Upcycle Final Report: Brass Guitar

For my upcycle project I initially had a very hard time thinking about what material I wanted to use and what aesthetic I wanted to incorporate. To me choosing the material would some what point me in the right direction for what I wanted to make, and what aesthetics to use. I knew that I wanted to make something that incorporated many many small items of the same type or category to make something larger. Something like a “mosaic” aesthetic.

I also wanted to make this project unique to myself, and use an “outside of the box” material. I wanted to use a material that I know I could get lots of, and that would add a unique aesthetic. It was actually a friend of mine who suggested that I collect the used brass casings from expended cartridges and use them as my upcycled material. I immediately knew this would be an awesome material to use and easy to come by. Many individuals at public ranges leave thousands of brass casings after they shoot, plus it gives me an excuse to go out and get some range time in! Picking up brass is also beneficial to the environment by getting those pieces of metal out of nature.

Sculpture by: Federico Uribe. 2016

My friends and I went out Lyons CO to an open space shooting range to collect brass that others had left. We collected an abundance of casings with calibers including 9mm, .40, .45, and .556. After collecting the casings, I cleaned them off a bit and sorted them based on caliber and coloring of the casings (tarnished vs. shiny).

Rather than using the casings like this artist did in the above image, I thought it would be a unique look to arrange the brass all flat to make a shape more in a 2D fashion. After looking around my room for inspiration, I decided that I would arrange the different pieces in the shape of my guitar using different size and colored casings to add some of the details of the guitar.

After seeing the quantity and variety of the casings I had to think about how I wanted to arrange and place the casings and in the pattern or random nature utilizing the different sizes. I decided that I wanted to arrange them in a way that had some sort of organization to it. I decided to start with a shorter round (9mm) as the outside perimeter. The next layer was .40, followed by .45. The pictures below show the orientation and placement of the casings to make up the guitar shape.

The tarnished casings were used to imitate the pick guard, and the orientation of the casings for the circular cutout were flipped  to give the appearance of the hole in the center of the guitar. The larger rifle casings (.556) were used to make the neck of the guitar.

Smaller .22 rounds were also used for the center circular cutout. A challenge when assembling was trying to maintain even spacing between all of the casings, especially when the gluing process began. Keeping the symmetry of the shape was also difficult as gluing took place, as pieces kept moving around. Gluing was also difficult as each individual piece was glued to each other.

Thinking about future improvements and ways to make this artifact a bit better would be to laser cut an acrylic base in the shape of a guitar in order to maintain the exact shape, and to keep symmetry tolerance. Additionally, having a backdrop would increase the strength of the piece, as many times the shear weight of the casings would cause the glue bonds to come undone. Overall, I was very happy with how the project turned out, and I think it was a fun challenge forcing myself to think in a capacity that I usually do not. The upcycleness of the project provided great left and right lateral limits and increased the challenge and uniqueness of the scope of the project. I am looking forward to seeing all of the other great things that people have created with recycled material!


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10 Comments. Leave new

  • Hey Nate!

    I really love how this project turned out. The hot glue definitely held the shape together fairly well, but looking ahead I agree a better method could be used to make sure the project does not implode in one’s backpack on the way to present! Awesome job man.

  • I thought your use of gun shells to be unique and very creative. I also thought the way you created the shape of the guitar was constructed very well. I love how easy it is to look at it and know it is a guitar without a doubt. I personally think that you could further this project by creating a backdrop so it’s less likely to break. I also think this would help put it on a wall so you can show off this awesome art piece.

  • Awesome project! Really cool to see how it all came together. I also love your choice of material and how it perfectly encapsulates the idea of the upcycle project as a material that would otherwise simply be trashed. I definitely think your idea of putting the shells on a bottom material in order to hold them in place better was a great one that I hope to see you move forward with to improve the design! Otherwise great work!

  • Hailee Pritchard
    February 12, 2020 11:21 am

    Hey Nate!
    Your final guitar is so well done and SO COOL!! I can’t imagine how long it took to glue every little shell together. Maybe to have held the shape a little better, you could make a wire frame and then build the guitar inside of that? But overall, I think this was really well done and I hope you can piece it back together and keep it 🙂

  • A very creative project, and definitely fits the whole “mosaic” theme. I am curious about the whole straight brass aesthetic, and I do wonder if perhaps, with more time, how would the project change if the casings were temporarily burned to warp their color, or if a dye was used to define more of the parts of the guitar.
    I am also very curious on the choice was used to keep the statue free instead of mounting it onto a backboard.

    All in all, very cool project!

  • Your presentation was very informative and provided plenty of details regarding how you acquired your recycled brass bullet casings along with your process for manufacturing your piece using hot glue. Your end product turned out very well! I think one area for improvement would be to accomplish a more difficult shape with the bullet casings. Maybe considering a different method of securing the casings to each other to develop the geometry would also be another area for improvement. Other than that, this is very well done and looks good!

  • Hey Nathan,
    The product is actually pretty cool, considering the raw material used to come up with it. I think that displays a strong aesthetic and the inspiration that you spoke about was nice too. I think you’ve utilized the raw materials in the best way possible to come up with the guitar. I wanna know what do you want to know ahead with the artifact. That’s a great beginning.

  • I missed the first part of the report. It looks very finished despite breaking on the way over. I think you were very successful in using a unique material.

  • The presenation went through everything really well. I appreciate your comments on how you could have done it better, and I defintly recommend using some sort of acrylic mold before you start glueing. I would not have thought that things would move much when you glue them, but makes sense now.

  • I really like the non standard material, it’s certainly not something that most people think of as an upcycling material. Really sucks that it shattered on the way over. I’d like to know if you could have done it in a way where you used clear epoxy resin to glue them together by submerging all of them rather than gluing them individually.


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