Hydraulic Press Inlay Tutorial


Another hare-brained scheme – I have a couple of leftover stainless steel cutouts from making my better half’s earrings. It occurred to me to press them into thick copper for a pendant. Here’s the result so far…


Above are the two stainless steel remnants and a 1/8 inch thick piece of copper bar.


I’m pretty much ad libbing this as I go along. I’ve placed the two steel remnants in a “pleasing” arrangement and superglued them down so they won’t move.


Above, I’ve placed the copper and superglued steel remnants in the press. The big round chunk of steel I’m using as a “pusher.” My press is designed for forging hot steel, so the surfaces are a little rough, and the smoother face of the steel “pusher” won’t mar things as badly.


Here’s the entire hydraulic press, with the pusher and victim installed.


Above, I’ve pressed (3 times at 20 tons) the leftover 410 stainless steel cutouts into the annealed 1/8 inch thick copper bar. Notice how the sides of the copper bar are no longer straight, and are bulging a little bit. When the press shoved the steel into the copper, the incompressible metal has to go somewhere, hence the bulges.


I was planning to remove the cutouts and solder them in, but they’re stuck tight, so I’ve just used a textured punch to move the copper over flush to the steel, very similar to Japanese-style inlays. These steel inlays aren’t going to budge… Compare how tight the copper is against the sides of the steel in this image with the previous image. The previous image has large, obvious gaps, and now I can’t even see the cracks between the copper and steel in the microscope.


Above, I’ve shaped the copper bar into a teardrop pendant shape.


Here I’ve engraved the steel gecko and frog man with crosshatches reminiscent of Australian Aboriginal art. As I indicated, I’m pretty much just going with the flow here.


Above, I’ve begun carving the copper surface with small carbide burs. I don’t really have much of a plan here, just to do something that looks a bit like rough rock.


Here’s the Frog Man Gecko Pendant finished. 410 stainless steel and copper, about 2 inches tall. I’ll call this another successful hare-brained scheme with a promising technique. Easiest inlay I’ve ever done…I’m beginning to think there’s something in this technique…


The press/inlay harebrained scheme worked out so well I decided to see if it was a fluke. So, here’s a 410 stainless steel dead dried minnow on the beach, in copper.


Above, I’ve engraved my dead minnow into 1/16 inch thick 410 stainless steel. I’ve found that engraving patterns into the metal before I saw them out with a fine jeweler’s saw helps the tiny blades to track better.


Here’s the sawn out minnow in place on 1/8 inch thick copper bar. I’ve superglued it into place.


Above is the steel minnow installed with a single 20 ton press. Only one was needed since there’s not much surface area to this tiny minnow. Looking good so far… Notice how much the sides of the copper have been distorted by the metal being shoved out of the way. Don’t get your finger caught in the press!!!!


The above two image illustrate pushing the copper up flush against the steel sides of the dead minnow with a small textured punch.


Above is the business end of the tiny punch I use for moving the copper. It also leaves a nice texture. I simply ground a 3/32 inch square piece of high carbon steel round, and to the diameter I thought I needed, then engraved crosshatches in the face. Hardened with a plumber’s torch and quenched in beeswax, I don’t even bother to temper these.


Above, I’m using flat gravers and a flat punch to sculpt and detail the dried fish.


Here’s a closeup of the minnow’s head after trimming the sides with a flat graver.


Above, I’ve spent some time refining the flat facets left by the flat gravers with a small round flat faced punch. Also beginning to detail the gill section.


I haven’t given you much of an indication of the size of this tiny minnow, so here you go…


Well, I guess by now you know how I operate, so there has to be a little gold…


I envision this pretty classic Japanese themed dead fish as drying on a beach, so there needs to be some small rocks…


I’ve used a graver in several passes around the rocks to cut their outlines quite deeply.


Here, I’ve used carbide burs to excavate around the rocks to expose the sand.


And a little patina since I’m dying to see how this will look when finished… I’ve also used a tiny flat faced punch to round and slightly texture the rocks.


I’ve used a really tiny bur to put in what I call “scribble” texture. To the naked eye, this really does look like sand.


With the addition of rocks and sand texture, the Dead Fish on the Beach Pendant is finished. Looks like my hare-brained inlay scheme is a success…

Thanks for Looking!

Tom Sterling

http://www.sterlingsculptures.com
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