DIY metal toys on the cheap.
April 7, 2006 12:53 PM   Subscribe

I love these retro assemblages. Is it plausible to create small metal assemblage sculptures using nothing but patience and industrial epoxy? and if so,
  • What epoxies would you recommend?
  • Are there sites that cheerfully discuss this sort of industrial craftiness? Thanks!

posted by craniac to Media & Arts (19 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
If it's just metal on metal, why not solder? That is the easiest thing to work with. In other cases maybe super glue.
posted by JJ86 at 1:04 PM on April 7, 2006

I taught a class for kids where we took apart old computers and built robot sculpture from the scraps, and we had great success with just a hot glue gun. Probably a soldering iron would work also.

-wife of coevals
posted by coevals at 1:06 PM on April 7, 2006

why not solder? solder should not be structural. You'd be limited to relatively fragile display pieces, not ray guns you could actually wield in a space fight.

This to that recommends several epoxies here. YMMV depending on the metal and actual type of epoxy available to you.

That said, those are awesome models on the link you gave...
posted by whatzit at 1:07 PM on April 7, 2006

sort of industrial craftiness?
I'm not sure I caught your meaning quite right, but you might enjoy looking at the projects on instructables, which I've definitely bookmarked for when I'm done reading metafilter...
posted by whatzit at 1:09 PM on April 7, 2006

whatzit, there are more links to such things over on the blue.
posted by MrMoonPie at 1:11 PM on April 7, 2006

Response by poster: Yes, apologies for not citing the source of those links. I suppose I could always buy the one gallon tub of JB Weld.

By industrial craftiness, I am suggesting a site where assemblage artists who prefer found metal converse with each other, publicly, about methods.

This paragraph by Bruce Sterling in Wired is an inspiration:

Everybody at SRL welds. They consume welding rods the way other artists use charcoal sticks. The machines are all violently coming apart during the show anyhow, so when in doubt, just weld it. Failing that, bore a massive thumb-sized hole through it with the drill press and bolt it on. If that doesn't work, fetch the bungee cords, the C-clamps, and the metal epoxy. Don't worry: if you use too much, you can always trim it back later with the metal saw.

As well as the frequent references to industrial-strength epoxy as a building material by William Gibson in his bridge trilogy.
posted by craniac at 1:16 PM on April 7, 2006 [1 favorite]

Has anyone here actually used J-B Weld? It sounds too good to be true, and you know what they say about things that sound too good to be true.
posted by MrMoonPie at 1:27 PM on April 7, 2006

Response by poster: I've used it. When mixed properly it dries pretty hard. If you don't get the ration of resin/cure correct it can crumble. If you were to secure two clean pieces of flat metal with JB weld, they would not come apart in this lifetime.
posted by craniac at 1:34 PM on April 7, 2006

I can't imagine solder working out with these assemblages -- so many different types of stuff; I vote for the hot glue. Solder won't stick to materials like aluminum or 'pot metal.'
posted by Rash at 1:41 PM on April 7, 2006

I've used JB-Weld and I wasn't enthused. It's way too difficult to control the composition and placement of it, and I had a hard time getting the mix right. It crumbled, just as craniac said.
posted by Kickstart70 at 1:58 PM on April 7, 2006

J-B Weld is an art. And when it works, it works well.
posted by phrontist at 2:24 PM on April 7, 2006 [1 favorite]

Automotive glue will work just fine - I know from experience. You don't need anything more to get started, and you can get it from any hardware store.
posted by agregoli at 2:40 PM on April 7, 2006

Response by poster: Could you explain more about what "Automotive glue" is?

Googling "metal expoxy" brought up some very power, toxic looking stuff.
posted by craniac at 4:21 PM on April 7, 2006 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: This structural aviation epoxy looks pretty brutal, and comes in gallon containers.
posted by craniac at 4:25 PM on April 7, 2006

Response by poster: "very POWERFUL, toxic-looking stuff" erp.
posted by craniac at 4:32 PM on April 7, 2006

Best answer: Speaking as a former theatre prop builder, occasional artist, and general wack-job here, I would stay away from soldering things, unless you are already good at it. Besides, it's only going to work if you are putting metals together, and that might wind up being a bit limiting for some of those projects!

Personally, when I am just knocking something together, I reach for the hot glue gun. Fast and easy! Not good for any connection that you want to last or stand up to rough handling though. (something to think about if you expect to be fleeing from drooling martians...)

For more permanent bonds, well, it depends more on the material. I've never used J-B weld, but I've used a bunch of other 'adhesives'. Some of my favorites are 5-minute epoxy (might be sold under a specific brand, but any halfway decent hardware store will know what you mean); Plumber's Putty (again, not a specific brand name) which I like because it sets slowly, can be sculpted while soft, carved when hard, and cleans up with soap and water; and finally Gorilla Glue. This last does NOT clean up easily, but it's ready to use out of the bottle and sticks all kinds of stuff together without any crazy vapors.
posted by schwap23 at 5:08 PM on April 7, 2006 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Clayton Baily uses pop rivets quite a bit, and has a workbench cam.
posted by hortense at 8:15 PM on April 7, 2006

Response by poster: I've got four kids ages nine and under and this opens up some very cool opportunities. Thanks all!
posted by craniac at 9:27 PM on April 7, 2006 [1 favorite]

Hot glue works best on porous surfaces. On surfaces like plastic or metal, the bond will be very temporary. After a short time the glue will harden and get brittle. Then your giant robot, or say... dog that you made out of plastic spoons in high school, will fall apart.
posted by owen at 4:47 AM on April 9, 2006 [2 favorites]

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