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How to Form Copper with a Hammer

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You can use hammers on raw copper to create pots, pans, utensils, jewelry and more. You can also use hammers to add decorative elements to your metalsmithed copper creations. Mankind used fire to form copper into useful tools and fashion accessories for generations. You can find examples of copper pots, pans and jewelry in museums around the world.

Metalsmithing techniques have changed little since mankind learned to use fire to form copper. Although torches today offer greater heat control and hammers are more specialized than the tools used by early man, when you use hammers to form and decorate copper, you follow a metalsmithing tradition that dates back to early man.

Step 1

Sketch out your design. Gather your tools and materials.

Step 2

Purchase or cut the copper sheet to the size needed for your project. For example, if you want to make a hammered copper bracelet you will need an 18-gauge piece of copper sheet metal cut 7 inches long and 1 inch wide. You can use a jewelry saw and blades or a bench shear to cut the copper sheet metal. File the edges of the copper sheet to remove rough spots. 

Step 3

Heat the copper with your torch until it is fully annealed. Once the copper is annealed it will become soft and malleable. Annealed copper is easier to form.

Step 4

Place the annealed copper into the pickle pot to remove oxidation caused when annealing the copper sheet metal. Rinse the pickle off the copper in a mixture of baking soda and water. Dry the copper.

Step 5

Decorate the copper sheet before you form it. For example, hammer steel alphabet stamps to hammer a name, words or phrase into the copper sheet before you form it. Anneal the copper again if you add a lot of hammered decorations to the sheet metal and the copper begins to be work hardened.

Step 6

Hit the copper with a hammer to form it into the object you are creating. Using the copper bracelet example, place the cut copper sheet metal onto a bracelet mandrel and hit the copper sheet with a ball-peen hammer to form the sheet metal into a cuff bracelet. If you want to avoid adding tool marks to the copper sheet, you can form the metal using a rawhide or plastic mallet rather than a ball peen hammer.

Step 7

Sand the formed copper with 220-grit wet/dry sandpaper to remove firescale and tool marks. Switch to higher grit sandpapers and sand until the copper is highly polished. In addition to the 220-grit sandpaper, you will need 320, 400, 600 and 800 grits of wet/dry sandpaper.

Step 8

Add patina, if you wish, to highlight any stamped decorations. Sand again until you achieve the look you want.

References

How to Use Sand Paper; How to Transfer a Design; How to Drill; How to Pierce Metal When Fabricating Jewelry; How to Use a Jewelry Saw; How to Use a File for Jewelry Making; How to Polish

Skill Moderately Easy Things You'll Need 18 gauge copper sheet Jewelry saw & blade (optional) Bench shear (optional) Torch Pickle pot & pickle Ball-peen hammer Steel stamps (optional) Mandrel or other forming tool Raw hide or plastic mallet (optional) Files 220, 320, 400, 600 and 800 grits of wet/dry sand paper Patina (optional) Warnings Take fire safety precautions when using a torch. Wear eye protection and work in a well ventilated space when using chemicals

Resources

Jewelry Making Tutorials

GeltDesigns

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