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Tutorial: Using Scrap Copper to Create your own Elements: A Rerun

December 24, 2014 , In: Metalsmithing
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It’s Christmas Eve! I’m sure many of you are scrambling today as much as I am (or am I the only one?), so here’s a tutorial I wrote a couple years ago utilizing scrap sheet copper that would make a quick, economical, and very FUN (because HAMMERING! and FIRE!) last minute gift. I want to wish each and every one of you a Merry Christmas and say thank you for reading AJE. We appreciate all of you!

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If you use sheet metal in your designs, you may be like me and have a difficult time getting rid of it. If you’re using precious metals, you can always send it in to places like Rio Grande for credit or money. But what about base metals like copper and brass? Don’t throw it out, because you can do some really interesting things with it.

For example, I enameled scrap copper to accent the focal in the necklace I made for the Kalmbach bead soup party:

The good news about using scrap to play? If it turns out ugly or it gets messed up, there’s nothing lost, except time. However, even time isn’t wasted because it’s a learning experience.

So let’s start with this copper piece snippet. It came from a much larger sheet that I cut discs from. For this one I thought it might be fun to not cut a straight line to remove the holes from the rest of the sheet. Because I live life on the edge.

If you want your copper to have some texture, do it now. I did some hammering on my piece.

File all edges, corners, etc. you don’t want sharp bits.

Next, anneal your piece of copper. I usually use my lampworking torch (a Mini CC) to anneal, but for this tutorial, I used a butane torch. My favorite is the Lenk 500 LPT. And yes, I have several varieties…about 5 or 6. It may or may not be excessive.

If this is your first time annealing copper, wear eye protection, tie hair back, make sure clothing is natural fiber (cotton) and doesn’t flop around where it can get in the flame. Also, make sure you are working on and around fire proof surfaces, have a cup of water in a heat proof cup for quenching, and a pair of pliers to hold the metal.

You do not need to burn the crap out of the metal. Just heat it softly…the metal will change color.

Once your metal is annealed and quenched, use one of those multi-grit nail buffers to clean some of the fire scale off the piece. 
Make a couple random folds. Using a chasing hammer, hammer along the fold. Unfold the metal. It will look like this:

Anneal the metal again, clean it, and make more folds.

Hammer the folds.

Unfold.

Repeat until you’re happy with the results.

File any new sharp edges created by the folds.

You can also leave folds in place like in the final result below. And while torch-uring the metal is fun, now you get to start designing with the results. I’m thinking this one will make a great pendant and I will use some bronze wire (my new favorite wire…I LOVE that stuff) to trap the bead in the hole.

Here’s another scrap copper pendant that will become a pendant.

This was a long strip of disc holes that I made into a cuff by folding it in half lengthwise then twisting the length of it then forming it onto a bracelet mandrel. I then enameled it in white and cobalt.

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Jennifer Cameron

Combining fire and glass since 2005, Jen Cameron discovered jewelry making after realizing a small child could disappear in the growing collection of beads sitting around the house. Jen is the adoring mother of two, jackpot winner in the husband category, and zookeeper of several pets. Jen is also the instigator for bringing together this team of innovative, talented, passionate and dynamic women to write for Art Jewelry Elements.
  1. Reply

    Awesome these are co cool, I'll try it out. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to you too

  2. Reply

    Jen, I was really glad to see this tutorial. I have just begun to use copper sheets and no matter how carefully I plan, there are always scraps. I was wondering how I could use them and you have given me some great ideas.

  3. Reply

    Thanks for the tutorial and tips about torches.

  4. Reply

    Graet way to use all of your metal and not waste. Your pieces are beautiful.

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