I derive my ability to create fine copper weathervanes from great teachers such as the Tinkhams and my mentor Richard Bernier, though over the years I have developed my own style. I am recognized for my ability to capture a subject’s character and spirit in copper, as well as my unique use of accents. For example, I embellish several of my weathervanes with 23 karat Gold Leaf, Palladium (a non-tarnishing silver substitute), and realistic glass eyes to highlight a subject’s features. Because these highlights do not corrode or fade, they remain a prevalent part of the design for years to come.
Weathervane crafting techniques are as varied as their subjects. This page describes some of my techniques. For more information on other techniques, please read the article “Selecting A Weathervane“.
Since the Weathervane is viewed from a distance, its design requires emphasis on the overall pattern, therefore I enhance certain design characteristics such as profile, facial detail and contour lines. I draw my designs full size on paper and transfer them to copper using carbon paper. Using snips, I cut the design from .020 “Revere” sheet copper and trace the detail lines with a marker or pencil. One piece of copper is cut and detailed for each side of the profile.
I visualize the finished part before I begin. The details are “chased” into the design by repousse’-hammering the sheet-copper using different hammers and special shaping tools that I fashion myself. The repousse’ technique in weathervane making is borrowed from goldsmiths, silversmiths, and the noble blacksmith, who have been familiar with it for centuries. This process produces relief with a richly sculptured surface. Next, I stretch the copper into the subject’s shape by hammering it against different surfaces such as wood, rubber, or even a stack of newspapers. Then, beating the copper against a hard surface, such as steel or granite, smoothes the hammer marks. Once the sides have the desired shape, I hammer a soldering edge along the outline of the design. The two sides of the weathervane, thus fashioned, are matched and soldered together to make a single, hollow figure. The joints are sanded and buffed smooth. Finally a bearing is soldered into the spindle tube and the tube is inserted into the figure.
At this point I clean the weathervane and attach the eyes, if applicable. I often bring my weathervanes to life with realistic glass eyes that are created for taxidermy. These detail-accurate, hand fired and colored glass eyes are an art form unto themselves. Last, I apply Gold Leaf, verdigris, or bronze patina. Then I place the figure on a post in my studio so as to be viewed for the first time.
The fine craftsmanship required to make quality weathervanes has not diminished in two millennia, since the first weathervane of record was created in Athens, Greece c. 48 BC. Essentially the same basic principles of proportion, balance and artistic integrity still apply as does the respect for sound materials and honest craftsmanship.
Go To GILDING Weathervanes Page
Weathervanes by David Ferro – Bio and Portfolio
If you would like to learn how to make your own weathervanes, David offers one class each year.
Please click here to learn more in our Weathervanes Workshop area of the site.
For more information visit your local library.