Making a copper box
As part of the “Wood Metal Stone” artist book series, I have been focussed on not just replicating the natural materials in my work through imagery, but also using the materials outlined. Although I use metal plates to make etchings from, my experience of forming the material is very limited. Therefore when the opportunity arose to participate on a silversmithing course, I was keen to have a go. This series of artist’s books is incomplete at present, however I managed to finish one of the books sufficiently to be able to measure it and make the box with the piece in mind. This book has a verdigris leather cover and a wooden peg as a closure, it also includes a piece of African turquoise that will be presented alongside the book inside the box. I thought it was going to be a challenging process… I had no idea how much so!
The course ran at West Dean College, a beautiful property with amazing gardens in West Sussex (well worth a visit if you are in the area), and was led by John Norgate. Without John’s craftsmanship, expertise and patience the box would have never have been completed. I found working with such an array of new skills and equipment daunting at times and although I am thrilled with the finished box, I am aware that if I wanted to make similar pieces I would need considerable support and further training to do so.
The lid and the base were made separately with the lid being formed from one flat sheet of metal, scored then soldered and the base made from two L shaped pieces of copper and a separate flat sheet for the bottom. This was to ensure that the base fitted the lid exactly. There were a few moments when I wasn’t sure it would fit at all, but the metal was hammered and manipulated to allow for a snug fit.
The soldering required precision and I was helped to complete this by John, once the metal had gone through the soldering process it was left to cool and then put into hydrochloric acid to remove the tarnish created during the heating process. Once the form had been made, the box was filed and sanded to allow for a good finish. The lid was polished, but the rest of the box was left with a brushed texture and the sides of the lid were worked with a file and hammer to achieve a varied texture. Finally holes were drilled to allow the wooden peg to be used as a closure.