Glass and metal are next in my combining glass series.
Fused Glass on Stainless Steel Wall Art
I was recently at a metal supply store in Portland and bought a couple of scrap pieces of stainless steel. To make my first attempt easy, I started with the smaller piece so I didn’t have to figure out how best to cut the metal. I made my glass piece 2’ shorter than the metal on all sides. That was the easy part.
I knew I needed to do something with the stainless steel to make it look nice. While in general stainless steel has a nice finish, it had scratches and smudge marks. First I sanded it to remove the scratches. Then I used an angle grinder and started playing with flap discs of various grits trying to add an artsy finish to the stainless steel. I still wasn’t happy with my results and so my husband suggested I try a wire brush on the angle grinder and I liked the results when I stopped trying to make things perfect and just went for truly artsy.
I had grappled for weeks with how I was going to hang the finished piece. If I hadn’t already made the glass piece the perfect size, my husband suggested we take the top edge and fold it over forming a C and then put a hole in that which then one could use to fasten to the wall. Maybe for a future piece. For this one, I finally decided to cut a piece of wood about the same size as the glass, paint it black, add a keyhole with the router for hanging with a screw and then attach it to the backside of the metal.
You can see a trend in my trying to get this done. I solve one problem only to think of another. Now how to glue the pieces together. I looked at epoxies, silicone, liquid nails and VHB (very high bond) tapes. If I held the glass up to the metal, I could see that the metal was not completely flat, and I was concerned in getting everything to hold together well. I decided I needed a little bit of a give in the attachment. I have a silicone that is made specifically for attaching metal to wood and glass (http://www.caulkyourhome.com/ge-silicone-II-aluminum-and-metal.php) and have used on plant stakes with success so decided to go with silicone.
Side view of Glass, Metal and Wood after Attaching
The day after I attached everything together, my husband woke up remembering that different kinds of metals can react with each other and cause what is called a galvanic reaction potentially making the stainless steel rust. This would not be a problem if the wire brush I had used had only been used on stainless steel, but alas it had not and since it was putting small tiny scratches in the surface of my metal, it could also leave other metal pieces behind from previous uses. Hmm, I was definitely not going to sell this piece to anyone then. I decided to hang it in my bathroom where there is the most moisture and see if over time, it did indeed develop rust.
Next dilemma, since this might only be a temporary hang in the bathroom, I didn’t want to put a screw in the wall and would rather use a picture hanger which would only be a tiny hole in the wall. I bent the picture hangar and chiseled some wood out of the back piece trying to make the hangar fit snug in my keyhole and have the piece lie nicely on the wall, but in the end I was concerned that it was not sturdy enough and might fall on the counter. I fell back to traditional picture hanging and attached screw eyes into the wood back, added picture wire between them and now it is hung quite sturdily. The good part of this whole process is that it made me realize that a customer may not want to put a screw in their wall either and so perhaps my keyhole solution was not the right choice even though it is a really sturdy option.
Back of Piece for Hanging
The lessons learned on this project are numerous and I think many still to come, but I really want to do more of these.
1. This probably goes without saying, but think about the whole process before getting started and figure out how you are going to solve each issue. I still consider finding the right way to hang it my biggest issue and want to try the metal bending method with my next piece.
2. Silicone moves a lot for a few minutes after applying and attaching so perhaps next time I will try VHB with the goal of having each piece stick exactly where I place it the first time.
3. I had tried to attach the front (glass) and back (wood) to the metal in one step and then use clamps to hold them together hoping this would make it easier to get all pieces to hold together flat. However, I had a really hard time with the silicone still moving a little to get everything lined up and stuck where I wanted it and didn’t really succeed. Next time, I will attach them in two steps.
4. Understand your materials and tools meaning if I am going to continue to use stainless steel, I guess I need to purchase new grinder attachments that are labeled only for use on stainless steel.
If any of my readers have suggestions for how to hang which would be appealing to most customers, I would love to hear from you. Thanks!