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How It's Done

Hot Spinning Titanium

Each piece is a rare individual. The colors vary according to time, temperature and pressure. There are no two alike. According to my admittedly poor accounting I believe there are only 50 in existence. Here is the story...


These hot spun Titanium vessels were produced in the shops of Precision Metal Spinning, Fenton, MI. In the 1980’s I met Charley Fredericks, owner of the company, at an annual Titanium gathering thrown by Dave Robertson, Tico Titanium.  At that time Charley told me he could spin anything I designed. That challenge lead to an invitation to the plant for some days of  exploration. A variety of pieces were produced including the ones shown here. It was there that I really got a taste of the plasticity of Titanium under the torch. Most of the work was left with the tooling and heat induced oxides in place. For me this is an organic reminder of the essence of the reactive metals and their mineral source.

The pieces are mostly formed over a steel mandrel, but can be formed freely in air. The mandrel is important to set the base and anchor the process. Two operators are required on a spinning lathe. One to operate the lathe and do the actual forming and the other to direct the torch. The piece is centered on the mandrel and held in place with pressure from the tail stock. The work is heated above its transition temperature and formed by a steel wheel mounted on the carriage. Passes are made across the metal with the wheel as the torch operator leads the contact point.


At the time two commissions were completed. A set of smaller vessel for Jim Perryman Sr. He was leading a group of industrial leaders that required executive gifts on a visit to their Japanese counterparts. 

The final project was a set of wine goblets. The starting stock was seamless schedule 5 pipe. These were stripped of oxides and anodized to a low voltage golden inside. They produce a very nice sustained bell tone when struck. Sadly I have lost track of their final destination.

The pursuit of this artistic venture was a golden opportunity to explore this metal and may never be emulated.

The narrow necked forms are made by cooling and removing the Titanium from the mandrel. It is then reversed on the lathe and a hastallloy bar is pressed through the center to hold it to the head stock. The neck is then heated and formed over air.

It is interesting to note that a circle cut from a rolled sheet maintains the characteristic alignment of the crystal structure. This leads to a uniquely and rather loose lip on each piece as the metal is compressed and moves in the restricted alignment of its structure. The tops of the forms tend to be a little loose and asymmetrical.

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