Aluminium Bronze

I bought this 100 year old French vase for SWMBO for Xmas. I had no idea what its value was, but just loved the decorations, colours and shiny surface. It is quite small, and would hold only one flower if used as a specimen vase.


It had no base. Was open at both ends. And had been slightly damaged from being top heavy and falling over for the previous owner on several occasions.

The damage had been professionally repaired. As you can see from the photos, the vase is quite exquisite.

The antique dealer, with whom I have dealt on many occasions, has had a tough few years. Antiques of all types had really become unfashionable. I asked how things had been in 2020, and was very surprised to hear… “Business is booming. Never been busier. Despite viewing by appointment only for most of 2020.” Which I was very happy to hear, because Moorabool Antiques, in Ryrie St Geelong, is one shop that I always enjoy browsing, and chatting to the very knowledgable staff.

Since the vase had no base, he said that it was much cheaper than if complete. It was still quite costly, but I am pretty sure that SWMBO will like it.

And……I am pretty sure that a half competent machinist could make a base for it. Paul, the Moorabool Antiques proprietor was interested. I showed him a photo of my model Armstrong cannon, and he became VERY interested. We discussed designs and materials for the base, and methods of attachment. It would have to be water tight if it will be used as a specimen vase. The attachment method would have to not affect the existing structure or decorations. I mentioned Super Glue. Paul suggested Silicone. So Silicone it will be.

I searched Google Images for similar vases, and discovered at least a dozen designs by the same artist, Alexandre Marty. It is Limoges enamel over silver foil on copper. And as you can see from the photo of the similar example with a base, the missing base was probably gilded brass or copper or bronze.

I searched my workshop for bronze/brass/copper of sufficient size, and found some copper, LG2 bronze, aluminium bronze and brass. After looking up the properties of the materials which I had to hand, I chose the aluminium bronze. As the name suggests, al-br is mainly copper, with aluminium being the second constituent. It is particularly resistant to corrosion so is commonly used in marine applications, such as propellors.

First I turned a shoulder which would loosely fit into the base of the vase. Then cut off a 10mm disk.
The alu bronze turned really nicely. The hardest aspect was the tiny lip (2mm) that the lathe chuck gripped. The workpiece came free from the chuck several times. I probably should have drilled a central hole and attached a rod through the headstock of the lathe. And filled the hole when finished. (But I didn’t.)

Can you see the gold coloured rebate? That colour developed when the workpiece became hot during machining. That gold colour is a property of al-br, and is often used by jewellers. I slowed the feed-rate to avoid further heating, and got the contrast from the other bronze coloured surfaces. It will be interesting to see what happens to the colours with time. Although the vase base diameter has increased only by 10mm, it is much heavier, and should resist toppling.

The result, and the image of another M. Alexandre Marty vase which I used as a model for the base.
Just to show that my life is not all gunpowder, cannons and steam.