Human Leg Door Knocker by Hugh McDonald
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Tulip Candle Sticks

By Hugh Mcdonald
Gooseberry Hill, Western Australia

Presented by Jock Dempsey
March 7, 2002
Hugh McDonald is best known as the inventer of the McDonald Rolling Mill. Hugh also has a great imagination and manages to come up with an original twist on all his work.

This demo is no different. However, we will be looking at specific details instead of the whole project. Many of the other details can be found in our other iForge demos

We would also like to thank Anthony Clarke Metal-Crafts Australia for featuring iForge in this months editorial.

This is our 128th iForge demo and the first after our February 2002 hiatus.

Candle stands must be high on the list of projects most loved by workers in metal and they can be beautiful, functional and individual, sometimes all of these. I do not wish to get heavily into the "how to" of candlestick design or construction here but I have been concerned about one part common to all; the bit that supports the candle itself, be it cup, socket or spike. Some problems with this part on candle stands offered for sale or as gifts are:
  • A great many can not be fitted with any candle available to the end user.
  • Do not assume candles will be readily available whatever size you choose to make the socket.
  • Many candle cups look like bits sawn off water pipe.
  • Most have no provision for removing the candle stub except burning it out. . .
  • Inadequate dish to catch the dripping wax. No hostess will forgive you for wax stains melted into her heirloom linen tablecloth.
  • Spike holders are a bit of a cop out. They were fine when homemade candles were soft and thick but modern candles are mostly hard and brittle. They split, usually when you have no spare and the guests are at the door.
I offer my "Tulip" design as the solution to some of these failings. They are not too hard to make after you have scrounged a couple of bits of scrap, have grooves to help remove the spent stub and are of pleasing flower like design. (Well, I think so).

Figure 4

Figure 5
Material is mild steel sheet 2.5mm (1/10") thick; not critical but 3mm is maximum while 2mm thick is the minimum that works well. Don't know how you measure steel sheet in USA but 12 gage should be about right. First, choose a candle diameter to suit your design from candles readily available in candle or craft shops. The punch mandril will be a ten inch or so piece of shafting this diameter with the business end edges rounded slightly, while the die, (old bearing inner race), is about three plate thicknesses larger on the inside. The size I make most that suits a beeswax candle here has a 1-1/8" (28 mm) diameter punch and 1-3/8" (35 mm) die 7/8" (22 mm) deep.

Figure 10
The equilateral triangles are guillotined from a strip of plate 3-3/8" (86 mm) wide using alternate sixty degree cuts making them about 3-7/8" on a side. The chisel in the photo was forged from old car leaf spring to about 7/8" (22 mm) radius. It has hot cut hundreds of these 5/8" (16 mm) deep segments without ever needing sharpening. If you get a good rhythm you can cut all three in one heat but usually two is fair going. I have saved a box of these sharp off cuts but never found a use for them. For other sizes adjust the triangles but the cut outs remain the same.

Figure 11
This is an alternate shape I have used for tulips. Its not as easily adjustable as Hugh's but it works nicely. I use 18 ga stock - guru

Figure 6
Smooth the sharp edges of the cuts then lay the three point star centrally on the die; centre the punch on top and drive it right down to the anvil face. This must be done COLD, the annealing from the hot cutting softens the metal enough. It will NOT WORK HOT as the punch shears the middle out of the star. I destroyed quite a few until I got it right. Before removing the punch, hammer the points of the petals down to a nice curve. The photo shows one petal finished in the die.

Figure 9
Drill the centre rivet hole, countersink and wire brush. Other shapes can be used in the same die but I find the tulip the most satisfactory so far. I know it sounds like a lot of work, certainly for a one off candle stick but if you make more than a few, as I do, it does not take long to make a batch. Nice to have several dozen hanging on the wall for when people start wanting Christmas presents

Figure 1

Figure 2

Figure 3
The zoomorphic candle holder with elevator, as I call this one, is 14" (356 mm) tall. I fit these with a variety of animal heads but the little dog seems a favourite. When candles were for more than atmosphere, many stands were adjustable to get the light where it was most needed and usually had a flat friction spring. I designed my own mechanism, hot punch the square holes and wind the springs. Perhaps a touch of VW car wheel jack in there somewhere.

The base is from 1 " x 3/16" flat bar, hot slit for the leg material and the penny feet are forged on the near side of the anvil before curving the legs. The column is 3/8" square.

Always give candle stands a stable base and feet that will not damage polished furniture.

Figure 8
The set of three tripod candle sticks are each 11-1/2" (282mm) tall and use standard smithing methods except perhaps the T fire welds in the bases.

Figure 7
The head of the T is bent sixty degrees in the middle before welding. Use 18" or so of bar for the third leg to give yourself a handle while it is in the fire then cut to length after the weld. Taper the legs sideways, draw out and forge the penny feet. Make a curved piece of steel to pull the legs round to get them even.

Making sets of things reasonably identical is more of a challenge than one off projects and the care needed takes away some of the spontaneity from the work but the feeling is great when you get it right.
The above shows the joint Hugh was talking about as well as special welding tongs he has made. We will cover Hugh's special tongs in another demo.

Questions? Comments?
Neat demo. Sure was glad to see a new one pop up.

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