Introduction: Make a Silver Cross Out of a Coin

Picture of Make a Silver Cross Out of a Coin

A couple of years ago I made some small silver crosses for Easter for the family. I’ve done silver casting and soldering before, but wanted to do something a little more quick. I have a bunch of silver coin in a collection of coins I gathered during my days as a cashier years ago. People would come through the checkout line and somehow at the end of some nights I would have either a foreign coin or old silver.

U.S. coins, as well as many other countries’ coins, used to be made out of silver and not what we see today: combinations of nickel, copper, and aluminum.

So, seeing this bag of coins I’ve collected, I decided to try to make something out of them. I don’t cut up the Mercury dimes or Buffalo nickels, but I do use the quarters and nickels from the late 50′s and early 60′s. This is a project I wrote about on my blog, Sir Richard's Tool Kit.

These two crosses were textured with a propane torch. 

Step 1: You Will Need...

Picture of You Will Need...

The process is rather quick and doesn’t take many tools.

You’ll need:

a coin
wire cutters
small drill bit and drill
jeweler’s saw and block or a hack saw
small files
a hammer
maybe a pin vise
If you choose to partially melt the silver for texture, you will need a propane torch.

safety goggles- plase wear them. I've gotten metal and wood in my eye before and scratched my cornea. It is not fun. It will ruin your day.

Step 2: Marking

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Start by making the shape of the cross on the coin with a pencil. The pencil wipes off easily with your finger, so you can mark it with a perminent marker or a scribe.

Step 3: Cutting

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A jeweler’s saw has teeth that are very fine and cut soft metal. The wire cutters can maybe do all of the cutting on a thin coin like a dime. That’s a maybe. The amount of leverage required to cut the coin at the tip of the wire cutters can be difficult unless you have really good cutters with long handles. I don’t.

If you can do the cutting at the back of the cutters, it’s easier. That can be done a little later.
Using the saw and the block, which clamps to the table, cut out the shape of the cross. Using beeswax to lubricate the blade helps to prevent binding and breaking the blade.

If you don't have a jeweler's saw, a hack saw can do the work if you clamp the coin in a bench vise.

Step 4: More Shaping

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Once the shape of the cross is cut out, clip the top and sides of it to make the cross proportional, othewise it’s an "X". Clip the ends with the wire cutters towards the back of the jaws like I mentioned before. Use caution because the little ends fly off and are sharp. The top piece i clipped is somewhere behind the couch.

It is possible to shape the cross entirely with a triangular file, if that’s all you have. It will take longer, but it can be done. I would recommend clamping the coin in a vise to do that.

Step 5: Drilling

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Drill a small hole at the top of the cross to attach the cross to a necklace with a jump ring. You could wait until the very end to do this part.

Step 6: Hammering

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Next, take a hammer to it an flatten out the markings on the coin. This can be done on any hard and flat piece of metal, like the anvil flat on the back of a bench vise. Or you can do it on a brick or a sidewalk. Remember, the texture of the surface you hammer on will transfer to the metal, for good or bad. Flip the cross over while hammering and use gentle taps. The silver is soft and does require the blows of a blacksmith.

On the crosses I originally did, I didn’t hammer them. I heated them with a propane torch and melted them enough to reflow the surfaces and create some nice texture. Try it, but be careful. It also allows you to pretty much skip the next step of filing and smoothing the edges. That’s what is called a fire polish.

Using some small files clean up the edges of the cross. You can also introduce some texture to the cross with gentle taps from a ballpeen hammer as well.

Step 7: Texturing

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I decided it would be nice to add a stipple texture to it. This is easy to do on a soft metal like silver, copper, or brass. Any small drill bit can be ground to create a burin tip to make this texture with. 

A 1/16″ drill bit has been ground on the back to a 45° angle with a Dremel bit.
I chucked the bit in a pin vise and did a final sharpening on a fine oil stone to remove burrs from the edge. That’s all there is to it. This makes a cutting edge that can be used to chip away a stipple texture. It takes a little practice, but it only takes a couple minutes to create a random pattern. If you really want to go cross-eyed, you can make a pattern that simulates a basket weave or linear pattern.

Step 8: Finished

Picture of Finished

Once you are done with with the texture, if you choose to do that, it's just a matter of adding a jump ring and stringing it up.




showfire (author)2010-06-12

Isn't it a crime to deface federal currency?

anthea15 (author)showfire2010-06-12

Yes, United States currency and coinage are governed by federal law through the U.S. Treasury Department. Generally, it is illegal to fraudulently deface, mutilate, impair, diminish, falsify, scales or lightens any coins minted or "coined" in the United States or any foreign coins which are by law made current or are in use or circulation as money within the U.S. (18 U.S.C. 331) It is also a crime to fraudulently possess, pass, publish, sell or attempt to possess, pass, publish, sell or bring into the U.S. any such coin with knowledge that the coin has been altered, mutilated, defaced, etc. (18 U.S.C. 331) Defacing currency with the intent to alter the bill to gain a benefit is illegal. If someone alters a written instrument (such as a check) without permission and with the intent to gain a benefit, then it is called forgery, which is a crime. If one tried to alter a cash bill (like changing a $5 bill to a $20 bill) for the purpose of presenting the altered bill to gain a benefit, then that could be considered a forgery. Forgery of United States Currency in this manner is called counterfeiting and carries with it very stiff penalties.

-JMS- (author)anthea152014-06-25

It is legal to deface money if it is not going to be used as "money" when you are done with it its perfectly legal to make jewelry out of coins.

RVogel (author)anthea152010-06-12

Well, if that is the case then I think we shall be seeing a major crackdown on all of the penny smashing machines that are stationed at all the major theme parks, zoos, science centers, and tourist traps around the nation. I probably possess enough flattened pennies from the Woodland Park Zoo to have me put away for life. I'm flushing them down the toilet right now. i.e.- I don't think it's a big deal.

paqrat (author)RVogel2011-12-08

Oh, don't do that. You'll have the EPA all over you for dumping possibly toxic elements into the environment. ;)

StratosVX (author)RVogel2010-06-17

It's illegal to attempt to make a fraudulent coin or to make a cheap coin worth more (try to make a nickel into a dime or quarter). You can however burn/melt down/ destroy your money if you so choose. You just can't attempt to spend it afterward.

atombomb1945 (author)showfire2010-06-12

Oh here we go again.....

TacticalTrumpet (author)2013-10-20

Awesome job! I've been wearing a cross made of nails and wire for a while, and it's becoming tarnished/corroded. I've gotta try this sometime!

stilcrazychris (author)2013-05-04

Using any kind of coin 1965 & earlier is not using commen since. Selling it & letting someone else enjoy it in there collection. Some coins can be worth $1,000.00's of dollars. Please check into pricing of the coin before u destroy it. Or use something besides a coin with silver content. Or better, just let me enjoy it in my collection.
If ur going to destroy it.

ninjanody (author)2013-02-25

very good idea.... thanks for sharing

bluemoon6 (author)2012-11-09

Great idea for a beginner or anyone...and great instructions..thanks for sharing..

XxZombiexX (author)2012-10-24

Hopefully you still check messages on this post...

I like the project, very nice result from simple steps!

Question: Could you (or anyone!?) help me out with the name of the mini hand drill pictured in step #6? Looks like the type you push and it cranks itself around with a spring and spiral action, but I don't know what to call that type of tool!

paqrat (author)2011-12-08

Well executed design, well done instructable. If I had a helm I would doff it to you, sir.

none92 (author)2010-06-17

What about fake? what about other country? what about Canada? What about uncirculated? and really? destorying a nickle goes to prison? that honestly sucks lol

bcoderre (author)none922011-12-08

"So how'd you get ten years in federal Pen.?"
"I cut Jeffersons face...but he was askin for it!"

shelley echtle (author)2011-09-14

I don't care people, this is beautiful. Again, as with MOST of my POSTS, I think it would be fabulous done with alcohol inks!

sunshiine (author)2011-04-30

I love this idea! Thanks for sharing.

Mark Rehorst (author)2010-06-17

I still don't get it. What does that letter "t" stand for and why do so many people wear it?

Pryo Chain (author)Mark Rehorst2010-06-17

It's not a letter, Tyler, it's a representation of the cross on which our savior Jesus Christ was crucified for our sake and for our salvation, under Pontius Pilate. The reason that so many people wear it is because crosses are a constant reminder of the day that Jesus died for us. I'm still half-assuming that you just posted that as a joke, btw.

mattrules44 (author)Pryo Chain2010-06-17

So you think

Pryo Chain (author)mattrules442010-06-17

Yup. Just because you don't think so doesn't make it untrue. On the same note, me believing it's true doesn't make it true.

mattrules44 (author)Pryo Chain2010-06-17

I wasnt trying to say that you were wrong, its just that you were saying that like it was fact. Which it isnt. Im also glad to find someone as open minded as you.

Pryo Chain (author)mattrules442010-06-17


mattrules44 (author)Pryo Chain2010-06-18

Nah, it really is refreshing to find someone who accepts the possibility that theyre wrong.

Pryo Chain (author)mattrules442010-06-18

Ahh. Well I can fully accept that there's a chance that I'm wrong. I've studied sufism, Bhuddism, Islam, the Jews, Jehova's Witnesses, the Amish, etc. etc. so I have a generally unusual perspective on life. On the other hand, I'd rather live my life believing that there is a god and be wrong than live my life believing there was no god, then coming face to face with god. But yeah, I can fully accept the fact that there's a good possibility of me being wrong. From your mistakes, you learn. From succes... not so much :P

ilike2make (author)Pryo Chain2011-04-11

No, judging from your previous comment, the main idea of your belief is impossible to assume that it is wrong.

God Bless

TehAwesome (author)Pryo Chain2010-06-17

My devolving-thread sense is tingling!

RVogel (author)TehAwesome2010-06-17

Chill pill people. It's a craft project on making a necklace. This ain't the crusades.

Zimminger (author)RVogel2010-06-18

Well spoken.

Mark Rehorst (author)Zimminger2010-06-18

I thought it was a symbol of the quartering of the universe into active and passive principles... Silly me and my primitive superstitions!

mattrules44 (author)Mark Rehorst2010-06-19


Pryo Chain (author)RVogel2010-06-18

Nice! :)

wocket (author)Mark Rehorst2010-06-17


Natasha Dee (author)2010-12-30

Lol... Take a look at any 'ible that involves a coin or currancy of any sort. The same argument is on every single one. EVERY ONE!

Highball (author)2010-11-28

You may give it to someone as a gift, if they are old enough, you may choose a coin of their birth year and arrange so that that date is visible and then not defaced. A nice extra touch.

rjyoung67 (author)2010-06-17

The coins are hardly worth anything anymore so you might just as well make something nice out it!!

lucazoid (author)rjyoung672010-11-06

they are worth way more! Is silver....worth more than copper? nice job watson haha

iammyself (author)rjyoung672010-07-24

its worth a dollar whats its always been smart one!!

rocketsurgery (author)2010-06-11

Love the texture... thanks for the instructable!

ursostupid (author)rocketsurgery2010-06-15

are you really allowed to do that? isn't destroying government property illegal?

MoritzB (author)ursostupid2010-06-17

Its legal. Because if you have money, you own it and can do everything you want.

iammyself (author)MoritzB2010-07-24

you dont own it its the governments you dont keep the money until the world ends its not burryed with you now is it??

Bryan Smith (author)ursostupid2010-06-17

IT'S LEGAL! U.S. Title 18, Chapter 17, Section 331: Prohibits among other things, fraudulent alteration and mutilation of coins. This statue does not, however, prohibit the mutilation of coins if done without fraudulent intent if the mutilated coins are not used fraudulently.

Win7Maniac (author)Bryan Smith2010-06-17

Awww, yeah!! ;P

ursostupid (author)Win7Maniac2010-06-18

I see, sorry, makes sense. U guys are clever. u actually research it, unlike me,

Win7Maniac (author)ursostupid2010-06-18

Lol no problem, I was suprised myself by Bryan Smith's reply ;P

odiekokee (author)ursostupid2010-06-17

not govt property, silver coin is not legal tender anymore. It's identical to the current stuff but some of the vending machines won't accept it due to mass/density differences. It's still accepted in face-to-face business because it's too much trouble to weed through by hand.

rodtang (author)ursostupid2010-06-17

I also thought that, even if it isn't illegal it still seams wrong..

sleeping_gecko (author)rodtang2010-06-17

From my understanding, it voids the currency value, and it is then only illegal to try to pass it off as currency. IOW, it's no longer a minted, silver coin, but a piece of silver art. At least this is my understanding behind the legality of this or similar things (different stores used to sell "pocket penny crosses" or some such thing that were a penny with a cross cut into the middle, laminated on a card that would fit in a wallet). As long as you don't try to pass it off as currency (especially as currency of a higher value, like making a nickel look like a quarter), I think it's legal. Of course, take this with a grain of salt. I'm no expert, so this is all just he-said-she-said sort of stuff I'm telling you. If nothing else, I would at least say that, were I to see the silver crosses featured in the Instructable, I would say, "Those are really nice pieces of wearable art! Great craftsmanship!" and wouldn't even think that they might have been coins originally (had I not seen the project, of course). To RVogel: Great project! I know of a guy who, while on-ship in the military, would take old silver dollars or somesuch coin and make a ring like this: holding between index finger and thumb, tap the rim with the back of a spoon, over and over, around the edge. It supposedly flattens out the rim into a plain band type of ring (think a plain wedding band). Then you just have to drill out the center and smooth it out. He never showed me the end product (he did it 40+ years ago), but did say it got annoying on ship with a bunch of Marines constantly tapping on coins!

Oldbear (author)2010-06-17

Be nice now... You can deface currency from a different country then you are currenttly in. We have a machine at our local railway museum - with a jar of American pennies to put in - you pay your Canadian Loonie ($1 coin) and get a choice of which stamp to press into your penny. Years ago many Canadian dimes went south of the border and were melted down for their silver content and shipped back. Loop-hole but legal.

About This Instructable




Bio: I'm a toolmaker, general hack, and I'm good at drinking coffee. Sometimes I draw.
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