Introduction: How to Make a Vintage Locket

Picture of How to Make a Vintage Locket

No special tools or know-how needed.

Everything I could find about making lockets required fancy tools or know-how. So, I set out to make one without them. I’m sure it’s been done for hundreds of years though, for me, figuring this out took about 20 hours, a dollar worth of nickels, and half a box of paper clips. It’ll be well worth it if someone else makes one.

Step 1: Hammer Out Two Nickels

Picture of Hammer Out Two Nickels

Use a smooth faced hammer on a smooth surface. I like to start out by placing a smaller ball peen hammer on the coin and using a larger hammer to pound it. This helps keep the coin in place and better directs your blows where you need them. Wear your safety glasses.

Once the detail of the coin begins to disappear, hammer along the edge. Notice that the coin has a tapered edge in the fourth picture. After you taper the entire edge of the coin, go back to the center with hammer on hammer. Do this until the coin is an 1¼” in diameter.

Step 2: Heat the Metal

Picture of Heat the Metal

Take the flattened coins to your stove. Heat the coins until they are a dull pink color. Run cold water over them in the sink. The coins will oxidize to a black color. That’s OK.

This step makes it eaisier for the coin to take on the shape in the next step.

Step 3: Make a Bottle Cap

Picture of Make a Bottle Cap

Take a marker and trace the desired size circle onto the disc. I used a socket the same diameter of a nickel. Take a “C” clamp and sandwich the disc in-between two sockets. The top socket needs to be just a little smaller. Make sure to center the coin in the marked circle.

Hammer the disc at a 45 degree angle so that a skirt forms around the socket. You should start to see ripples in the skirt when the edge of the disc is hammered closer to 90 degrees.

Remove the skirted disc from the clamp and place two washer in it. These washers need to fit well. Take tin snips and cut away the ripples along the edge. Place the cap (not a disc anymore) back in the “C” clamp. Hammer the skirt until it sit’s flush with the side of the socket. Remove the cap but leave it on the socket. Refine the 90 degree edge of the cap on the anvil (I use my big hammer as an anvil) with a small hammer.

Take a punch and hammer out any indentations from the backing while it lays flat on the anvil. Place two washers in the cap and turn it upside down on a file. File the cap down until the edges are exactly two washers tall. When the file starts to cut the washers, you should notice a distinct difference in the feel of your filing. You can also periodically check the washers to see if there being filed down.

Step 4: Make the Wire Form

Picture of Make the Wire Form

Cut a section of wire from a coat hanger. Scrape off any coating on the wire. Using a socket, form a ring. Bend the tail end of the wire towards the center of the ring. Form a “U” in tail end. Cut the excess off the wire form so it looks as shown.

Step 5: Roll the Edge Over

Picture of Roll the Edge Over

Insert the wire form in the cap. Use the socket you used to form the cap to tap the form in. Butt the cap into a corner. I used my hammer where the handle meets the business end. Hammer the edge of the cap at a 45 degree angle so it rolls over the wire form. After you’ve done this all the way around, pull out the wire form. It will take a little force.

One cap will stay like this the other will move onto the next step.

Step 6: Dome the Cap

Picture of Dome the Cap

Find two carriage bolts; one larger then the other. File off any letters from the head of the bolts. Using the larger carriage bolt, hammer a convex shape into a scrap piece of wood. Place the cap over the indentation and use the smaller carriage bolt to hammer the initial shape of the dome. After blows to the center, offset the cap to fill out the dome shape in the cap.

Lay the carriage bolt on the edge of the anvil. Hammer the cap over the edge of the bolt to finish off the shaping.

Step 7: Polish the Locket

Picture of Polish the Locket

A drill press is helpful but not necessary. Mount a socket through a bolt into your drill press. Wrap tape around the socket until the caps press fit onto the socket.

Spin the socket round and use 350 grit sand paper on the cap. Only sand enough to identify the low spots on the cap. With the drill press off, hand sand the low spots out. Move on to 2000 grit sand paper and then polishing compound.

Take care not to breath metal dust.

Step 8: Cut the Hinge Grooves

Picture of Cut the Hinge Grooves

Orient the caps so they as congruent as possible.

Mark where you want to cut the grooves.

Use a file to cut the grooves.

Step 9: Make Hinge One

Picture of Make Hinge One

The hinge is made from two paper clips and held together by a thicker gage paper clip. Each hinge is shaped basically the same. The only difference is one side starts out with a sharp folding in half, while the other begins with a “U” shape. Use cone nose pliers along with needle nose pliers.

Side one: Extend a paper clip and fold it in half. Use pliers to completely crease the wire. Loop the end of the creased side with round nose pliers. Insert a piece of thicker gage wire through the loop. Use pliers to work the loop smaller around the wire. Splay the wires apart so they are bent 180 degrees away from each other. Use socket to bend the free ends into a circle. See the pictures.

Trim the free ends so there’s no over lap when they’re sprung into the caps. Make sure to file off the any sharp edges.


Step 10: Hinge Two and Jump Ring

Picture of Hinge Two and Jump Ring

Side two: Extend a paper clip and fold it in half. Make sure the clip is just far enough down the needle nose pliers to form a “U” which will marry the other hinge. Again, see the pictures.

Roll the “U” into a loop. Meet the hinge together and connect it with the larger paper clip. Adjust as needed to make a tight fit.

Pinch the free ends together and splay them apart like the other hinge. Just like the other side, form the free ends into a circle.

Trim the free ends so there’s no over lap when they’re sprung into the caps. Make sure to file off the any sharp edges.

Use a section of the larger paper clip to make the hinge pin / jump ring. Finally, sand out any tool marks and polish the hinge.

Other possibilities include: Peening the hinge pin, drilling the back cap to install a jump ring, and forming a tang in the locket to help keep it closed.

Step 11: Assemble

Picture of Assemble

Since I used a nickel sized socket to form the caps, I used a nickel to trace out the out the pictures.

Close the jump ring into the hinge.

Cut and place the pictures. Slip the hinge into the caps.

Pictures are easily changed out by popping hinge back out.


robbadooz (author)2017-06-28

Beautiful!! This instructable is very inspiring! I'm going to try it and will let you know how it comes out. Wish me luck and thanks!

SahilM45 made it! (author)2017-01-19

i get this type locket but how

nixusinc (author)2016-12-20

Gonna cry now! That's really lovely and YES it CAN be done at home but this is definitely not the kind of thing that someone like me can do - you need to have a good sense about how to work with your materials and you obviously do... :) Thank you Wonderful inspiration - need antidepressants now tho... :)

instructablesfan123 (author)2016-05-21

wow wow wow very impressive best i have seen in years

Mihsin (author)2016-04-25

The doming process is also called Dapping. I enjoyed reviewing all steps. Excellent work.

kaitlyn. (author)2011-02-21

isent it illigal to do that?

Mihsin (author)kaitlyn.2016-04-25

Many people showed on YouTube how they make rings out of US coins and nobody objected to that. Though this is an illegal act, a crafted piece like this will preserve the value of metal forever. I could hide any currency, may it be gold, silver, or any other metal for good and no laws can do anything about it. However, your question in this case remains valid. Good day.

Mr.Sanchez (author)kaitlyn.2011-02-23

Section 331 of Title 18 of the United States code provides criminal penalties for anyone who “fraudulently alters, defaces, mutilates impairs, diminishes, falsifies, scales, or lightens any of the coins coined at the Mints of the United States.” This statute means that you may be violating the law if you change the appearance of the coin and fraudulently represent it to be other than the altered coin that it is . As a matter of policy, the U.S. Mint does not promote coloring, plating or altering U.S. coinage: however, there are no sanctions against such activity absent fraudulent intent.

There is a law in Tuscon Az that bans women from wearing jeans. Just unregulated laws. But if I see a woman in Jeans, Better hope I have my pen and tablet handy. whoooh

jazibah (author)Mr.Sanchez2015-01-25

Then what about the penny souvenir transforming machines? Are those illegal too?

does that mean this is illegil?? i was wondering cuz thousands of people do this by squishing coins on a railroad or those squished penny machine's

No it is not unless you want to still use it as a coin.?

robbyjessica84 (author)kaitlyn.2016-04-18

No but your spelling is.

salsipius (author)kaitlyn.2011-02-23

Thinks of all those machines that turn pennies into souvenirs for $1.00, I guess Disneyland and others would be in a heap of trouble...

Icalasari (author)kaitlyn.2011-02-22

Not to state coins, from what I recall

Those of us in Canada and Britain are out of luck though D:

compyHaX made it! (author)2016-04-04

Made this over a year ago. It took me 2 takes, the first one came out a garbled mess. But the second take went well. I didn't bevel it out, and the outside is quite well polished. I preferred it flat. My girlfriend has changed the chain a couple times, but it has held up really well to wear and tear. I did add a small magnet to the inside (not shown in picture) just so it doesn't clack a lot.

tiffanyshearts55 (author)2012-04-24

Hey would it be a good idea that i add another jump ring on top of the other so theres 2 jump rings?

You're the first person to notice the missing jump ring. Yes, another jump ring would be good.

Randomgurl21 (author)Mrballeng2015-10-12

I know this is late..but any chance you could make some and sell make your own online shop..i'd love one but I don't think I can make one..

Mrballeng (author)Randomgurl212015-10-13

I used to have an online shop for jewelry but I've since shut down since starting Fish Bone. Sorry but I won't be making any more. Brent

AndrewCampbell (author)2015-06-26

This is gorgeous! But if everybody starts making antique jewellery in their own homes with nickels, I might just find myself out of business haha! The truly antique stuff come with a bit of history too actually and hopefully that will be enough to keep people coming to the stores! Haha!

Edbed (author)2015-06-01

This looks so cool.

TalontheShade (author)2015-04-29

This process could be used with any type of coin, (Such as half-dollars and quarters) right?

MadisonH1 (author)2015-03-15

I haven't been having much luck, but then I started frim actual bottel caps... I can't figure out how to get the bumps out... they just don't turn out smooth like yours! its kinda bugging me, but i'll figure it out.

MangrumD (author)2014-04-15

I would like to say, I did this project. Theses steps are very well done, and I produced an amazing locket for my son to give to his mother, for mother's day. I will note the hardest part of this project is making the hinge, and getting it correctly. You absolutely need to have the nose cone pliers, even though I managed without them, I had to be creative to do it without them, but my life would have been 10 thousand times easier had I had the nose cone pliers!

Corinbw (author)MangrumD2015-02-14

I have started making jewelry also and after a ball peen hammer the next thing I got was a pair of cone nose pliers. Men are really small, but they are great for making jewelry, I use them all the time.

riocruz made it! (author)2014-11-22

This instructable got me hooked on this site. Just had to make one. Gave it to someone special too. Thank you Mrballeng.

amarshall2 (author)2014-10-02

Thank you so much for this instructable. I was trying to find something nice to do for my girlfriend. Tomorrow is our 1 year anniversary. The only thing is the doming process, which I completely screwed up the first time, so on my second attempt I ended up just leaving the 2 pieces flat. I like the look of it though, and am very happy with the final product. My only concern is how durable the paperclip hinges will be and how well they stand up to time and wear and tear.

RingoWild (author)2014-07-10

Brilliant man, brilliant!!


Did you decide on a nickel just for the size or was it also for the malleability?

You must have good paper clips -- I've tried some gentle bending with clips and snapped them. Did you anneal the paper clip? (I'm guessing not because you probably would have mentioned it, seeing as you covered everything so beautifully!)

Many thanks for this EXCELLENT instructable! People like you make this site a great place for quality info! -- Lori

Mrballeng (author)RingoWild2014-07-12

I used nickels because the are readily available. That way getting in the practice to make one doesn't cost a fortune. No annealing, just the plain ol' paper clips I got at the store. Thanks for comment.

GomSeMaRi (author)2011-03-05

OMG... i never imagined something this beautifull would come out of a couple of coins... and free time... i`ll have to do do this project too... but i`m missing some tools... and im a girl ... my dad wouldn`t let me handle a hammer... I`ll try this at some friends... Thank you for the Instructable... Ure great

nemoyoder (author)GomSeMaRi2014-03-19

im onle 10my dad lets me use it whenever alsong as he know what im doing

LOL same here but my dad would let me use a hammer if he is right next to me...... trust me you can make it im currently making mine at the moment and im 13 LOL

pmae (author)2013-11-25

How does it stay closed?

Mrballeng (author)pmae2013-11-26

It just hangs shut since the hinge is on top instead of the side.

andrea biffi (author)2013-09-03

I'm astonished, I can't believe that a similar jewel can be made freehand!

calebghall (author)2013-08-04

I'm having some issues rolling the edge over the coat hanger. I'm not sure if I have enough of an edge. Any suggestions? I'm thinking about making the hinge and trying to glue or solder it somehow. I just can't find a way with my tools to butt it up against anything enough to hammer the edge down.

Mrballeng (author)calebghall2013-08-05

That seems to be the most difficult part. For the the trick was to make sure the edges was cut square but putting washers inside the cap while filing. Some times I sit Indian style and use the sole of my shoe to keep one hammer from moving while I hit the piece with another hammer. I made this before I knew how to solder. That's why it's all cold joints. Solder might be tricky with paper clips but it is possible with practice.

Wohlrab (author)2013-07-28

How Long Does The Nickel Last InLocket Form? Does It degrade? How Often Should It Be Polished?

Mrballeng (author)Wohlrab2013-07-29

It will last for as long as you have it. How often you polish it is really a matter of preference. It's been a couple years since I've made a few things out of nickel and I still haven't polish them. They look just fine.

invisiblelight386 (author)2013-06-16

Did some more work and here is the final product

invisiblelight386 (author)2013-06-16

Here is mine so far. I want to sand and polish a little bit more to get rid of the black spots. I have a lot of work to do on the hinge. I just cannot seem to get it to work right. Perhaps a different design.

magic_potion (author)2013-05-29

Here is a photo of my completed locket. I opted not to sand it down, and rather enjoy the roughness of it...I believe my lady will as well, heh. There are few things I would definitely spend more time on if I make another (really filing down the cusp evenly before folding it over the wire form, and spending more time on the wire form folding. I would also buy another file to make the little hole with, as mine is kind of...rough). Overall I'm pleased with how it turned out.

Any tips on how to 'easily' alter a photo to be the size of a nickle? My photoshopping days are long past, and I'm curious if there is a simpler method.

Thanks for the great Instructable!

VailenDersate (author)2013-05-02

What year nickels would be best to use? I like the way yours turned oit by the way.

Mrballeng (author)VailenDersate2013-05-02

I don't know for sure but any current nickel will do. Nothing special about them.

gnarledwolf (author)2013-05-02

This is staggering! I've got so many ideas from this. thank you for posting!

Mrballeng (author)gnarledwolf2013-05-02

Great! Don't forget to share your pictures.

spgem (author)2013-04-15

Absolutely genius!

luluka (author)2013-01-10

beautiful but hard!!! :)

About This Instructable




Bio: Awesome Gear I've designed myself.
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