Introduction: How to Make a Ring From Cast Off Copper Pipe

Picture of How to Make a Ring From Cast Off Copper Pipe

How to make a stylish ring from piece from 3/4" copper pipe.

Made with inexpensive plumbing tools, polished with available materials.

Step 1: Aquiring Materials

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You need only a few things to make this ring:
  • Copper pipe. 3/4" pipe makes approximately a size 9 or 9.5 ring.
  • Something to cut copper pipe. I use a pipe cutting tool, but a hacksaw would probably work.
  • Something to remove sharp edges. Sandpaper, a file, or a dremel should work.
  • Something to polish the ring. You could try several grades of very fine steel wool, or fine sandpaper, followed by a polishing cloth, or a dremel.

Step 2: Cut the Ring

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This is actually the easiest part. Grab the pipe, and cut it to size. The best way to do this is to decide how wide you want the ring, then cut it to that width. An alternate method would be to cut a pipe to length for plumbing purposes, then find out you cut it too long. Simply cutting the excess off leaves a ready-to-go ring section! If you are lucky, your wife is not there when you curse at the realize your mistake, and you can tell her you thought this whole thing up as a way to say you love her.

I cut two rings to 1/4" width and one to 3/4" from one section to try different looks.

Step 3: Remove Sharp Edges

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A pipe cutter can leave some very nasty sharp edges on the rim of the ring. A hacksaw would leave some nasty burrs. So we need to get them off.

I tried 3 different bits on my dremel trying to find one that worked. In retrospect, a simple metal file might have worked better, especially as it can get difficult to hold a ring while grinding at it with a 20,000 RPM tool grinding at it fruitlessly. I ended up using a sanding band attachment, which took a good whack at it. A grinding stone was worthless, and a sanding disk was not up to this task.

Make sure to grind not only the inside, but also outside edges. One can still be cut by the part fo the ring away from the finger.

Step 4: Polish the Ring

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Now that you have a functional ring, it is time to make it pretty. If you are aything like me (and I know I am!) then you probably left the rings sit for 3 weeks in a damp environment between cutting them and finishing them. If so, you found that there is a lot of corrosion on the pipe already. You'll want to remove that.

There is an awesome tool you can buy for cleaning of the outside edges of copper pipe (and the inside of fittings.) It is the red thing in the photo below. Don't use it. It is bad for rings. First of all, it is made for lengths of pipe, so that you can hold one end of the pipe while cleaning up the pipe. That does not work on a 1/4" piece of pipe, and you'll cut yourself up trying to get it out. Trust me on this. Second, if you do actually manage to clean off the corrosion, you'll find that you now have a bunch of scratches on the ring from the steel bristles. Now you have to sand those out. Or you could skip this devil-tool and just sand it out in the first place.

I used a medium sanding disk on my dremel to grind off all the corrosion and restore it to a pretty copper shine. You could use any sanding material to do so. You can start pretty fine, I actually had to switch to a fine disk before I called it smooth.

Once you get it cleaned up, it is time to actually polish it. Brasso is a classic stand-by, and should be kept around the house for just such purposes anyway. I recently was given a polishing wheel for a dremel, and used that and brasso to make quick work of the polishing. (Can you tell I used a dremel for a lot of steps?)

Step 5: Show It Off

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Clean the polishing materials off the ring, then slide it on and show it off. I found that it was just a little to big for my 8.5 sized ring finger, so it probably is a 9 or 9.5 ring size. Unfortunately, it is too small for my index finger (where I want it.)

It turns out it fits my wife's thumb pretty well, but she does not like thumb rings. So now I need to figure out how to enlarge it.

Step 6: Notes

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There are, of course, other sizes of pipe available. Ladies with small fingers might try 1/2" pipe; men with large fingers might try 1" pipe. My fingers are fairly thin for a guy, my wife's are fairly large for a girl. Find the size that works best for you, unless you use scrap like I did.

I also noted during the polishing stage that there were marks on the ring. On one of the cuts I made, I started to cut, then stopped after only one traversal of the pipe. Turns out this made a line that stayed on the final product. This could be used to great effect. Additionally, I had a Y on a ring. Curious, I looked at the original pipe and found that it had information printed on it in ink, and additionally imprinted on it. With a little pre-planning, this could be used to stamp a chosen letter, number, or pair of letters/numbers on the ring intentionally. I could grind these out, but it would change the shape of the ring a bit and would loose its fun, questioning character.


JosephE (author)2017-08-26

also if it is slightly too big or you don't want green on your finger everything you wear it, cut this pieces of tape and line the inside.

shortbrat (author)2017-06-19

ps, use the ball side of the hammer to give it texture and sheen.

shortbrat (author)2017-06-19

okay. like i said before, slide it on a steel ring mandrel and hammer it to stretch it to fit your index finger and flip it over and hammer it to match. after you make a bunch for the wife and her friends and all the knuckle rings to match, use the sealer made just for metal and non porous surfaces.

Rhysmedforth (author)2016-01-05

you can heat it and use a dowell to enlarge by frocing the ring on it

tear drop (author)2014-12-03

you can use a ring stretcher available at amazon

matthew.byfordloggie (author)2014-08-06

are there any ways of making the ring smaller because its a realy good ring

The easy way is to use different sized pipe. Not only are there different sizes (1/2", 3/4", etc.) but some have different wall thicknesses, which will change the inside diameter of the ring. (The 3/4" measurement is outside diameter.)

Beyond that, you will need to look at the various jewelry Instructables to find one on sizing rings; I'm pretty sure you are looking at buying equipment to do sizing.

thanks thats realy helpfull ;)

bmac_15 (author)2013-12-25

Is there a way to keep my finger from turning green

clincoln (author)2013-11-19

By the way the copper ring will oxidize and turn your finger green just to let you know

drapeta (author)2013-01-25

Pro tip Orion

pyrogreasemonkey (author)2012-10-28

the way i made mine was i cut the pipe length ways so i got a long strip, then cut a piece with tin snips (heat it with a blow torch then let it cool to make the metal softer) and bent it into a ring shape, then i used lead-free solder to join the ends. it is much more difficult but lets you change the size of the ring if your fingers aren't exactly 3/4"

you can soldier on a symbol or something to cover up the joint- I made a cross with 2 pieces of copper

zombiekiller42 (author)2010-12-04

Is there a cheat sheat for the ring to pipe size? I wear a 13 in rings thats like
22.26mm\0.876in I think. I ask because I don't feel like going to lowes and shoving my fingers into pipes again.

MrCafe (author)zombiekiller422012-10-08

This might save you from getting your finger stuck in a hardware store pipe.

Sorry its not sheat its sheet

dac01220 (author)2010-09-07

I think that one may also try copper fittings for an in-between size, they are slightly bigger then the too small, but still slightly smaller than the too big.

dustfingersilvertounge (author)2009-04-29


 off topic...but slightly obsessed with the ink series?

Why, yes, Mr. dustfingerssilvertounge (if that is indeed your real name), it's cheap. That's kind of the point.

gilleseg (author)2009-12-22

I just purchased a 3/4 inch copper coupling for this project.  My fingers are rather large and this fit me the best.  If you are looking for a somewhat larger size that the 1/4 inch you might try the coupling... Also I am going to try some simple engraving with my diamond tip dremel attachment.  I may do simple lines or circles or something.  Cheers and thanks for the instructable, its great!

Zeppelinfreak (author)2009-10-05

Wouldnt the ring make a big green patina ring around your finger?

abvnatter (author)Zeppelinfreak2009-12-19

Yes it does.  if you coat it clear nail polish it should keep the copper from oxydizing on your finger.

freerunnin1 (author)2008-11-14

haha ur finger will go green, i did this before and that happened to me...

If you lacquer it, it will keep the metal from oxidizing.

berky93 (author)guitarman63mm2009-08-01

does regular polyurethane work I know its usually meant for wood... I've also heard clear nail polish works.

guitarman63mm (author)berky932009-08-01

Poly is a bit messier and in my experience, more finicky than lacquer, being a plastic. Clear nail polish is essentially the same thing as lacquer. Nail polish remover = acetone = lacquer thinner. If you try poly, good luck; you'll need it.

berky93 (author)guitarman63mm2009-08-01

well I was only asking about polyurethane because I have that on hand, but I just realized that I dont have any pipes the correct size so I have to go to the hardware store anyway.

DrCoolSanta (author)berky932009-09-20

I tried nailpolish, sticky and it remains sticky forever and becomes irritating on your fingers. My ring is clear in the morning and by the night it becomes greenish, the finger too looks kinda wierd but i don't care.

SG1Oniell (author)2009-03-30

lol, didn't think that through eh? using your left hand to take a picture of your right hand with a right handed digital camera.

OrionBlade (author)2009-03-06

I used to use ball peen hammers of various sizes to stretch rings I made. clamp one hammer, ball side up, in a vise, and put the ring on the ball, then put another hammer on top, ball side down. You wind up with a C shaped cross section that you can then flatten back out by inserting a rod and hammering the ring between the rod and hammer. This works great, but remember to anneal after every pass. To shrink, get a jeweler's doming block - hammer into the dome, flip, hammer again, then flatten with the same technique. This will shrink the circumference slightly. Good for getting half sizes to a size or so. to go real wacky with size, slit the tube, overlap, and use an oxyacetylene or oxypropane (or even oxy mapp) torch to weld the copper back together - leaves a huge bump from the weld bead, but you can just file or grind that down. I'll post an instructable about how to do a welded ring soon, maybe even a forge welded steel ring too! good work on the cut and polish - wonderfully simple and quite pretty.

Dr Science11 (author)2009-01-31

I did this at science olympiad today (school science thing) with a leftover bit of pipe. I used a grinding wheel to shine/even it out, and used a dremel to round out the edges. I placed the ring on a dowel rod and pressed it to the grinding wheel, so that the ring spun around the dowel and against the wheel. question about tinning it with solder to resize it smaller, how exactly would you do that? It's too big for my ring finger at the moment, and although i have an iron and such i wouldn't know how to do that without making a mess. Thanks for the tips!

sysiphus (author)Dr Science112009-02-02

I've never tried it on a ring, so I don't know a way that would work. If I were trying it, I would get a very thick flux and apply it very carefully, and very thin, over the whole inside. The solder will follow the flux, so adding a little bit, carefully, may work. Just be ready to have to clean some off the parts you didn't want it to go onto.

davidcarr3 (author)2008-10-13

A 22mm olive fits my fingers perfect and is already convientiently shaped. just throwing it out there....

Troutful (author)2008-09-18

Thanks for the great instructional. I tried this last night, and had a ring in about 20 minutes. I applied some additional techniques that my dad, a master plumber, taught me over the years. I thought I'd share them. 1. If the pipe you are cutting from already has a burr or lip on the inside edge from a previous cut, it's easier to remove this before cutting the length for the ring. It's also easier to clean it first this way. Think of the rest of the pipe as a clamp to hold your ring-to-be in place. 2. An excellent tool for polishing is a fine steel wool. I used aluminum sandpaper (don't know the grip, just this strip that my dad uses for plumbing) followed by steel wool. The steel wool not only polishes the surfaces, but does a good job of putting a final touch on smoothing edges. I have thin fingers like the author, and the ring it on my middle finger. I am replacing my lost wedding band, so the final product will have to fit my ring finger one way or another. My first try would be heavier grade tubing. I wore it to bed to test out the green factor, and yes, I do have a green mark from about 6 hours of wearing it. Silver solder on the inside might help this, as someone else suggested. I may be able to tolerate the green finger, but what I don't like is the smell of it. I'm used to wearing a rose gold ring (gold & copper that looks like copper) that didn't have any odor to it. So in order to wear a copper ring, I would have to try out that oxygen-free copper someone mentioned. Thanks again for the great idea!

mkamchin (author)2008-03-25

is there any way that you could change the size of the ring with out buyig a different sized tube

theRIAA (author)mkamchin2008-06-01

i made one in jewelry class. If the ring is SLIGHTLY too small you can use a ring stretcher (like a stepped cone that you pound a rod into to spread out), and annealing doesn't hurt (red hot, left to cool) it's also very easy to make the ring smaller, just slice off a chunk, squeeze it closed, slice off both ends with one cut to even out the ends, solder, file off excess solder, pound round on a ring mandrel (skinny cone), and polish... I guess it's easier if the jewelery department at your school rocks

killerjackalope (author)mkamchin2008-04-08

You could probably stretch it out a bit since copper is quite malleable but finding something that wont warp the circle would be hard, I suppose you could do it in a few steps witha conical stretching device of some kind... Or heat it enough to make very malleable and use a bar of the right diameter with a taper to get the copper in, however you'd have to get the ring back off again before it gets cool or you may wreck it.

sysiphus (author)mkamchin2008-03-25

I am sure there is a way. I am also sure that I don't know what that way is. Sorry.

WTSerpent (author)2008-01-28

I made a copper ring about a month ago, and was surprised to find this. i had done almost exactly what these instructions say. however, i happen to have a ring anvil and a ball-peen hammer lying around. between steps 3 and 4, i lightly hammered the ring to produce an almost golf ball-like texture. to polish it, i used emery cloth. a little while after i made the ring, i was reaching into a cupboard and bumped my hand, and the edge of the ring scraped my skin. though it was a minor wound, it was painful for a while afterward. to avoid this problem, anyone making a ring could file out the inner edge, and/or use nail polish. i have made several more rings since, and both methods seem to work. i was thinking about using brass instead of copper, it doesn't seem to turn your finger green.

dfedde (author)2008-01-28

yea it will turn your finger green I made a ring a cupple days ago from some copper wire ( using the a Simple wire ring Instructable in the related menu right below this) and mine was vary green by the end of the day (but I'm about as white as they come)

smokehill (author)2007-11-11

One warning about a copper ring -- if you have a job or hobby where you may get something heavy dropped on your hand, a soft-metal ring may not be something you should wear (actually, for auto mechanics & others, rings are something that ought to be in your pocket during the workday anyhow). Aside from that little caveat, you might want to check out some of the different "flavors" of copper pipe available. Even though the cheapie joints like Home Depot usually only carry one Harry-Homeowner size of copper pipe, a regular plumbing store will stock several different grades ... I think the grades are K, L & M thickness. The thicker-walled pipes (which is what plumbers use on their own houses, heh heh), will have a smaller inside diameter, I believe, which will yield slighly different "ring sizes." Also, by using the repair couplings or copper joints (not just the tubing itself), you will get larger diameter "tubing," in effect. This should give you a better selection of "sizes" to work with. NIce instructable. With some imagination & basic tools, you could do some interesting decoration, perhaps, too. Drilling in just a wee bit, and either gluing in contrasting metal "dots" (brass?) or filling the cavity with silver solder? Scalloping the edges? soldering on small metal decorations? Engraving with a Dremel, or stamping in letters or numbers like machinists use (cheap sets in Harbor Freight). Nice ... and lots of ways to take it further.

smokehill (author)smokehill2007-11-11

Another further thought for different sizing -- If you brazed or soldered on some sort of metal decoration, that would neatly hide a cut in the ring where you made it smaller ... and would give you a lot of brazing area to hold it together, not just the "ends" where the cut was made.

sysiphus (author)smokehill2007-11-11

I may go back and try this now. I've ignored it, because I've been busy. But now I've smashed my other ring in a door, and rendered it unusable. It also hurt a lot. (It was the silver ring that's out of focus in the last photo of step 4.) But I got used to wearing two rings, so now I've got to find something to wear, on the cheap. Thanks for the advise. I'll see if I can scallop the edges a bit, at the least.

smokehill (author)sysiphus2007-11-12

Scalloping may be the toughest decoration unless you can rig up some sort of a jig to get even spacing & even depth. After seeing some custom knife decoration, I decided to play with my Dremel & some files to see if I could do the same to some of mine. Pretty feeble, uneven results, actually. Scalloping is one of those things that has to be really regular to look good, and tiny little mistakes get magnified. If I ever get the urge again I'll try to figure out some simple jig to keep it from looking like it was done by a drunken gorilla with a chainsaw. I've known a few people over the years who have lost fingers because of rings; they were serious accidents (motor dropping onto the hand), but the smashed ring actually did more damage than the motor because it cut off blood flow until the medics could cut it off. I don't work around anything quite that dangerous anymore, but I don't wear my softer alloys (24K, 22K) or rings with thin shanks while working with equipment. Changing motor mounts seems to be one of the most ring-dangerous projects, so I won't wear any jewelry at all for that.

sysiphus (author)smokehill2007-11-12

I'm a computer geek by trade, and rarely do anything that could hurt a ring or my finger in it. The ring in the door was a completely freak accident, and the ring was soft enough that I was able to grab tools from the toolbox and pry it free quickly. The stuff I do that might hurt it usually involve chainsaws, and I doubt that a ring could make a bad situation worse there. :-)

teresajoy (author)2007-09-22

Don't try to fit the copper pipes at the store, and get your finger stuck in them. This could make a for long conversation with the paramedics on the way to the hospital.

sysiphus (author)teresajoy2007-09-23

This was the first message I saw after getting back from a day at the hospital; on the way in I rode shotgun while my wife was in the back. Weird. Having heard the banter between everyone as we sped down country roads at high velocity with lights and siren blaring, I would have to suspect that the paramedics would find it damn funny.

Naruto_Uzumaki (author)2007-07-29

If we cut a slit we can bend it to the size that we like. Can that work?

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