Copper Repousse'

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Organized in 1978, the Appalachian Blacksmiths Association is an affiliate of ABANA. We represent blacksmiths, bladesmiths, and farriers in West Virginia and its surrounding states of Pennsylvania, Ohio, Maryland, Virginia, and Kentucky. 

We publish a quarterly newsletter which keeps our membership up to date on events. The newsletter also features many metalworking tips.  

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Appalachian Blacksmiths Association

© 2001-3

Nothing herein may be reproduced unless permission of the submitter and/or the Appalachian Blacksmiths Association is given.

 

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Raising of the Bull

By Bob Elliott

 

To take you to the start of this project, I had a customer come to the shop to pick up some ironwork that I had completed for them.  In the conversation, I was asked if I could make a weather vane.  Before gathering details, my reply was yes.  As the conversation continued, I learned that the customer wanted a weather vane with a copper bull on top of it.  This meant the process that I needed to use to produce the bull was Repousse, defined in the dictionary as "the shaping or decorating with patterns in relief formed by hammering and pressing on the reverse side."  

With the above in mind, it was time to gather the tooling to do the job.  With the help of Index of the Anvil’s Ring back issues, compiled by William Hightower and the Anvil’s Ring, I was able to read, study, and learn from others.   Some of the tools I already had, some were bought and some I made.  

metal backing tray

click to enlarge photo

  Sheet metal backing tray with wet newspaper

The one item that I did not have or could come up with was a good backing up material. Some people were using lead, tree pitch, commercial roofing tar, shot bags and other backing mediums.  To solve my dilemma, I broke a piece of 18 gauge sheet metal to form a 48” x 32” x 2” deep tray. I then placed layers of newspaper in the tray about 1.5 inches thick.  After the newspaper was placed in the tray, I then added water to it.  I found out this method works best when the newspaper is completely wet and there is no standing water in the tray.

As you use the backing medium and it becomes distorted, all you need to do is add a few more layers of newspaper to the cavity you want to fill and add a little more water. 

After the tray was made and the tools gathered, it was time to start.  The bull pattern was then traced on the sheet copper (16oz. -  .022” thick) and placed in the tray of wet newspapers. 

By using different hammers and other tools to create the shoulders, legs, neck, head, ears, eyes, and other details, the Bull was raised.   That is one side.  The same process is used to form the other side, but keep in mind it is a mirror image of the first side.  

After the sides were formed, the 3-D tail was created.  Remember to leave extra material around outline of the pattern to use to join the two half’s together.  

Before the two halves are placed together, the tube and internal frame work needs to be added.  The tube needs to have a ball welded into one end and the frame needs to be formed to fit the weather vane, and welded to the tube.  Attach the tube and internal frame to one side of the weather vane.  This was done by using copper clips and soldering them to the weather vane.  To add extra strength I also used copper rivets.  The tube is what fits down over the supporting shaft and ball in the end of the tube will serve as the bearing. 

With the frame installed you can now solder the two halves together.  This takes time and patience. 

Now that the bull has been completed, the North, South, East and West will be created. The shaft that will support the weather vane, and the mounting hardware was made and finish is applied.  

copper repousse bull weathervane by bob elliott

click to enlarge photo

  Copper Repousse Weathervane 

by Bob Elliott 

A special thank you goes out to my sister, Gladys Antulov, who worked with me on this project.

Article and photos by Robert W. "Bob" Elliott  

ANVIL'S RING, a quarterly publication of ABANA

This article originally appeared in the September 2001  issue of the ABA Newsletter

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