Making coin rings is something I had been thinking about trying for a long time after stumbling upon a youtube video of others creations. I have watched numerous videos read some online tutorials and this is my take on it. I would like to globally thank all of you for helping plant the seed in my mind and get me started on this - some specific credits at the end of this instructable.
The legality of this has been talked about over and over, it is legal - no issues - have fun!
Note: Entered in the Metal working contest - please take a moment to vote if you like it.
Step 1: Give Me Liberty (the Quarter)
There are a host of items you need for this and many I purchased were optional, I will detail each one as it is used.
Step 1 - get a quarter...
Step 2: Find Your Center
The premise of this project is to make a ring out of a round flat piece of metal. The start for this is a hole in the center and then working the coin to bend the sides down. Getting the hole as exactly in the center as possible is going to make for a better end product. If the hole is off center then one side of the ring will be thicker than the other. Not unbearable for a "Hey I made this" type of project.
I generally eyeball the center, however a great suggestion I found used a washer. Cover the quarter with a washer as close in size as possible, then outline the center. This will help as a guide when you go to make the hole.
Step 3: Making Your Hole
To make the hole I use a punch and die set I picked up from Harbor Freight (9 Piece Punch And Die Set - item number 95547 currently $29.99). The clear top helps center the coin. Be careful when using the punch set as you can see a miss with the hammer makes for poor results.
I position the coin with the black dot in the center as best as I can. There is still a bit of trial and error here. Once you are happy with your placement you proceed to "punch" out the hole. A small sledge hammer works nice for this, but I picked up a press (again at Harbor Freight - 1/2 Ton Arbor Press - $36.99) to push on the punch/die and cut the hole.
The size of the hole determines the width of the ring, the smaller your starting hole is the wider the band will be. The hole has to be at least big enough to fit over the tip of your mandrel.
Step 4: Is It Hot in Here?
The coin has to be "worked" into a ring. This is a very manual process where you hammer it into shape. To make this easier you need to soften the metal. This part of the process is called annealing. You will need a torch, I picked mine up in Autozone for $20. It came with the tip and a can of gas. I didn't spend the extra money on an ignitior as you can just use a household lighter.
You heat the coin until it glows a dull red. I have found that I prefer the look when I go to a bright red and scorch the metal. It gives it a tarnished look. I couldn't get a clear picture of that in this step, but have one later. Once the coin changes color you quench it. I just use water, but have seen other people recommend a "pickling" mix. The reason for heating the coin is to make it more malleable. You will see why this is important later.
*Note - you can skip the annealing process - it is just a little harder to work the coin and it will be more prone to splitting.
Step 5: A Pressing Matter.
Once the coin is softened we have to start shaping it (soft is a relative term, do not expect that you can bend it with your hands). This is done by placing the flat coin over the tip of the Jeweler's ring mandrel (Amazon $9.95) and then working it down by striking it with a rubber/plastic mallet (Harbor Freight 2" Teardrop Mallet $9.95). Instead of starting with a flat coin, I choose to get a head start on the process a simpler way - using my press and a doming block (doming block $40). I wrapped the ring in some paper towels, and using the parts that came with my doming set pressed the coin into the half circle steel form. The result is shown on the brick, this is a much better starting point than a straight coin. Before you continue any further you should sand the punched/cut portion of the ring, this will help prevent splitting as you continue to work the ring.
Tip: some people use 3/4 inch cut piece of PVC pipe to assist in working the ring. You place the coin on top of the mandrel with the mandrel on a hard surface, cover the coin with the PVC and strike the top of the PVC with your mallet. This will drive the coin down the mandrel getting it to fold over into shape. This process does work very well I stopped doing it as generally by the time you get to a point where you can work the ring without the PVC you are already into the larger sizes and you still have to flip it and do the other side. If you are making a man's ring though this might be a faster solution.
Step 6: Some More Heat...
At this point I am annealing a second time to make the metal easier to work with. Once heated to red, cool in the water, then dry and push over mandrel with the side of the coin you want to be the outside of the ring facing up. Start hammering and working your way around the ring as you force it down the mandrel. Try to keep the ring even as you work. This is the art of the project and each time you do it you will get better at it.
Tip: for smaller size rings rest the mandrel on a piece of wood and roll as you hammer. This will apply force to both sides of the coin at the same time and the wood will prevent damaging the coin as you do it. Do not do this against metal as it will destroy the look of the coin.
Step 7: Bang on Your Ring All Day....
Continue to work the ring down until the ridged edge is as close to the mandrel as possible. Flip the mandrel over and with a few good taps you can dislodge the ring. Put the ring back on the mandrel but this time the ridged part is facing up. Continue to hit the ridge of the ring to get it as close to the mandrel as possible. The goal here is to try and make both sides as close to each other as possible and true up the ring.
This is what the end product should look like.
Step 8: Cleanup and Polish
Now it is time for the final touches. The ridged side has a small lip on it so it is nice to sand that off a bit. Holding the ring at a 45 degree angle rub it against a sanding block as you spin it in your fingers. This process will take some time. While helping make the thicker side a closer match to the thinner cut side it also adds a nice design element to the ring. If you sand enough you can get to the copper part of the ring. Repeat this process on the bottom of the ring to match the design and smooth out any more rough edges.
Once you are happy with your ring, it is time to clean it. The ring will be easier to clean if you have not annealed it. I used Mothers Metal Polish on them, it works wonders. Apply a little and hit it with the dremel brush (can also be done by hand) and you have a brand new ring.
Step 9: Final Product.
Here is the end result. Each ring you make will get better and better as you fine tune your personal process. This ring was one of my first ones. Something I have since learned is use a much finer grit sand paper prior to finishing so the copper part doesn't appear all scratched up.
The scorching side effect of the annealing process adds a bit of depth and character to the ring. You can read liberty inside the coin, and make out the eagle wings on the outside.
Some tips I have learned after making this ring, rub the lettering and raised details lightly with steel wool or sandpaper prior to polishing - this will make the contrast more prominent, use leather around the ring when working it in the doming block and down the mandrel to prevent marring, to make smaller sizes start with smaller holes and adjust how you work the ring. The harder you strike it straight down the further you force it down the mandrel making it larger.
These make great little gifts you can commemorate special occasions by making the year of the coin the prominent feature, or in the case of state coins your place of birth or favorite place to visit.
Enjoy and feel free to ask any questions.
Step 10: Practice, Practice, Practice...
These are some other rings I have made, first on the left is a nickle, the rest are quarters with the exception of a ChuckyCheese arcade token. The nice thing about the ChuckyCheese ring is the text "Where a kid can be a kid" circles the ring.
The whole process can take a couple of hours but do not try to rush it. You could hit harder, try to bend faster, but to save 30 minutes will cost you the 2 hours that preceded it when the ring splits.
Step 11: Ring Without Doming Block
For this ring I was going for a larger mans size, started with a bigger punch and worked the ring down the mandrel using the pvc tube. I also didn't anneal the metal so the finish is bright and shinny. This ring came out at a size of 11.5.
Step 12: Some Shout Outs!!!
Always hated that expression but wanted to toss some credit to the guides I found most useful when getting started.
Some youtube videos:
Fencekid - The first video I found on coin making
Adam McSkinney - Lots of tips included
Oldporchdog - more how to and tips
Nice instructable by 14395122Jj
For other projects or info feel free to check out my website at pocketmerlin.tumblr.com.
Please comment, ask questions, and share your own creations here or on my webpage!
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