Most people associate a sculptor with a hammer and chisel. Yes, these are the basic tools of an artist who works with stone or wood. When working with these materials, the sculptor begins with a large piece of wood or stone and with these tools they are chipped into the material until everything that is not part of the artwork is removed.
Metal art is different because while excess material also needs to be removed, creation also involves adding several pieces or materials together until the final form of the art takes shape. So while one is the process of eliminating the unwanted, the other is the art of joining and shaping.
Because of this, the range of metal art tools is much wider, more complex and therefore more expensive than stone working tools. The tools that the metal artist needs include:
Metal cutting tools:
– Cutting saws are the basic tool. These simple saws are good enough to cut metal sheets into manageable sizes.
– Band saws provide a more precise cut, but because they use cutting fluid to continuously remove filings and dust from the cutting area to allow a cleaner cut, they are more expensive and dirty. The artist will need a special workstation to prevent the fluid from getting dirty throughout his studio.
– And then there’s the plasma cutter that uses superheated pressurized gas to cut the metal. Because the gas flow can be focused to a very fine point, this allows extremely precise cuts and is best for the final cut of the metal. Due to the technology involved, they are very expensive and costs can reach up to $10,000.
Metal joining equipment:
There are two types of welding:
– MIG welding equipment is best used on metals such as mild steel. A wire is melted and used to join two pieces of metal.
– TIG welding fuses two metal parts into one. This type of welding is best for welding aluminum and stainless steel. Sometimes a filler rod is used to fill an open seam.
Metal forming equipment:
Metal forming involves heating the metal until it reaches a molten form and then pouring it into a mold in which it will cool and harden to take its new form. This equipment consists of:
– A furnace or forge where the metal will be heated. The furnaces are of various types for specific applications and are powered by electricity, gas or natural fuels such as wood and coal. These, depending on the size, can be expensive.
– The molds in which the molten metal is formed are usually made first by creating a shape over which a wax mold is made. The wax mold is used to create the final mold that is normally made of fine silica sand. Although little equipment is needed here, the recurring costs of raw materials must be taken into account.