How to make tree of life art with a bicycle rim and glass gems.
Time scale: 5 out of 5
Making Tree of life art usually starts with a metal ring. There are small rocks or gems strung on wires and wound on this outer ring. The shape can vary from a fairly centered trunk to one that winds and bends off to the side, creating a windswept look. Most are on a small ring, designed to be worn as a necklace.
One of the best things about these creations is the fact that no two will look exactly the same. Go ahead and make one. Guaranteed to be your own unique creation.
The idea of making this tree of life art using a bicycle rim, wasn't mine. For that I need to refer you to A Crafty Mix. I know this is a bit inconvenient. Sorry about that. I hope you come back here, after checking out this great site. I try to be considerate, by not taking others ideas, especially without crediting them.
Since I changed this up a bit, I have provided the instructions for adding the glass gems and the polymer clay, finished outer edge. Yes, this is a bit time consuming, but the results are worth the extra effort.
First off, make sure the bicycle rim will fit in your oven. if you are going to the trouble of adding the polymer clay edge, you will want it to fit in the oven to bake it!
When all the wiring is done and poked through the holes in the rim, twist the ends tightly. I ended up with a big mess of extra wire. Cut any really long pieces off, but make sure there is enough twisted up, so it won't pull back out through the holes.
Push the wire down against the rim as much as you can. Since I still had a gobbed up mess, I covered it with duct tape. Now what? Duct tape doesn't look too pretty, but there is a fix for that! I always have " a fix for THAT." (It happens to be my specialty).
Condition a large pack of black polymer clay. Run a 1/4 of this at a time through a pasta machine, on the thickest setting. If you don't have a pasta machine, just use a roller to roll out the clay to about the thickness of a quarter or so.
Slice long strips the same width as the rim. Cover the inside of the outside of the rim. Inside, outside, upside down? The clay will have to be just below the ridge along the rim and pushed tightly against, so it will stay put. Keep adding clay strips. Rub each joint together, using your choice of sculpting tool to smooth the connection. Do all the way around, until all the duct tape is covered.
Use the end of a pen to add texture to the clay. I did the texture on the edge but only on the top leaf side, to resemble the leaves on the tree of life art.
Dip your finger in green perfect pearls powder and rub on the clay.
Preheat oven to 275 degrees F. Bake bicycle rim for about 45 minutes. If you have used a different brand of clay, check the baking directions on the package. Other brands may have different baking times and temperature.
Remove from the oven after baking. Since this isn't a toaster oven sized project, you will have to use a regular kitchen oven.
After baking, turn off oven and let cool.
Remove polymer fumes from the oven by wiping inside oven with a rag soaked in vinegar. Rinse with water.
Heat oven to 300 degrees for 20 minutes then shut off and cool, with the door open.
Occasional use of a kitchen oven and wiping down afterwards, isn't a problem but doing it all the time, is not recommended.
Prepare the glass gems for soldering...
The copper tape doesn't have to be done, because the gems are wire wrapped, BUT, I wanted an extra sturdy piece. The tape gives extra spots for attaching the solder. I'm also not an expert at wire wrapping. If you are, you can skip the extra time and expense it takes to add the taped edge.
Wrap the copper tape around the outer edge of the gem stones. Use all different sizes of gems. After you have all of them wrapped, use a boning tool or the side of a pen and rub the tape, to smooth out any crinkles. Rub quite hard to smooth. All the crinkles should disappear and the tape should be stuck firmly to the edges of the gems.
Cut several 6-8 inch lengths of 18 Gauge wire. (Same amount as you have glass gemstones.) Hold one end of the wire with pliers and twist to make a curlyque type thing. Put this towards the top of the glass gem and tightly wrap the wire around. Now twist the other end.
The gems should be added one at a time, starting about half way up the branches and working your way towards the edge of the bicycle rim.
Be very careful when soldering! If you can, work standing up to give some distance between the fumes and your nose! Also, be sure to have good ventilation.
Balance gems in place on the tree of life wire branches. Solder, wire to wire and copper to wire. Fill in any big gaps. Partially overlap some of the gems.
Here is a useful tip for those of us that don't have three hands.... If they keep falling off (the gems, not your hands), temporarily use a piece of crumpled tinfoil, on the back side to hold them in place, while you solder. Just the Soldering takes two hands, so the gems can't be held. (Unless you have a helper).
Turn the bicycle rim over occasionally, to solder the gems from the back.
Cut a few pieces of wire about 4 inches long. Bend a curl in each end, facing opposite each other. Solder these here and there on the tree of life art.
Keep adding more and more of the glass cabochons, until you are happy with the result. I used almost 80. Yes, it sounds like a lot but the result is amazing. I'm sure, there is that line between just enough and overdoing it. I'm extremely pleased to say, for once, I don't think I overdid my tree of life art project!
Some tips for making soldering easier on your Tree of Life Art:
Get a soldering tool with a holder.
You will need a soldering tool that that gets hot enough. At least 40 watts. An adjustable temperature setting is handy. Hot is good, but if the soldering iron has been on for hours, occasionally turning it down will keep the tip intact longer.
Use a small tip. I started with a big fat thing and it made the job much more difficult and messy. Oops...After cooking a big chunk out of it, I went and got something more suitable. Wow, what a difference!
Solder on an old cutting board to avoid damage to a good surface.
Use flux to clean the surface before soldering.
Use the solder designed for jewelry.
The wire has to be clean, without oil residue or paint on it. I use an inexpensive automotive wire for a lot of my craft projects, but it will NOT work for this! Galvanized wire works fine and is still inexpensive.
I hope the tips provided will help you to make your own beautiful, one of a kind, Tree of Life art. Once you get the soldering figured out, it isn't really that difficult. Just Try it!
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