Micro Torch Metalsmithing: Creating Colorful Heat Patina and Flame-Painting Patterns on Metal

Don’t you love it when you see a jewelry design that literally makes your mouth drop open? That’s how I was when I discovered the work of Copper Colorists Skip and Racheal Mathews, who “paint” brilliant butterflies, hummingbirds, flowers, and other copper jewelry designs and sculptures with their torches.

Watching videos and seeing images of Skip and Racheal’s flame painting work made me envious of their precision, color control, and consistency with heat patinas, which seemed soo very far from the results I was achieving with my big torches.

My torch setup is about as simple as it can be: a hardware store tank with the basic “hot head” torch head, also from the hardware store. I use propane for most work, and MAPP gas for enameling. I learned to solder on Lexi’s oxy-acetylene torch with a nice small tip and flexible tubing, which was wonderful, of course–but I set up my studio with the hardware store variety and it has served me just fine.

But then, about two weeks ago, I had an “aha!” moment and pushed my hardware-store torch aside.
flame painted colorful copper

I’ve had a micro torch in my toolbox for so long, I can’t remember why I bought it. It’s a really small one, even as micro torches go, intended to create that sugary goodness on top of crème brûlée (and a mean roasted marshmallow, in a pinch).

It’s easy enough to color metal with a torch, but it has always been a hit-or-miss process for me, and when it was a big hit, I was rarely able to re-create how it got that way. I’m awed by the precise markings and patterns Skip, Racheal, and other heat patina artists are able to achieve with just a flame and a piece of copper–no ink, no flux, no alcohol–and I always wondered if it was just a matter of torch control and practice. I’m sure that is a huge part of it, but it also turns out that the size of the flame makes all the difference. How did I not realize that sooner?flame painted leather and copper flower bracelet

So I was thrilled to discover that my own flame painting attempts improved drastically when I used a smaller flame: my little kitchen butane micro torch. I could make dots and lines that actually look like dots and lines! The small torch literally feels like a paintbrush in my hand.

Who knew you could achieve such beautiful color with a micro torch? But that’s not all you can do with a micro torch–they’re great for annealing, fusing, and even soldering, especially if you create in a small space. Learn about all the great things you can do with a micro torch with our Micro Torch Collection–you can get it with a torch or without a torch!

 

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