Welcome to my Copper Cuff instructable. To start off, I need to acknowledge Copperfield’s work on Etsy. In researching this project I stumbled upon his cuffs for sale. The cuff on this link:
It is almost exactly what I wanted to make. It is a much better etch, but lacks the patina I wanted for the cuff. Great work!
I have never owned a cuff and usually only where a watch, but came up with the idea for this project as my 7th wedding anniversary approached. This could be a great gift for the traditional copper gift. Green is one of my favorite colors, so I knew I wanted to do a green patina. I hope you like the instructable, and look forward to comments.
Step 1: Preparations, Supplies, and Tools
To start your project, you need to decide what you want to etch into your copper. I wanted Arwen’s quote about immortality versus love, but I wanted it in the Elvish script Tengwar. I used a google search to find a black and white image that I touched up in paint. Finding a stock image if possible can save a lot of time if you are using the laser toner resist method of acid etching. I would recommend that you open it up and zoom in as much as possible. You want the lines to be very clear. Often pixels are faded grey at the edge and these I have found can cause issues when transferring the resist to the metal. I won’t be walking you through the etching as I am not an expert and there are tons of instructions on how to do it online.
The supplies you will need for this project are as follows:
· Copper plate (I used 22 gauge)
· Soft copper wire (any gauge would work)
· A mask for the etch (I used laser toner on a mailing label sheet with the stickers removed)
· Acid etch (I used muriatic acid and hydrogen peroxide in a 1 to 2 ratio)
· Patina solution (I used white vinegar, ammonia, and salt in a 2 to 1.5 to 0.5 ratio)
· Snaps or toggles instead of a tie to fasten it if you prefer
The tools you will need are as follows:
· Tin snips (or something that can cut your copper to shape)
· Sharp blade for cutting the leather
· Leather hole punch
· Drill with a bit the diameter of your copper wire
· 180 grit sandpaper
· Ball peen hammer
· Anvil or something like it
· Plastic container to etch in
· Spray on polyurethane
· Clothes iron
· Paint to mask the back of your etch (I used some left over black enamel spray paint)
· PPE (rubber gloves and eye protection)
· Needle nosed pliers
Step 2: Crafting the Parts
Before you start making the copper panel, insure that it will work for the size of your cuff. To size the leather I measured my wrist and cut the leather to that size. I knew that using the tie would add the required slack. If you are using snaps or some other method, you will need to allow for sufficient overlap. Next, the copper panel needs to be small enough to fit on the cuff (be sure to account for the holes you will be punching in the leather for the ties). I cut my sheet in a rectangle to allow for ¼ inch tolerances on each side. I ironed my toner onto the copper sheet (insure the copper is very clean, and that the image you are ironing on is mirrored so it will read correctly). I then etched the copper. Check it every 20 minutes to know that the toner hasn’t fallen off, or the etch is too deep. I used old etchant from a previous project so mine took about 4 hours for a light etch. Fresh etchant could take less than an hour. When the etch was done, I cleaned all the acid of with water.
The next step is to patina your copper. I removed my toner mask from the copper before this step, but in hindsight I would leave it on to protect the copper from the patina solution. I didn’t have a spray bottle handy so I used a paint brush to apply light layers to the copper. I left it in my garage and added a new wash of patina solution every 12 hours, until the look was right. Next, I sanded the copper so that the raised letters were free from patina. Don’t worry if the sandpaper scrapes the patina from other areas. You can re-patina those areas without getting more on your raised image. Finally, I drilled a hole in each corner the diameter of the copper wire.
At this point I set the copper aside and cut my leather. I used my wrist circumference as the width and the image dictated the height. I used the same leather to cut a foot long tie. I used my leather punch to add 3 holes to each side. Try the leather cuff on at this point. Make sure the fit is right. If it is good, wrap the copper cuff around the leather cuff. Use your hands to shape the copper as close as possible to the leather cuff. When you have a tight fit and the copper is lined up on the leather how you want it, hold the two layers together and mark where the holes in the copper are. You can use an awl if you have one; I just used an old nail.
Take the copper off the leather. If you are satisfied with the look of the patina and copper, coat the exposed side in polyurethane. Use the directions as recommended on the can.
Step 3: Joining and Finishing
To join the 2 parts together, you need to make 4 copper rivets. You can buy rivets, but I wanted copper and didn’t like the hole in the center of premade rivets. To make the rivets, cut ½ inch segments of wire. I recommend you cut one side flat to help with doming and the other side at an angle to help it go through the holes. Hold the wire with the pliers 1/8 of an inch below the flat cut. Rest the pliers on the anvil side right next to the wire segment. Using your ball peen hammer, make light taps on the edge of the flat cut wire. Work in a circular pattern around the edge of the wire, and try with each strike to gently draw the copper away from the center. Hitting too hard will bend the wire and make it near impossible to get through the holes. You should repeat this for each wire segment until you have something resembling 4 copper nails. If you are having difficulty with this step, a quick internet search of “copper rivets from wire” will yield more in depth tutorials.
I used a 16 penny nail to put holes in the leather cuff where the rivets need to go through. Next you will need some rigid backing for the rivets. Without backing the rivet will just pull through the leather. I used some scrap from the copper sheet to make a hot dog shaped “backing” that I drilled holes in. The holes should be the same diameter and distance apart that they are on each side of the copper panel.
Finally, work a rivet through each hole starting from the inside. Go through the backing, then the leather, and then the copper panel. At this point all 4 rivets should be through. It should look like copper nail points poking out where the rivets will be. Doing one rivet at a time, cut the wire flat about 1/16 of an inch above the copper (be sure all the layers are as tight as possible before cutting). Now dome the wire by setting the inside on the anvil, and using your hammer to work the copper. The method is identical to making the rivets, except no pliers and the added resistance will speed the process. This step may require some trial and error. Cutting the wire too far
from the copper will leave lots of slack and may bend the wire. Too close and you may hammer your rivet right out of the hole, or not have enough of an edge to hold in place. If you make a mistake, remove the rivet and try again. To remove a rivet, try cutting the rivet first. If that doesn’t work you can carefully drill them out, but this can mar the surface.
You now have a complete cuff. You can try some things to finish it if you want. I applied neutral shoe polish to the edge of the leather, and used an iron to “seal” the edges of the leather cuff. Also the copper on the inside was turning my wrist green, so I covered that with some black nail polish. I hope you enjoyed this instructable. If you have any advice to add, please post in the comment section.