How to Make a Metal Sunflower Stake

Hammer copper and brass into a unique piece of garden art with these steps.

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Materials and Tools:

5-by-5-inch 16-ounce copper sheet
15- to 20-by-1-inch 16-ounce copper sheet
1-1/4-by-1/16-inch-thick scrap brass sheet
oxygen acetylene torch
1/8-inch-diameter steel rod
1/16-inch and 3/16-inch steel welding rods
low-temperature brazing rod with 5 percent silver
coated bronze brazing rod
clamps
smooth needle-nose pliers
locking pliers
metal sheers
metal pliers
rawhide mallet
chasing hammer or ball-peen hammer

Steps:

1. Cut a 5-by-5-inch square out of a copper sheet.

2. Draw a circle in the center of the square, leaving about 1½ inches on the sides.

3. Draw triangles all the way around the rim of the circle. Cut around the outline. The finished piece will resemble a star. This will be considered the sunflower head.

4. File the edges with a flat file until smooth. Use sandpaper as needed.

5. Create the flower head by hammering from the back of the copper onto a sandbag or a wooden stump with a ball-peen hammer or chasing hammer. Hammer until the metal becomes stiff.

6. Using an oxygen acetylene torch, heat (anneal) the metal until it glows a deep red. Hold the piece with a pair of metal pliers. Dip in water to cool. Repeat hammering until you're pleased with the shape of the flower head.

7. Cut out nine to 11 brass petals 3 to 5 inches long each. One end should have a rectangular ¾-inch-long tail for attachment, while the other end should be tapered with a rounded tip. File and sand all edges. Place petals around the flower head to confirm that there are enough petals to surround the head evenly.

8. Hammer a vein into each petal by placing a 1/16-inch steel rod on the brass and hammering along the rod to make an impression.

9. Fold the rectangular end of the petal back 90 degrees. Clamp the petal to a spot between two of the pointed copper triangles on the flower head.

10. Braze (with the torch and low-temperature brazing rod) all the petals onto the flower head, one at a time.

11. Fold all the petals back, adjusting as necessary with smooth needle-nose pliers.

12. Heat the petals with a torch and dip into water to color them. Keep the torch lighted and color all the petals in one sitting to get consistent coloring results.

13. Attach the back of the flower head to a 1/8-inch-thick steel rod (this will be the stem), using a torch with a coated bronze brazing rod.

14. Cut out a copper leaf 15 to 20 inches long by 1 inch wide, tapering to a rounded edge at both ends. Cut, file and sand down the center of the leaf to about a ½-inch width.

15. Make a vein line with another piece of 3/16-inch steel welding rod by hammering down the length of the copper, avoiding the central 3 inches of the leaf.

16. Place the center of the leaf on the steel stem, wrap it around the stem tightly and clamp it with locking pliers. Braze the leaf to the stem with the torch and low-temperature braze.

17. Hammer the stem with a rawhide mallet to work-harden (stiffen).

18. Use files and sandpaper to remove excess braze from around the stem and leaf.

19. Adjust the petals and leaves until you like the arrangement. Hammer with the rawhide mallet to work-harden.

20. Use steel wool to polish the raised surface of the flower head.

21. Plant the sculpture in a garden and train morning glories or other vines to grow up it.

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