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Why the type of wire matters

In this post I am going to be explaining about choosing the correct wire for the job. Making a wire tree with any old wire can influence the production time and final result, changing the overall feel of the tree.

I decided to do an experiment and make 2 trees, of very similar design but use 2 different thicknesses of wire. The first tree I made used 0.6mm wire and the second used 0.3mm wire. Now naturally I needed twice as much of the thinner wire to make the trunk roughly the same thickness but what I didn’t expect was the difference in time. The thicker wire tree took 3 hours to make where as the thinner wire tree took 6 hours, double the time. Now it may seem obvious because I had twice as much wire to work with but I kind of expected the thinner wire tree to take a bit less time than it did, I don’t know why I thought that!

Moving onto the visual aspect of the two trees, the thicker wire doesn’t offer as thicker foliage as there isn’t as much of it however I knew the roots would be nicer as the thicker wires make more pleasant root structures. The thinner tree has a nice mix of colours which does lend the views eye to the thinner tree more so, and with plumper foliage looks more filled out. The thinner wire offers a smoother looks to the trunk and branches where as the thicker has more of a grainy look, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing on a tree sculpture.

 

Closing thoughts, I feel that the thicker wire tree is like an entry level model, it’s efficient and does it job quickly and due to the time spent at a good price point also. The thinner wire is more of the luxury model, it takes a lot

longer to make but offers a far superior product as the result. Ultimately everyone has a personal preference and budget but it’s nice to know that I have got both bases covered.

 

Which do you prefer, the thinner tree or the thicker tree?

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Summer to Autumn 2017- Trees created

Here is a round up of the wire tree sculptures I created between Summer and Autumn 2017. There is a nice selection of crystal bead trees and all wire trees along with some experimentation with flame patina effects and ageing effects using liver of sulphur.

All these trees are available to purchase here on my website http://metalbonsai.com

Music: Jeff Kaale Mai Tai via Soundcloud

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Wedding Anniversary Gifts

Not only am I able to offer beautiful wedding cake toppers but the following years of marriage are just as important and why not consider getting a crystal bead tree in the stone colour of that year for a special couple? With so many different stones available from Gold, Silver, Emerald to Ruby, I can make a tree to suit most budgets and match the colour of that year. We would work together to decide exactly what the tree would look like and ensure a prompt service and delivery in time for the special occasion.

Anniversary Gift Wire Tree Sculpture

If you want to commission a tree for a special couple, please contact me.

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What type of wire and why

So today I thought it would be worth discussing the types of wire I use to make my tree sculptures and why I use what I use. Before getting into the details it is worth noting that this is how I make my trees and there are many talented artists out there who use different thicknesses, material and have their own techniques.

The main types of wire that used to make wire trees are as follows:

  • Aluminium
  • Copper
  • Steel

Aluminium

Aluminium wire is typically used in welding and is a great source of wire as it is reasonably priced; however, these spools are also quite dirty and require cleaning before use otherwise you end up with a dull looking tree which leaves residue when handled. The welding wire also can be quite brittle and after 2 or 3 bends can break, although some brands can be better than others. You can also get armature wire, for making clay sculptures, which is a softer material which does not break as easily.

 

 

Copper

Copper wire comes in 2 variants, bare and anodized. Bare copper wire is just pure copper and is subject to oxidising, this is a process where it changes from being copper orange colour to changing through to blue and green colourations. Consider this, the Statue of Liberty is made of copper but is the blue green colour we automatically think of. Bare copper wire, when used and oxidised naturally can look like the image below but can also be oxidised artificially by adding a patina using liver of sulphur. Heat can also be used to create a colourful patina on copper also.

Anodised copper coated wire is copper wire covered with a layer of aluminium which is electro-coated onto the wire, and can be coloured as well. I tend to prefer using anodised wire because the tree does not change from it’s original colour and the customer gets exactly what they pay for. With the choice of many different colours it allows for a freer artistic expression, although there is always something timeless about a aluminium tree as discussed above.

Original copper colour

 

Oxidised Copper
Oxidised copper tree after being out in my garden and weathered for a year and a half.

Steel

Galvanised steel seems to be the choice of wire for some, however I learned very early on it is a nightmare to work with and quite dangerous. A shape piece of steel will likely go though your hand before bending, unlike copper or aluminium.

 

Wire Thickness

There are a variety of gauges or wire thickness, and the size of the tree is somewhat determined by the wires thickness. A popular choice among other wire tree artists is to use 0.6mm thick and 1mm thick wire. At 1mm thick, it does not take long before you will be unable to twist the wire by hand and you would have to start using tools such as wrenches. Some artists have developed their own tools and jigs to hold the wire, with the originator (as far as I am aware) being Kevin Iris. His style allows for large trees to be made without the risk of damaging a hand in the process. I damaged my hand making a large tree and now a tendon in my left hand clicks every time I clench a fist. It wasn’t worth it!

I personally use thinner wires for my sculptures and the majority are made using less than o.5mm wide anodised copper wire. This allows me to twist the tree manually and gives me the opportunity to make nice plump clumps of foliage using my unique 3D foliage style. The typical size of my trees range from 100mm to 150mm tall and fit correctly into mame bonsai pots. Larger trees I make tend to use thicker wire, 0.6mm silver coated copper wire being my preference currently and these trees tend to be around 250mm tall.

It is also worth noting there are artists out there who make micro trees, tiny trees that sit on a finger tip, naturally these artists use exceptionally thin wire.

Weight

So with all this wire these trees must be heavy right? Well aluminium is exceptionally light, almost surprisingly light when you pick up a larger tree. Copper on the other hand is heavier and once you have a 400m of wire it can feel pretty heavy.

Strength

As mentioned above, aluminium wire can be strong but brittle however copper is relatively soft and malleable. The problem arises when you have a tree that is either so large or has crystal beads where the branches struggle to support the weight. I find with thin wire and making tree that have over 800 glass beads, they struggle to stand and when they move they sway. I have also seen other artists who create 1m tall trees in aluminium and they have noted that they are concerned about the branches sagging over time.

 

So now you know what wires I use and why, I would love to hear from other artist about their preferred wire types and how they use theirs!

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Wedding Cake Toppers

We are proud to announce a brand new product range from Metal Bonsai Studio, wedding cake toppers.

The concept is each colour represents a person in the relationship, with their separate roots each coming from their own unique experiences and life. As the roots meet they start entwining with each other, separate at first but as we move up the trunk they been together seamlessly before becoming branches. The final part is the foliage where the two are mixed together randomly which completed the tree of their relationship and love.

Each tree is carefully made to follow this concept, of which as a happily married man feel encapsulates what love is. The trees are mounted on clear acrylic bases which allow them to blend into the cake seamlessly and after the big event, they can be cleaned off and placed in your home to remind you of the day.

See what toppers we have in stock now!

Naturally these trees can be made to match the colour scheme of any wedding, permitting I can get the right wire. If you are interested, then send me a message and we can start planning your cake topper.

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How long does it take to make a wire tree sculpture

Crystal Wire Tree Sculpture Purple and Silver

One of the most common questions I get from customers and other interested parties is how long does it take to make a wire tree sculpture. This really depends on what style of tree I am making and what size, below I will try and break it down and give some examples of size and time.

Style 1- My traditional style comprises of making a wire tree with either no foliage, like deciduous tree over winter or with my 3d foliage pattern.

Deciduous, without leaves.
Colourful wire bonsai sculpture in yellow pot
My 3d leaf pattern.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Obviously there are different sizes of tree from 2-3″ (50-80mm) which are a relatively small tree all the way up to currently 8-10″ (210-250mm). Beyond this size, different techniques need to be employed and also larger wire. I typically use a 0.3mm thick wire to allow for more texture to the tree and foliage.

Small tree
Larger tree.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With regard to times, below are a few examples of size and time.

  • Small without foliage- 5hrs
  • Small with foliage- 7hrs
  • Medium without foliage- 9hrs
  • Medium with foliage- 10 to 14hrs
  • Large without foliage- Unknown as I haven’t made that large a tree without foliage.
  • Large with foliage- 12 to 18 hrs

 

Style 2- Crystal or bead wire trees utilise beads between 3 and 8mm in diameter and between 3 and 1000 beads per tree.

Small Green Glass Bead Wire Tree Sculpture in Blue Pot by Metal Bonsai MG244-3
Small bead tree- 300 4mm beads.
Large bead trees- 800 beads each. (and my ugly mug!)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Regarding the time these take this is more complicated as there are a variety of leaf patterns and some take a lot longer but as a general rule of thumb, below is a rough example of times.

  • Small bead tree- 10 to 15 hrs
  • Large bead tree- 20 to 40 hours! (yes you read that right!)

A note on the large trees, there are anywhere up to 1000 beads and these need threading onto each piece of wire, which can be up to 400 pieces. This is very fiddly work which really eats up the hours.

Obviously these times and sizes are based on my current situation and I am sure in future I will be making bigger trees with more branches and many thousands of crystal beads.

If you have any questions, please do feel free to contact me.