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I Forge Iron

Just got an unusual request from a friend


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My old business partner's father is in the last stages of a very invasive cancer. My friend has asked me to make an urn for his ashes out of brass. I did a little research, and I will need something with around 200 cubic inches of capacity to be on the safe side. Now my dilemma is how to do it? Cast, hammered, spun, machined......

He, and his wife haven't mentioned a shape yet, kind leaving it up to me for now. I was thinking on the lines of a glass insulator like you find on old power poles, since he worked with PG&E as a lineman for 37 years. On that same line of thought copper may be a better choice of material. I literally have tons of copper available.

The easiest for me would be to machine one out, since that is what I do as a toolmaker. This would require buying some material since I don't have a chunk of brass that big. Or I would have to cast a billet.

Casting may be an option as there is a local artist who has a foundry at his home. I would have to see if he would help me with this project,and what his rates are. I talked with him awhile back at the art museum talk he gave. I have worked in a foundry that did investment castings, so I would be able to make a pattern.

I have very little experience with spinning. This would be my last option since it would be the lightest weight. He would like something that is not cheap, or crappy feeling like some of the commercial mass produced items.

Another thought is using some of the copper bars I have to form up a twisted wire bundle reminiscent of a large electrical cable.

Anyway, I would like some input on this. WWIFID-What would IFI do?

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I'm thinking along the lines of a simple tube made from Wire Damascus made into a sheet and formed into the tube. If that's possible. I think possible or not it would look fantastic and the combination of a straight pole and actual wire makes an elegant statement. Maybe brass accents would bring it all together.

Maybe finding out what your friend's father's interests were will help you find some ways to bring those elements into the whole creation. I've always hated the typical coffee urn type. Just a pot to place a loved one in doesn't say much no matter how well made.

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If it were me I would use copper. Copper is extremely mallable and very readily welded. You can do a lot of forming cold, with an ocasional anneal. You can also do forming hot, it you need to push past the cold bounderies.

Stripped electrical wire is good for tig filler since it is ox-free.

Casting is a great option but usualy very expensive.

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OK, Here is my "spin" on it. I would form it out of copper sheet, rivet the sections together, spin the lid and make the handle out of one those nice old green insulators and maybe some side handles out of forged copper. Make it like a traditional Bronze Age cauldron where the sections overlap and are riveted. You could even do some repousse with the dates of his life or name, even the PG&E logo. :blink:

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This is what I would do... Ah.... did do

I'm not a machinist but I bet you could turn cool legs or base from brass or even Nickel. The top could be ?????

I also like the twisted wire idea. Flatten out to form the vessel shape.... I would be a lot of work though... Visions of soldering 50 to 75 loose strands of 12g wire together :unsure:


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