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I'm working on a sculpture (of a gibbon swinging on a branch) which will be made of wood and wax with a wire armature, and I'm trying to figure out how to anchor my armature to the branch.

Here's a quick drawing of the intended setup: Diagram of construction

The branch is a natural, hardwood branch, about 3/4" in diameter and about 10" long. It's quite strong. One end of the branch will be anchored in a block of wood. Somewhat close to the other end I need to attach a strong wire armature, which needs to be able to hold, say, 8-10 ounces of wax altogether. The tricky bit is the angle: I need that wire to come out from the branch at a 45-or-so-degree angle as shown above, and since it'll have the weight of the wax pulling down on it, it has to be anchored very sturdily in the branch.

My current thought is cutting a channel in the top of the branch from the point where the armature attaches heading toward the anchor, so the wire would poke through the branch, be bent and then run through the channel; fill the channel with epoxy or something, and paint over the top. It's less than perfect because I'd love to preserve the bark... also, the actual cutting of the channel doesn't seem very easy at all to me.

My question, then: Is the wire-in-the-channel idea the best option? If so, how should I go about cutting that channel? Or, is there a better way to do this that I haven't thought of?

Many thanks!

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You can do this possibly the most obvious way: drilling a hole and simply glueing in the end of the wire. This is not much different in principle to fixing the tang of a knife or chisel into its handle using glue and those can be amazingly secure (enough that you may have to break the handle to get the blade out).

There are a few glues you could use here, I'd recommend epoxy. Even the cheapest 5-min epoxy should work fine.

Some things to help ensure a good bond:

  • Just prior to applying the glue freshly scratch up the surface of the wire, using fine sandpaper or Scotch-Brite, or a metal file.

  • Drill the hole very slightly oversize, you don't want the wire to be a very tight fit into its hole (too little room around it for the epoxy).

  • Don't skimp on epoxy. Expect to have excess that you'll need to wipe away from where the wire goes into the hole. Dampening the cloth or paper towel with alcohol or acetone will greatly help here.

  • Wait much longer than the setting time before putting any strain on the wire. If the epoxy sets in just five minutes I'd wait at least a few hours, but overnight won't do any harm.

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  • Thanks for the detailed answer! I wouldn't have thought that'd be sufficiently strong to keep the wire from being pulled down toward vertical over time... But it sounds like maybe I'm underestimating how powerful a good bit of epoxy could be. I've got some JB Weld lying around, would that be a good option? Waiting overnight (or even a few days) to cure is no issue; I'm not in a rush on this. – DanM Apr 26 '16 at 3:00
  • @DanM, the wire itself does have to be strong enough to support its load without bending, but a good epoxy bond will definitely secure it to the wood. I wouldn't use JB Weld given the choice, that has some great uses but people have reported failures of it to bond when used just as a basic glue. It might work fine or it might not. – Graphus Apr 26 '16 at 7:12
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My current thought is cutting a channel in the top of the branch from the point where the armature attaches heading toward the anchor, so the wire would poke through the branch, be bent and then run through the channel; fill the channel with epoxy or something, and paint over the top.

If you're very careful and have a very sharp knife, you may be able to cut a slot in the bark and peel it back prior to forming your channel. If your branch is pretty dry, you'll want to soak the area in water or steam it for a while to make the bark pliable again.

Then, when you have the slot cut and the armature epoxied into place, you can unroll the bark back into place and glue it down. If done properly, it should hold up pretty well to scrutiny.


Another solution along the lines above, but this may be a bit stronger.

Bend a hook in the end of your wire after feeding it through the hole in the branch. Hook the wire through another hole adjacent to the first hole. You could epoxy this as well for strength, but it probably won't need it.

You can cover it up using the same method peeled bark method as above.

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  • Whether or not the peeled bark method works, +1 for the idea - reminds me of making willow whistles in Cub Scouts. – Ast Pace Apr 25 '16 at 22:49
  • @AstPace, that's where I got the idea! – grfrazee Apr 25 '16 at 22:50
  • Love the idea of peeling back the bark. Seems almost obvious, but it didn't even cross my mind as an option! – DanM Apr 26 '16 at 3:02

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