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byucelen

How Can I Add A Metal Rod Or Pipe To A Ceramic Sculpture After It Is Fired

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How can I add a metal rod or pipe to a ceramic sculpture after it is fired? Do I need to put holes inside my ceramic heads that I can glue the rods to? What is the most durable and common method?  Thank you

 

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Some more information would help.

 

How big are the sculptures,  how heavy are they, what size pipe/rod.

 

Surface area is key here.   You need to provide sufficient surface area so that the epoxy can transfer the required force between the 2 surfaces (ie clay of the sculpture and the metal of the support)  to little area for the force involved and the epoxy may let go of the rod or may break away from the clay surface.

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If you know you are going to have to use rods to support them, then it's a good idea, to make holes for them when building.

 

It's possible to cut/ drill through fired ceramics, but why take the time a the risk of it cracking, when cutting when the clay is still wet, is so much easier?

 

The downside to making a hole, when building, is that it can weaken the structure overall. But with proper construction, that shouldn't be a problem.

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Thank you for all your thoughtful answers and time. My heads are are about life size and I plan to use 3/4" OD piping.

 

They are also hollow, but I guess I can still build a structure inside the head at the top that would look like a pipe attached to the top and have enough surface area to have the pipe glued to. So my question is how much of shrinkage should I expect while determining the hole/pipe size? 

 

And if I were to make a life size hollow human figure and try to support it with pipes would you suggest that I build a structure inside to have the pipe glued to or are there any other smart connectors out there that I can use for large structures like this?

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Shrinkage will depend on your clay. Stoneware, about 12%. Porcelain, 14-16%. Earthenware, 6-8%.

 

As for your large sculptures, I would spend some time in the plumbing section of the hardware store. There are dozens of fittings that can be used for screwing pipe together at many angles. The main difficulty with using pipe is getting the pipe threaded to work with the fittings.

 

You could also use tube steel with slip-on fittings, although they are more expensive than regular black pipe fittings. HERE are some other possibilities. Welding is always a good option, too. You can pick up a little flux core wire feed welder that runs on 120 volts for $200- $250 that is quite simple to use.

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Since our studio builds lots of life-size work, we get many figures being made.  I always tell students if you forecast the needs of your fired sculpture while you're still building, it will help considerably come time to assemble the fired piece.  I also suggest students take apart an action figure or barbie doll and look at the clever, yet simple methods used to make connections.  

 

Simple example for a head on a pipe like you're asking about would be a system similar to how an outdoor patio umbrella is supported by a table and umbrella stand (only upside down) -- this could be as simple as a "cup" up near the crown of the head (the umbrella stand), and some sort of wall/baffle with a hole (the table) placed lower toward the chin/neck.  This would be a completely mechanical fit that is easily disassembled and requires no adhesives unless you want to make it permanent.  The holes don't even need to be a tight fit, just in the ballpark.  If you don't want permanence, I sometimes like to use poster/wall tack for temporarily holding ceramics in certain situations and as a gasket between pieces built in sections - hot glue sometimes works as well since it doesn't really adhere to ceramics.

 

If the pipe addition is an afterthought on an already fired hollow head, you can still adapt with different methods.  One of my immediate thoughts is to epoxy a "threaded floor flange" up into the crown of the head, and simply thread your pipe on once epoxy is cured.  Another popular method to attach limbs to torso is by use of a flange system and tube/socket connections.  With a tube/socket, you can make the tube (ex: long neck going into collar, tube connection inside shoulder/armpit) extend into the body cavity a little ways, add a hole or two for wire, then simply bailing wire them in place (like tying both arm tubes together - access from neck hole).  If you can't get inside for tying wire like this, there are simple solutions like removable trap doors to get inside for accessing your internal components.  Viola Frey is a good artist to look up regarding clever hidden trap doors and internal bolting/support structure.

 

Welding is always another option, which opens up many other possible solutions.  Rebar and small diameter rod is cheap compared to buying pipe fittings.  If going with a cheap welder like Neil suggested, I would look into the $90 Harbor Freight flux-core 120v welder (I think they'll even take the 20% coupon on this).  I know several people with them and they are actually better than you'd think.

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Welding is always another option, which opens up many other possible solutions.  Rebar and small diameter rod is cheap compared to buying pipe fittings.  If going with a cheap welder like Neil suggested, I would look into the $90 Harbor Freight flux-core 120v welder (I think they'll even take the 20% coupon on this).  I know several people with them and they are actually better than you'd think.

 

The only downside of that welder is that it needs a 20 amp outlet, which you may or may not have where you need it. There are others on the market, like Craftsman, that will run on a 15 amp circuit- any outlet anywhere. The price is great for the Harbor Freight welder, but by the time you have new electrical lines run it may not be any cheaper. If you've already got 20 amp lines in your studio, it's a heck of a deal. I have a Craftsman 15 amp and it's great. I've used it in several places, including kiln builds, and never had to worry about the electrical service.

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From a different perspective, depending on your need to keep the attachment invisible or not, You could use expanding polyurethane foam spray to fill a cavity that is fairly large.  You would have to somehow position the head and the pipe in relation to each other and then spray the foam in so that it can expand and set up without movement.  This may not acutally glue the pieces together,  but that foam is sticky as heck, and once curred it would form fit around all of the pipes etc. for additional "grippage", screws or bolts could be added to the pipe to give more area for the foam to stick to and from around.  One down side would be that the foam would ooze any and everywhere that it can, and once it is on, it is damn near impossible to get off again.  Also, the foam does not weather all that well if exposed to direct sun.  It will turn color, but if sealed or painted it will last a long long time.

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