Investigation of 6.5mm and 7mm aluminum wire (the heavy stuff)

Investigation of 6.5mm and 7mm aluminum wire (the heavy stuff)

I have been working on more samples for the study group, I hoped you might like to see some of my investigation of the heaviest gauge of aluminum wire (6ga/7mm) we were looking at. It has come to my attention that it is also Palm Sunday. (I am glad I had included Palms in my samples!)

1 Part of the 7mm samples

I know most of us will not be making armatures that would require this gauge, but if you are wanting to make something quite large or you need it to have very strong legs this may be an option for you.

For both the 6.5mm and 7mm wire, I found it helped to wrap the foot loop wire with a layer of wool before I started to build up the foot itself.

The twisting of the 7mm wire required anchoring with the large welding pliers. (These were a fabulous find at Princess Auto. Yes, in the welding section. Did they not know they are well suited to make ninety-degree corners in armatures so should have been in the felt section? Oh right they don’t have a felt section yet.)

Here are photos of the 6.5mm wire is being wrapped to form the support to attach the rest of the wool for the foot.

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4-9 foot development leads to a leg.

With the 6.5mm I used the wire untwisted with no augmentation or secondary wire. While I did not find this particularly challenging I do see that some felters may find the lack of grip on the wire a bit annoying. While the gastroc (calves) at this size were very stable and quite firmly felted the quads did have the ability to rotate slightly. This I did find annoying. I suspect this would not be as much of an issue if this appendage had a pelvis. So if you are making a shape that ends in a cylinder shape you may want to investigate other options than a plain wire.

I would investigate Sara’s wax products to give a bit more stickiness to the wire or try tacky craft glue. Other possibilities to investigate would be Pipe cleaners possibly paired with floral tape if the pipe cleaner was not gripping to the wire itself. I have not investigated the life expectancy of floral tape so I can’t guarantee its longevity.

For the 7mm sample, instead of the open foot loop, I folded back the lower section to make it doubled to the patella (knee). This made me thread the short section of roving I was working with through the foot loop to cover the wire. It was a bit fiddly but was worth it to have a base from which to build the foot.

The lower leg to knee was very easy to wrap. Remember when you are adding the wool in thin layers to make sure that when you start to get close to the end of the fibre spread it out so it’s quite thin and work back over what you have already applied. When you get to the end of the fibre keep turning the appendage as if you were adding more fibre while rubbing and smoothing the fibre you had just laid down. If your application is firm and built up in thin layers you will have very little needle felting needed to get this under layer to stick to itself. The preparation of the fibre will also make a difference, stripped batts work better than top but top will work.  it’s just a bit harder for this particular application.

When I had completed the appendage, I found that there was even greater rotation in the larger gauge wire. This may have been due to the under layer being a bit looser than I could have wrapped it. I did a second sample and yes the quad still had a bit of rotation but not as much as the first sample. So I suspect part of the rotation is a looser under layer.  I have made a sample with a pipe cleaner wrapped around half of the appendage and will see if that reduces rotation but I will get back to that one later.

12-13 next sample to address the problem in quad movement

Leaving the legs for a moment, I went on to the next sample, which was a hand with wool. This I consulted the bare wire samples I had taken for each gauge. After consideration, I started with the 20ga hardware wire (steel) from Dollarama for the fingers and 6ga for the palm and forearm. Unfortunately, that sample made like the hand from the Adams family and the thing crawled off. (I am sure IT will return the Thing shortly).

14-15 consulting the wire samples

To make the fingers I used Sara’s “Digit widget”. I have previously used my tapered mettle seed planting measuring guide for little fingers on my mice and the mettle ruler for the fingers on the Mer’s.

My second ample was 20ga aluminum from AliExpress for the fingers and 6ga for the palm and forearm.

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At this point, the weather outside had stopped raining and we had a break. During which I rushed (ok, slow shuffle) outside to attend to the overflow for the rain barrel that had come adrift as well as fill the bird feeders. (I got scolded by a chickadee as soon as I stepped out of the door!!!) . I got three tomato pots and one tree moved from the front garden, where the pots over winter, to the driveway.  Then my back said, Are you nuts? Did you just move a potted poplar tree? Well, we are not moving the next one!! We are not doing anything that requires sitting or standing for at least the next day!!! If we don’t decide to yell at you longer so I crawled back into the house took off my boots, by this point that was a big accomplishment and crawled into bed with a hand, one needle and a small baggie of wool. So, I apologize for not grabbing the camera, so it would be in reach to document the finger creating. Thus there is a bit of a jump in photos while I am adding wool to the fingers, palm and then to the wrist.

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19-21 (the Palms of Sunday) the wrist still needs a bit more work, but the palm is close

I am not quite happy with the hand yet. I think I would be having an easier time with scale if I had been building from the arm down as I usually do with full figure sculptures. This way I am trying to guess the forearm thickness to match the hand to. I found the aluminum is a bit soft but may be able to stiffen it a bit more by more felting. There is enough grip strength to hold the felting pen without dropping it. But I would like it to be just a bit stiffer. Therefore, I may investigate shifting to a stronger type of wire or a heavier gauge of aluminum since the fingers are still quite thin at 20ga aluminum. I will find the 18ga aluminum and try that next.

We had a quick trip out to Rona to look for pot saucers (no luck) and while there, I checked out their wire selection. I picked up a brass and a copper as well as another un-coated aluminum. The new wire seems to be hiding in the car may be under the big bag of potting dirt Glenn put in the back. Once I find them, I will make samples and add them to the collection.

The 6.5 and 7mm would be a gauge to investigate if you were building a 3D picture that needed a supportive tree trunk or branch something would be hung from. You will need reasonably strong hands to work with it especially if you are working with it doubled. If you have a desperate need, you may consider a bench vice and substantial pliers to assist you in the wire twisting (no wimpy pliers for this gauge!). Glenn has a cool blacksmithing tool called a bending fork but I do not think I want to stick the aluminum in the forge! He also has a couple of jigs for bending “S” hooks which might be fun to play with. There is also a large leg vice sitting by the “small” anvil.  I will let you know if I sneak out and play with his tools.

On a different topic, I just heard that “littlelaurelfibre” on Instagram, has tried to heat the bee-combs from Princess Auto that I was telling you about in a previous blog .  instead of an Oven, as was used in making plastic armour, she used a heat gun. (she has a great photo of the before and after on Instagram . The Heat gun did the trick perfectly! She was able to adjust the angle from the handle to the tines so it would better suit our needs (instead of the bees).  Now I will have to send Glenn to the “room of tools” in the basement and see if he can find the heat gun. I was sure we had one!

Have fun and keep felting!!


11 thoughts on “Investigation of 6.5mm and 7mm aluminum wire (the heavy stuff)

  1. The hand is wonderful – your work is amazing – we’re pretty sure that our efforts would result in a fistful of sausages!

    As always, an interesting read – thank you Jan.

    Love the DIY littlelaurelfibre did on the combs.

    1. thanks! i am sure if ether of you made sausages for fingers (because you meant to make them!) you could just shorten the legs and arms, lengthen the spine and have a lovely sausage dog!! some times the wool just wants to be what it wants to be, dont fight it if its decided!

      i was extremely impressed by the oven avoidance by using a heat gun! the oven worked for large pieces of PVC plastic when you need to mold it for plate armor (Visby style) but it really make the kitchen stink. the friend that was cooking armor had a vary patent Mom. i am not sure i want to cook plastic in my stove its not very reliable on heat and i fear it may over cook it!

      i wonder if wrapping the lower part of the handle in outward shiny side tinfoil then holding it in a bench vice (or leg/foot vice if one is conveniently near by) would protect the handle from some of the heat? the tinfoil and heat gun did seem to work very well for her on its own with only a bit of sanding to do afterwords. i am impressed! i hope the beekeepers dont have a hard time finding bee combs now!!!

  2. Great job on the hands Jan. Those ones look less scary than merman’s. Wax might be the answer for the to smooth wire. Maybe the wax sewers use on thread or the tacky wax cross country skiers use. Might be on sale this time of year.

  3. i think the skee wax may be an excellent idea. i use to have some but that was for a very old pair of skeys. i suspect its long gone. my present skeys have not been out of the garage since i moved in….. and i suspect will be staying there a wile longer. they were self waxing (had an expensive coating on them that didn’t need wax).

    i have sewers wax but i don’t think it is sticky enough. when i find it i will try it or if i see some i will pick up another, you can always use waxed thread!!!

    i am glad i am finally making less gruesome hands!! (i am hope Mr Mer is not too sensitive about his horror inspiering digits!!)

    1. thanks Ruth, it has been lots of fun to investigate! i keep getting new questions as i try more samples.

  4. What an interesting post, so much useful information. Thanks.
    I have passed the link to your post about the bee capping combs to my local Spinners Guild and also the instagram one. I’ve just checked and on ebay (uk) you can get them for as little as £1.22!

    1. Those Bee Combs are a good way to try out wool combs but at an accessible price point! looking at them i was pity sure the handle could be softened and reshaped.

      combed top is great for laying out wool for wet felting. it is good for combing locks to use in needle felting or as accents in wet felting. it is also fun to spin!!

  5. I’m so enjoying your investigations, Jan! That hand looks fantastic (the leg does too, but the former is my favourite).

    I regularly use pipe cleaners on my creations’ arms and legs, it really helps get the fibre to “stick.” I’ve also used wax on occasion, once on a raven’s legs and it worked a charm! Not sure what would happen to the wax in a super warm environment on the long run, though…

    1. Thanks Leonor, i have been finding lots of interesting bits of information from this investigation.
      i tried a sample of the 6mm with a rapped pipe cleaner then added wool over top. i found the adhesion was improved. i still found some rotational movement but not as much as without the pipe cleaner.

      One of the study group had been told to use tape in serton areas of her armature but wasn’t sure why. i had floral tape (which is sticky when you pull on it) and it is very enthusiastic about sticking to itself and stuck well to the wire. i also tried it to cover a pointy end of the 6mm this also worked well. the stickiness will dissipate over time so only add tape where your ready to work.

      i suspect i will tell you more about what i find shortly.

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