage.

©2014 Barry Smith 5 leaf forms hammered and ready for second annealing before unfolding
I'm adding in a third annealing between the initial unfolding and the final setting of the fold to reduce the stiffness of the metal and potential splitting problem; and so far I have ended up with 12 good forms.

©2014 Barry Smith - 12 leaf forms before polishing
And have finished grinding and polishing 5 Leaf Letter Openers - looking pretty good.

©2014 Barry Smith - 5 Leaf Letter Openers - ready for packing.
I know what I will be doing each morning for the next week.


  1. Absolutely stunning Barry. Well worth the effort me thinks.

  2. Good is not the right word Barry...fabulous is closer.

  3. Wonderful leaves! Beautiful photos ! No doubt in diversity is also beauty !

  4. Your pieces always seem to contain an inner strentgh that goes beyond their metallic qualities. Maybe it's their beauty or the love you put into them. Discarding pieces must be frustrating or maybe you are used to that by now. The finished openers are gorgeous.

  5. ~creating seems to always been filled with a learning though that you seem to be embracing in a positive way...knowing the mind of you...i am sure somehow someway those pieces will be transformed one day into something quite unique and fascinating...I hope that the rest will mend and form and polish just as beautifully of the five that have been completed...perseverance be with you this day...much love light and blessings~

  6. It seems that one of the 'joys' of working with reclaimed material is always that element of surprise ... Will the material behave the way you want it to ... Still that is part of the fun I guess ... But maybe not when you have so many objects to make!?!

  7. B, just a treat to watch you forming these LLOs and so much to be learned as the materials behave in inconsistent ways. As Sue says, there is always that element of surprise, and you take it in your stride...

  8. Wow - I can't believe that I did not respond to the generous comments. LAM, JM, L, E, B, SG & C - thank you for your ongoing interest and support - helps one to move through projects. LAM - in the end yes worth the effort. JM - thanks heaps. L - the beauty of shiny formed metal. E - it is always a partnership with the metal - I found I did not get too frustrated as on most occasions the recycled metal offers me much. B - we learn so many lesson when we are willing to listen - I hope Im open to that. SG - some surprises are better than others. C - thanks for your interest in the process. All Peace. B


Comments are welcomed - it is good to connect with fellow travellers.