Friday, 18 September 2015

Keeping Time: Brass Body

After a few initial cardboard prototypes, I settled on a shape that I was happy with.  Crucially, the final design came from a practical decision to machine the form in house.  There were two options for machining; waterjet cut out of house – exact precision but a time delay for processing and a higher cost, or machine by hand (guillotine and fret saw) – less precise but can be made very quickly for much lower prices.  I chose to make the casing by hand, and this meant that I had to get rid of the negative cut and that the test tube hole would have to be made with a standard size punch.
Cutting the form was simple, and bending all but the final bend was done easily in the workshop.  Problems came when the back plate had to be bent upward to close the box.  The final bend had to be hand hammered into shape over a square section tube, unfortunately leaving a few dents here and there. 

There were also issues with the first set of rivets made to hold the box into shape.  This was a communication error on my part, as I had envisioned pop rivets closing the case but was under the impression that they were unavailable.  The metal working technician, Rachael Baker, who was teaching me to make the casing, spent a long time hammering in a hand-worked rivet into the back, which was a job made more difficult by me as I had wanted stainless steel rivets – a much harder material to work with than brass.  Unfortunately the finished rivets didn’t look as neat as I’d hoped and the back of the casing had taken a bit of a beating as well.  Thankfully, it was a problem that was easily rectified and metal technician, Phil Hatton, helped me greatly by drilling out the rivets, hammering the back flat, and re-riveting the piece using pop rivets.

With the pop rivets in place, the back dents lessened and a black rubber O-ring holding the test tube secure, the final design is one that I’m very happy with.  As a prototype, I’m happy with the quality.  Now that I’ve made the piece, I can see where extra care would need to be taken to produce a commercial product, but I think that most of the problems that could have arisen (skewing of shape due to lost length in bending, wonky slot cutting etc.) were avoided due to proper planning, and the benefit of having an extremely simple design.

My only concern in this design is that it loses some feeling of heritage by not using the trio of wood, brass and glass.  Though the addition of wood would be purely aesthetic, I feel like the piece has a ‘fashionable’ but not one that is necessarily timeless or passive.  It’s a very nice object to look at, but if brass weren’t so popular a material, would it still be a nice object? Does the brass lessen the meaning of the object because it doesn’t naturally echo it?