I know two lovely mothers that are very fond of turtles. I wanted to make unique gifts for them, something more involved and interesting than just buying another turtle figurine.

After seeing a photo Instructable by thegnome54 about a turtle pendant made from a nickel I felt inspired to create some turtles of my own and share the method I used.  http://www.instructables.com/id/Turtle-pendant-from-a-nickel/

My first step was to create a template by drawing a little turtle, then I hammered some pennies until my template fit on the pennies.  I used pre-1982 copper U.S. pennies.  I marked around the template with a black marker and removed the blackened area with small files.  I drilled a small hole in the turtle's head for the hook and gave it a rough sand with some medium grit sandpaper.  Using some wire I stamped the shell lines into the turtles and followed that up with doming the turtles and fine sanding.  After sanding I buffed out the copper for a little shine and added some french hooks.

Lets take a second to to talk about legality.  I have read seveal Instructables about making jewelery or souvenirs out of coins, and there are always comments about how illegal it is. Mutilating coins is illegal in some places and many countries have laws about defacing and mutilating coins. I live in the United States and "a federal statute in the criminal code of the United States (18 U.S.C. 331), indeed makes it illegal if one "fraudulently alters, defaces, mutilates, impairs, diminishes, falsifies, scales or lightens" any U.S. coin. However, being a criminal statute, a fraudulent intent is required for violation. Thus, the mere act of altering coins into souvenirs is not illegal, without other factors being present."   The statute does not prohibit the mutilation of coins, if the mutilated coins are not used fraudulently, i.e., with the intention of creating counterfeit coinage or profiting from the base metal.  In the United States there are penny pressing machines in just about every museum, zoo, and amusement park.  By putting a penny into one of these machines you can have a penny stretched and and embossed as a souvenir.
It is my understanding that it is illegal in Canada but not in the UK, do your own homework to be sure.  If you are concerned that treasury agents will kick in your door over two cents then use copper blanks, they sell for $1.20-$1.60 apiece on amazon depending on the quantity you purchase.


Step 1: What you will Need

Two pre-1982 U.S. pennies, these are the copper ones.
Turtle template,  I drew a turtle on a business card and cut it out.
Hammers, a big one for stretching the metal and a small one for stamping.
Wire for stamping shell lines.  I used several types of wire and settled on wire from a small spring.
A punch or small drift for line stamping.
Files, I used some needle files and a small triangle file.
Sandpaper, medium grit and fine grit. 
A rotorary buffer, like a dremel buffer/polishing wheel.
A drill and #60 drill bit.
Small pair of needle nose pliers.
French hooks, I got a bag of them from the craft section of wal-mart, they had three color options.
Doming tools, I used a carraige bolt and an old ignition lock cylinder.  You could just as easily hammer the bolt into a block of wood and use that indentation.
Optional, rubber tire plug or rubber tubing.  I wrapped the fine sandpaper around a rubber tire plug for sanding around the domed copper, it felt easier for me to keep a good grip on everything that way.
Lovely! I hadn't thought of using wire to hammer shapes into metal, I'll have a go!
Thank you. I would like to see photos of any projects made with the wire stamping method.
I just made 6 of these but because the hammer and pounding surface (an old rusty sledge hammer head) were quite rough mine ended up with a very crude/primitive looking. By pounding in the center more it gave the metal a natural cup shape. After shaping and some sanding they turned out nice. I used a dremel to cut the shell pattern and drill the hole. Thanks for the inspiration!
Excellent, I would love to see a photo of how they turned out.
They are much shinier then the picture shows.
Very cool, thank you for validating my Instructable by making your own turtles. I had issue getting the shine to show up photos also. I see what you mean by "primitive", it looks kind of cool with the added texture.
ooh, i love these! i never think to use pennies for the copper.
Thanks, I had not thought of using pennies until I was inspired by the instructables of several other people.
The pennies are no longer being minted, and change at stores is now rounded to the nearest nickel. Pennies are still legal tender and can be spent, or redeemed in rolls at a bank. some stores still give change in pennies until their stock is depleted.
Beautiful pieces. Just as an FYI, Canada has just recently (2013) stopped using the penny, and will no longer be producing any more. Using Canadian pennies should no longer be a concern.
Interesting, I had not heard that the Canadian penny was done being used. Did they just stop minting the pennies or is it no longer used as currency.
This is great! I love how this technique can be used to make literally any simple design, can't wait to try it out! What grits of sandpaper did you use?
Thanks, I used 240 and 2000 grit sand paper. The 2000 grit paper I used is a wet or dry type sand paper, I used it wet.
These are very nice! Beautiful work!
Thank you.
wow! hard work! beautiful output!
Thanks, I had a few failures before I got the result I was looking for.

About This Instructable


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Bio: I am a USMC Veteran and a Mechanic. I like fixing stuff, making stuff, and being outside.
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