There is reason to be excited about this copper project.
Repurposing copper pipe to craft a beautiful cuff can be a great way to recycle old pipe while having fun refining your jewelry forging skills. You know how it goes, it's time to remodel the kitchen, or add updated plumbing to grandma's house, and suddenly you find yourself with lengths of copper pipe you don't know what to do with.
In this project, I'll show you the steps to make an attractive cuff that turns the old pipe into new jewelry!
Step 1: Copper Cuff Supplies
To make your cuff you will need the following tools:
Copper pipe - I used a 3/4 inch pipe for this example
Pipe cutter - purchase at plumbing or hardware supply store
Wood Forming Blocks - These are convenient tools for holding your pipe while you hammer and dap it. You can make your own set out of wood. Make the pipe shaper by routing different sized channels to fit pipes of various diameters. Cut, glue and nail 8" lengths of wood strips to make the pipe support brace.
Hammers of various weights and textures
Water container to quench your metal
Anvil or Metal Block
Files and sanding wheels
Acetylene and Air Torch - Rio Grande offers a complete torch kit online. Smith Silver Smith Acetylene and Air Torch Kit with Tank
Paper Towels or Cloth Towels to dry the metal and keep your area clean. Plan on getting your hands dirty with this project!
Flex Shaft system - I prefer using the Foredom Flex Shaft with foot pedal. Rio Grande carries a starter kit that is very useful.
Silicone Polishing Wheel- I use these for final finishing to remove tiny burs from all of my metal worked pieces.
Step 2: Beginning Your Project
Cut your pipe to the desired length with a pipe cutter.
I typically cut lengths 6 1/4 inches long for an average cuff size. If you have a larger wrist, you may want to make your pipe length up to 7 inches long.
Next, anneal the copper with an acetylene torch. Heating the metal will make it softer to hammer and shape.
Quench your pipe in water and dry it thoroughly.
Use your wooden form to hold the round pipe and hammer one side to slightly flatten it. This will make it so your pipe doesn't roll around as you're hammering and dapping into the metal.
Using a heavy hammer and anvil or metal block, flatten both ends of the pipe tightly to create a pillow
Step 3: Air Chasing Your Copper Pipe
You can give yourself a general guide of tool placement by drawing a simple "wave" design line on the pipe. Secure your pipe by placing it in the support brace on your workbench.
By using a hammer, and dapping tools, make indents in the copper at different angles along the length of the pipe. This process is called air chasing, with the air trapped inside the pipe acting as a slight resist.
Step 4: Anneal the Pipe Frequently
As you hammer and shape your pipe, it will work harden the copper.
Use the torch to heat the pipe to anneal, or soften, the metal as needed throughout the entire process.
When you quench the pipe, be aware that water will get inside the pipe. Have paper towels close by to clean up any water that spits out of the hammered ends. Note: the water coming from the pipe will be black because of the residue from the firing. * Plan on getting your hands dirty!
Use texture hammers to give your pipe a unique surface quality in addition to the deep and shallow indents made by the dapping tools.
Step 5: Tap Into Your Inner Blacksmith - Shaping Your Cuff
This is where I like to get "medieval" on my copper!
After you've dapped and textured your copper pipe, you're ready to shaped it into a cuff. I prefer using the nose of an anvil, however, a bracelet mandrel is also a good way to shape your pipe into the perfect "C" shape.
Trim the ends of your pipe with metal shears and file the rough ends with a metal file.
Use a metal head hammer to begin shaping the pipe around the mandrel or anvil, working the copper on both ends. Anneal as necessary. Use a leather mallet to continue the shaping process until it is complete.
It is fine to use the leather mallet for the entire shaping process. The metal hammer will make marks on the surface of your piece, whereas the leather mallet will not.
When you have hammered and shaped your cuff to the perfect size, you can smooth and refine your metal further with a silicone black wheel attached to a flex shaft.
Wash your piece with soap and water.
Step 6: Make It SHINE
For the final finish, you can polish to a high shine, patina with liver of sulfur, or use a salt, vinegar and ammonia patina process to make beautiful blue hues.
The results are different every time. The more you practice, the more you'll be able to plan your designs and work with the metal. I tell my students to be very patient with the process and not too attached to the outcome the first few times, as they are getting used to this technique. I've learned the metal has a way of teaching you, so learn from it as you go. There is value in every step of the process!
Trust that you can create a truly unique cuff that has an interesting story to tell!
Who knows, maybe grandma's kitchen plumbing is waiting to be repurposed into a great piece of jewelry!
It's been great to share this Instructable Lesson with you!
If you'd like to see more of my projects you can follow me, Asia Raine on Instagram at asia_raine_designs or even take one of my classes at B Golden Jewelry School. A heart felt thank you to all of the students at B Golden Jewelry School and Brittany Golden for the opportunities I've had with the many classes I've been able to teach. Also, a big thank you to Rio Grande for supporting artists and supporting the jewelry making world in so many ways!