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Tools for the Studio, Part 5

The Voice: Hey, Kevin. What are you doing?

Kevin Caron: I had a request a little while ago from one of my YouTube video subscribers who wanted to know, "What tools did you have when you first started doing metal work, and how did things progress from there?"

After I moved my studio into this building, this slip roll was the next big tool that I got. As you can see, you slip metal in there, and that's how it shapes the metal.

You can adjust this roller up and down, left and right, so you can get a twist. You can get just a circle, and you can do all kinds of different things with it.
It even has little grooves for making rings using different sized rod. Just run it through here, bend a ring with it, then weld it together.

The Voice: Do you remember what sculpture you got it for?

Kevin Caron: I think I got it for Backflip, one of my contemporary art sculptures commissioned for a home here in Phoenix.

The Voice: What other sculptures have you used it for?

Kevin Caron: Several; for instance: Steelhead, After Escher, Rush and Cyclone. I've used it for both private and public art commissions. If you look on my website, you'll see that any of the sculptures that have curves to them - that's what I've used this piece of equipment for.

The Voice: What else did you get around that time?

Kevin Caron: Around that same time, I also acquired this tool. This is an English wheel. Whereas the slip roll does only a circle or a curve, the English wheel will do a curve in two different directions.

You place your metal in between the anvil and the die and close the handle up, so that now you've got your metal pinched in between there. There's an adjustment wheel down on the bottom that you move with your foot. It raises or lowers the die and you put more or less pressure on your metal. Then, as you work the metal back and forth between the two of them, pinching the metal in between, it's going to form to fit that curve.

There are many different kinds of shapes; all kinds of different curves for the different radius curves that you're trying to make.

The Voice: Which sculpture did you get the English Wheel for, Kev?

Kevin Caron: I believe I was working on Steelhead with this one, and Torsional Twist - some of my earlier pieces of outdoor art.

This tool does great long, shallow curves, while that metal shaping tool is best at doing circles. Later I found out there's an easier and quicker way to do it. Working on this tool it might take me an hour sitting here, moving the metal back and forth through there, trying to get that curve that I want. Let me show you a better way.

Here is my air-powered shaper. It does the same thing as the English wheel but a hundred times faster. With this power head, you can work anything up to eighth-inch steel plate. You can get a bigger power head to go in here for shaping quarter-inch plate.

It's all air-powered. You've just got a foot pedal on the floor; hook it up to the compressor, push the pedal, get to work. It's a lot faster and quicker! It's also a lot more versatile, because you've got the really close contour head that allows you to make a really sharp bend. There's plastic or rubber for planishing; for shaping on soft metals like aluminum or copper, without leaving any hammer marks. The metal comes out smooth, but bent.

There's even a shrinking die that you would use with the plastic. When you're making something like a bowl, you would use this to begin the curve, then be able to push that metal back up into the bottom of the bowl so you can shrink the side of the bowl and make the bowl curve around.

It's really cool; a lot of fun to play with. It's also noisy - oh my, it's noisy! I've actually got this one mounted on big rubber feet, bolted to the floor, and then filled the whole frame of the machine and the stand that it's on with sand, just trying to dampen down some of the noise.

So, those are the three tools that came next, and pretty quickly. I needed them to help shape and bend the metal, help things work quickly.

You've got to have the right tool, especially if you're a metal artist. That's the lesson I've been learning along the way. As I've started selling my work, and having more money to buy bigger and better tools, I've found: Get the right tool. The right tool makes the right job go a lot quicker.

Speaking of jobs, I'm going to get back to mine. See you next time.

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