Coppersmith Metal Art

A Coppersmith is an artisan who works with cooper and because of the color of the metal, is also often known as a “redsmith.”

The basic technique of copper sculpting has not changed for hundreds of year. The shaping of the metal is done by   hammering  it into the desired shape. But copper is a brittle metal and if subjected to  hammer  force when cold, may easily crack or split. To prevent this from happening the copper is heated in a forge until it becomes malleable. Once it is soft, it can be shaped with no danger of cracking.

The heated metal is placed over specially shaped anvils and  hammered  into shape. The normal starting point for making small item like jugs and vases is to make a bucket shape and then, by using  hammers  of different sizes and head shapes, create the final object. Surface polishing is usually done with a smooth faced  hammer , although unpolished finishes carrying a rough  hammered  look are also very popular.

High quality copper metal art is made out of ingots of copper rather than thin sheets of the metal. This is far more difficult but allows for greater variation in the thickness of different facets of the finished pieces – for example a jug would normally have a thicker base that the sides. An easy way of knowing how the metal art was created is to look at the edges of the piece. Thick rounded edges indicate that the art was created from an ingot – items created with sheets of copper will have the thin flat edges of the original sheet metal.

Modern techniques allow copper smith metal art to be created in shapes of almost unlimited size. A modern copper smith may use multiple sheets or/or ingots to creates components of the sculpture which are then welded together using high tech methods like Tig welding.

The coppersmith has the option of giving his art work different types of finish. The natural color of copper, which varies form red to a chocolate brown or a bright finish with dark streaks. The nature of the basic finish is dependent on the forging process and even slight variations in the heat or the composition of the metal means that even two identical pieces heated in the same forge will have variations in their natural finish. Since this may affect the appearance of work created by the welding together of multiple pieces, the coppersmith may buff off the natural patina and create a bright polished effect that will be identical for all the pieces to be assembled.

Copper decorative art work often has brightly color or even semi precious stones embedded in it to enhance its appeal. The coppersmith also has the option of adding silver inlay work to the surfaces by first etching his design onto the surface and then dipping the pieces in an electrically charged vat containing sliver. The electrical charge fuses the silver and copper together. A final polish will remove any excess silver from the surface, leaving it behind only in the etched grooves.