I had to cut some copper pipe a couple months back and bought a pipe cutter down at my local hardware store. After a while I realized that this cool little tool could be used in a lot of applications besides your basic home repairs. It could be used to make really cool pieces of art! Check out this ornament I made to decorate our Christmas tree. In this tutorial I will show you how to make copper ring ornaments that are very unique and make great gifts!
Step 1: Warning: Use of a Propane Torch
Just a quick warning before we begin. This tutorial involves the use of a handheld propane torch, which can be very dangerous if not used properly. If you are a younger creator/builder please refer this tutorial to an adult for supervision. Or consider using glue instead of soldering, which will work just a well. And please read the propane torch instructions carefully for safe operation, and wear proper clothing and safety glasses. Just want everyone to get through this tutorial safely and happily. Now lets get building! :3)
Step 2: What You Will Need
For this project you will need the following(Most of these items can be found at your local hardware store):
*Propane Torch and Propane Canister
*Fire Brick (Or a work surface that will not burn from contact with the propane torch)
* Soldering Wire (Any kind of soldering wire will work. You can use the wire for sweating (soldering) copper pipes)
*Copper Pipe Flux (This is a paste that is used to clean the surface of the copper pipe before soldering. Without cleaning the pipe, you can create a bad solder joint that could fail)
*Metal File (For cleaning up the copper ring edges after cutting)
*Cooper Pipe Cutter (I bough one that can cut a range of pipe diameters)
*Copper Pipe of Various Diameters
Now we are ready to have some fun!
Step 3: Let's Get Cutting!
We will begin by cutting different diameter pipes into a variety of rings. The operation of a pipe cutter is really easy. Start by opening the cutter just big enough for the pipe you are cutting. Slide the pipe in, to the cutting height you want, and close the pipe cutter so it just starts to bite down on the pipe. Spin the pipe or the cutter, whichever is easier for you, a couple of times, to create a good cut on the pipe. Close the cutter a little more and spin a couple more times. Repeat until the pipe is completely cut through. Cut some different diameter rings, and create a variety of heights to add some depth to you ornament. For this tutorial, I did not clean up the ring edges. But you can use a metal file, or some sandpaper, to remove any unwanted burs and sharp edges.
Step 4: Assemble Your Masterpiece
Now the fun begins, use your rings to start creating crazy designs. I started messing around with some abstract shapes, before I fell on this bird design that I really liked. Feel free to use one of these designs if you like.
Step 5: Prepare for Soldering!
Originally I tried using a soldering iron to solder each copper pipe individually. This proved to be a disaster, due to coppers great ability to transfer heat. The heat from each new solder joint would liquify the previous joints and cause the rings to move. Using a propane torch does alter the appearance of the copper, requiring polishing to bring back the shine, but it is just a great way to solder all the joints simultaneously and quickly. On a side note, you can also use glue instead of soldering, which is safer alternative. But for me, I enjoy the detail of using solder. Gives it a very cool steampunk look.
Step 6: Simultaneous Soldering:Setting Up Your Piece for the Torch
Just a quick overview of how I set this up. In order to solder all the joints at roughly the same time, every joint needs to be applied with flux and a piece of solder. The setup can be a little tedious, but once done, the actual process of soldering should only take 10-20 seconds (depending on the size of your piece). We begin by cutting a piece of solder roughly the length of the joint to be soldered, it doesn't have to be exact. Next remove two of the rings that connect, and rub the surface of each connection point with a little flux. Place the two rings back together on the brick or flame resistant surface where you will be soldering. Add the piece of solder to one side of the connection (see inside of red circle on last photo above). The excess flux will act as glue to hold the solder in place. Repeat until all the connections are fluxed and solder is applied. Now you are ready to apply heat and solder your finished work of art.
Step 7: Time to Torch Your Work of Art :3D
Before soldering your piece, it wouldn't hurt to solder a couple of sample rings, to get a feel for how the heat and solder flow. Just remember that when solder melts, it moves to the hottest point on the metal surface. So apply the heat at the ring connection points. Also you don't want the torch to be running full throttle, so adjust the propane output so the flame looks something like the photo above. You should see two blue cones, a large one and bright blue one that is smaller. The tip of the smaller cone is what you want touching the rings, since it is the hottest point. Carefully move the tip of the cone from one connection to the other, staying only long enough for the solder to reflow and wick up the gap between the rings (roughly 3-5 seconds). Once you have reflowed all of the connections, safely remove the torch from the piece, turn off and set aside. Some of the solder joints will still be liquid, and the copper will be red hot, so leave untouched until it has had time to completely cool. Don't want any fingers to get burned now. You can sprinkle a little water on the piece to speed this up.
Step 8: Enjoy Your Work!
All that's left is tying a piece of ribbon through one the rings, and you are done! It's ready to hang on that Christmas tree or wherever you want to show it off. You've earned it! You can leave the piece as is, which has a cool steampunkish look, or more work can be done to bring back some of that shine taken away by the torch. I used a sand blasting chamber to remove the dark lines and create a matte finish (third photo above). Hope you all had fun, and please leave me comments and photos of the works that you make. I'd love to see them. I will be publishing more works in the near future, including some projects with my 3D printer, so keep in touch for postings.