Wire Zebra Sculpture
Clyde Oishi meticulously solders copper wire and copper tape on his wire zebra sculpture.
Materials and Tools:
8- to 30-gauge copper*
lead-free solder, silver bearing and rosin core (commonly used in copper plumbing fixtures)
water-soluble paste flux
white glossy urethane automotive paint, consisting of 2 parts - base and hardener
black satin, low-sheen, oil-based enamel paint
butane-fueled micro torch
metal probes with plastic handles
airbrush - optional
*Copper wires are bare, un-insulated, with no coating whatsoever. The lighter gauges are typically sold in pre-packaged spools, while the heavy 8-gauge is sold by the foot.
** Helping-hands tool consists of two alligator clips, connected to a swivel arm which is attached to a weighted base.
1. Create a zebra image to be used as a blueprint or use a drawing or a photo. It should be scaled to the actual size of your project and a full-side profile view. Lay the pattern out flat onto the work space.
2. Clean each wire to be used with a scouring pad.
3. Based on this pattern, create a skeleton of the zebra with 8-gauge wire. Bend it to resemble the basic shape of the legs following its contours. Build them in pairs, front legs and then the hind legs using pliers.
4. Attach the front and hind legs to another piece of 8-gauge wire for the back using a soldering iron. Brush on a liberal coat of flux on each wire to be soldered. With the aid of the helping-hands and pliers, hold the legs in place. Heat up the joints to be attached with the soldering iron and apply solder. The project should resemble a 4-legged stick-figure with legs, torso (back) and neck.
5. Continue adding more wires to the piece following the same procedure. Use the lighter 18- and 20-gauge wires. Create a full torso; build the legs up, paying careful attention to the muscular structure. Proceed with the neck, head, upper-tail, ears and hoofs. The piece should now resemble a horse or donkey.
6. Start applying the stripes of the zebra using copper tape.
7. Create one stripe at a time. Start by laying down its outline, and then add more tape to fill it in, applying a liberal amount of solder as you proceed.
8. This step of working with one stripe at a time is very tedious; it will test your patience
9. Coat the entire piece with flux. Heat up each stripe with a micro torch, working on small sections at a time. This will smooth out the surface contours and fix any bad solder connections. Use metal probes and pliers to aid in this step.
10. Attach very fine 30-gauge wire (can be found within the insulation of power cords), to the piece to create its mane and tail.
11. After this is soldered in, trim it to its desired length with scissors.
12. Clean the wire zebra thoroughly, inside and out with engine cleaner solvent.
13. Spray a light coat of primer on the wire zebra sculpture. Cover the inside as well.
14. Apply the glossy white paint with a paintbrush and an airbrush, as well, to save time. Mix the paint according to directions. Apply as many coats as needed to create a solid uniform finish. Don't forget the inside.
15. Apply the black satin paint. Leave a white border approximately 1/16 inch around each stripe. Paint the mane, tail and muzzle of your wire zebra sculpture.
Clyde Oishi was born and raised in Hawaii. He comes from a long lineage of Hawaiians. He is very proud of his deep roots and culture. He earned his degree in art, specializing in metal sculptures. His love of creating wire art lead him to a career as an electrician, working with phone wires. After his father got sick, Oishi quit his job to take care of him. During this time he made wire sculptures as therapy. Now, he continues to pursue his passion for art and loves to spend time enjoying the beauty of the islands with his family.