Choosing a Metal for Outdoor / Indoor Metal Sculptures
& Outdoor / Indoor Water Fountains
There are many types of metals used for metal sculptures and metal wall art designed for indoor and outdoor use. How do you choose a metal sculpture that is appropriate for your outdoor metal sculpture or metal water fountain?
First of all, be sure that when you purchase a metal sculpture or metal water fountain for outdoor use be sure you let the art gallery or company you are purchasing the metal outdoor sculpture from is aware that you are using it outside! They can adapt the sculpture or water fountain or coat it to protect it from the elements.
Metals, whether it’s copper, brass, bronze, iron or steel, have always been the materials for artists throughout the centuries to test and stretch their imaginations. Let’s take a look at the unique qualities of the metals used to develop art for your wall, table or freestanding sculptures.
Non-metals are more abundant in nature than are metals, but metals in fact constitute most of the periodic table. Some well-known metals we’re going to discuss include aluminum, copper, iron and zinc.
An alloy is a mixture with metallic properties that contains at least one metal element. Examples of alloys are steel (iron and carbon), brass (copper and zinc), and bronze (copper and tin).
Copper is probably one of the prettiest metals offering you versatility that allows you to appreciate metal sculptures indoors and outdoors. Copper has the ability to change color naturally or patinas both chemical patinas and creating the patina with heat. Because there are many ways to color copper it can offer you a rainbow of colors for your sculpture or water fountain whether it is for wall art, wall water fountain, freestanding sculpture, tabletop sculpture, outdoor water fountain or table water fountain. Creating the color for copper metal sculptures is done through a variety of methods including the use of a torch or with a number of different chemicals to reach the desired color spectrum. Copper will patina naturally in many outdoor climates giving it a green hue. But if you live in a dry hot climate, like Arizona, it probably will not patina but may turn a deeper brownish color. The more humid the climate the more dramatic the natural patina.
Copper comes in different thicknesses and can be sculpted into the most detailed flowers – if it is too think it is very difficult to work with copper. This is why most of your copper sculptures are more delicate in nature or are seen in larger less detailed sections. Copper can also be molded and textured in many ways with a variety of tools creating unusual textures to this most forgiving metal. Texturing can be done in so many ways that it up to the artist on how they achieve their desired look and feel. Quite often numerous metals are found within the same sculpture. For example the Blowing Elm Tree consists of two different metals; copper and copper coated steel. The leaves are made of coppers and the trunk and brances were created from copper coated steel. Paint as well as patinas, inlcuding heat and chemicals, were used to create the color.
Bronze and Brass Sculptures and Statues
Brass is a metal that consists of both copper and zinc. Bronze is a metal that consists of copper and tin.
Bronze is the most popular metal for cast metal sculptures or bronze sculptures. Common bronze alloys often have the unusual and very desirable property of expanding slightly just before they set, thus filling the finest details of a mold. Click here for more information on the Care and Maintenance of Bronze Sculptures.
The manufacture of bronzes is highly skilled work, and a number of distinct casting processes may be used, including wax casting, sandcasting and centrifugal casting. If you would like more information on any of these processes please contact me.
Brass Sculptures can retain their color indefinitely if properly protected with appropriate finishes. But the natural patinas that brasses assume as they age have come to represent durability and lasting quality.
As with Copper, Brasses will patina naturally or through the application of chemicals. These chemicals can create an artificial patina within hours that would take decades to form in nature. Durable lacquers and polymeric laminates are now available that can retain the natural beauty of new metal for years, whether indoors or exposed to the atmosphere. The recent development of extremely age-resistant protective finishes, including powder coatings and vapor-deposited organic coatings, is one of the major driving forces behind brass’s growing popularity. The variety of surface finishes and colors available in brass is one more expression of the metal’s almost endless variety.
Iron and Steel Sculptures
Iron is the most abundant metal, and is believed to be the tenth most abundant element in the universe. Steel is the best known alloy of iron.
Steel is a very good metal for outdoor metal sculptures if the proper care is taken by the sculptor when creating the sculpture. Steel is very stable and durable because of it’s weight and metal characteristics. What we do for these metal outdoor sculptures is that we pre-rust the steel (patina them) and then we treat them with and oil/linseed oil & turpentine (equal parts) that gives them a beautiful sheen and makes them look like leather. What we recommend is that they are treated with the oil/linseed oil & turpentine mixture periodically to preserve them. A good example of how they would look is the Eternal Flame sculpture. These pieces do NOT continue to rust.
For Metal Outdoor Water Fountains stay away from iron and steel. What can pass as a delicate oxide of steel (rust) in an outdoor sculpture will become a real mess if you try to use it in a water fountain. Rusty brown water, mucky brown steel, and that’s only the beginning. For our purposes, copper, brass, and bronze …