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How to Shape Metal to Give It Life

How to Shape Metal to Give It Life fires up his oxygen-acetylene torch to bend some cactus. "When you have flame, you can do anything," he says. He's shaping some Cactus Caramias, the playful desert plants he creates with posts and balls, and he wants to give it a little more life by bending the posts a bit. He's using a rosebud tip on his oxygen-acetylene torch, which is hooked up to the oxygen and acetylene tanks, which are also used for welding and cutting. The rosebud, however, is a heating tip. It has a number of small holes in its end instead of a single flame. This gives you a broader area of flame so you can heat up an area more quickly. Kevin is going to heat up the pipes so he can bend them by hand, giving them some shape and movement. He puts on his dark glasses for safety, adjusts his flame, then picks one spot and let it get red hot. Then he moves up and down, finally getting the whole pipe hot enough so he can bend it. He prevents burning through by continuing to move the flame around. The dark glasses help him see where it is getting a nice red-orange glow. Once you get the metal hot enough, it's very easy to bend - it doesn't take much pressure at all. Then you just move up to the next post. While he's bending, he wants to give it enough movement to keep it interesting, and he's also thinking about transporting the artwork. He bends out the post he is working on a little, then bends it off to the side a little and back at the same time, so it's almost like a corkscrew. Meanwhile, with the smaller posts, he tries to keep it as much as possible in the footprint of the base - he can always adjust them when he delivers the piece by taking the oxygen-acetylene set up with him. Once he gets to the top ball and post, it's hot, so he needs a pair of pliers. As he goes up each string of balls and posts, he's trying to bend each one at least two directions at the same time. On the one he is working on, he bent the metal a little out (to get some clearance), then a little over, then that way, and the next were the two opposite ways so that when you look at the sculpture from any direction, you always see a little movement. "Just having fun," Kevin says.

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