From Burst Copper Pipe to Phoenix Brooch a Tale of Rebirth

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Introduction: From Burst Copper Pipe to Phoenix Brooch a Tale of Rebirth

About: I'm not an expert in anything. I just enjoy making things sometimes for the process sometimes for the end product.

On February 14, 2021, the state of Texas was hit by a devastatingly cold weather front, the likes of which had not been seen or felt in many decades. Millions of people across Texas lost power and the ability to heat their homes. The cold snap lasted for several days as did the power outages. My mother was an unfortunate victim of this severe weather and so were her copper pipes. About 5 days into the storm one of the pipes above her kitchen burst. By the time my brother and I arrived at her home the kitchen was completely flooded. Water was pouring from the ceiling on to her cabinets and on to her counter tops, the kitchen was ruined. We were able to turn off the water main and stop the water, but it was clear that the kitchen would have to be completely gutted and redone. We would come to learn that my mother was not the only person affected by ruptured pipes, the whole state had experienced tremendous losses due to pipes freezing and then bursting.

The next hurdle we faced was finding a repair man to fix the pipe. This turned out to be extremely difficult as everyone was booked and when I was able to get a repair man on the phone, he quoted me $500 to repair the one pipe. So instead, I decided to make the repair myself and as a souvenir I kept the piece of burst pipe that I replaced. And it is with that piece of copper pipe that I decided to make a brooch in the form of a phoenix. The phoenix signifies rebirth or a renewal and I plan to give my mother this brooch for her birthday which is coming up in January.

It was a difficult time for my mother she had to move out until the repairs were made. To make a long story, longer I was not able to find a person to renovate her kitchen, so my brother and I decided to perform the renovation ourselves. It took us 3 months to fully renovate the kitchen. It would have been shorter but delays in things like cabinets and appliances due to Covid supply chain issues prolonged the process.

In this Instructable I will demonstrate how I went about making a brooch from a copper pipe.

Supplies

Cooper pipe or copper sheet

Card Stock

Pencil

Ruler

Utility knife

X-acto razor blade

Marker

Hacksaw

Bench vise

Rubber mallet

Needle nose pliers

Sandpaper

Files

Blow torch

Glue stick

Spray Paint

Clamps

Jeweler's Bench Pin

Jeweler's saw

Solder

Flux

Dremel w/sanding accessories

Bar pin hardware

5-minute epoxy



Step 1:

My mother actually ended up having two pipes burst in her kitchen. After I repaired the first leak, I turned the water back on and about 5 minutes later another pipe burst. So that's why I have to sections of pipes with holes in them.

The first thing you need to do is find out what size phoenix you can make from a 1/2-inch pipe. So, I took a piece of card stock and wrapped it around the copper pipe and marked were it starts to overlap on to itself. Then I laid the card stock flat and cut off that section off. This will be the size of my canvas, so to speak. I wrapped the card stock back around the copper pipe just to make sure its the correct size.

Step 2:

I don't know how to draw, so I cut several pieces of paper in case I need to draw more than one. After several sketches I eventually drew a version that I liked. You can see in the last picture, my progression and what I ended up deciding to go with after all.

Step 3:

I placed my sketch over the copper pipe and marked the length. Then I took the pipe over to my portable bandsaw table and cut the pipe, you could also do this step with a hacksaw.

Step 4:

Now I had to split the pipe down a seam. In order to do this I clamped the pipe in my bench vise and using a hacksaw I cut down the length of one side of the pipe. Take your time doing this and begin your cut at a steep angle on one edge and slowly drop your angle down as you cut. I found this allowed for more control and a somewhat straighter cut.

Step 5:

Now it was time to flatten the pipe. I used some needle nose pliers to begin prying the pipe open a little at a time switching from one side to the other. Once it was opened up enough, I clamped the copper pipe in my vise and opened it up further. Then using my vise, I straightened the copper by placing the piece in the jaws and tightening the vise to flatten out the piece as best I could. This got the piece mostly flat. It was still rough though.

Step 6:

Next I took my rubber mallet and hammered the copper until it was as flat as I could get it. I didn't use a hammer because I didn't want to further dent the copper.

Step 7:

I used a blowtorch to clean up the copper. I heated it until the solder dripped off then once it cooled, I sanded the front and back with 220 grit to remove any of the residue left behind from the torch.

Step 8:

Next, I used my X-acto razor blade to cut out the shape of the phoenix from the card stock and using a glue stick I glued it to the copper.

Step 9:

Once the glue dried, I spray painted the entire piece black. I set it aside to dry for about an hour, then I removed the paper to reveal my stencil and cut lines.

Step 10:

I took a scrap of 3/4 inch plywood and made a Jewelers Bench Pin which I temporarily attached to my bench using some clamps. I used a Jeweler's saw to cut out the pattern as best I could. It's my first time making something like this, so it was a little bit of a learning curve. My main take away from this process was to go slow and let the saw do the work, too much pressure and the blade will snap. After about 40-45 minutes of sawing, I freed the phoenix from the copper.

Step 11:

Next, I sanded and filed the edges of the phoenix to try and clean up my cut lines. I used 220 grit sandpaper for this part.

Step 12:

I decided that I wanted to add some silver accents to the phoenix just to give it a little more dimension. So, I used a blow torch and some flux and soldering wire to add bits and pieces of silver along the edges of the wings and tail. It wasn't exactly what I was hoping for but in the end, it did add some visual interest and I thought it was quite fitting to have some solder on the copper.

Step 13:

Next, I sanded the piece again and used my rotary tool with a mini drum sander to clean off the excess solder. Then working my way through the grits, I sanded the piece from 150 grit up to 2000 grit.

Step 14:

Lastly, I used some 5-minute epoxy to attach the bar pin to the back of the brooch. I let the dry overnight.

Step 15:

Here is the finished piece. For the most part it turned out okay. If I were to do this again, I would use a thicker piece of copper as the copper pipe wall is not very thick. And I would probably make my life a little easier and just use flat stock instead. In the future I would like to experiment with adding decorative solder to copper. This little experiment gave me some ideas of how I may be able to mimic Mokume Gane without having to actually forge weld Nickel and Copper. Thanks for reading and I hope you find this Instructable informative and maybe even a little inspiring.

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    29 Comments

    0
    huplescat
    huplescat

    3 days ago

    It turned out beautiful! Your mum is really lucky to have a son who can not only fix her house, but also make art from it :)

    0
    danthemakerman
    danthemakerman

    Reply 3 days ago

    Thank you for the kind words.

    0
    Ron47Walker
    Ron47Walker

    5 days ago on Step 15

    Thank you for this - I'm now inspired to try something similar, I just wish I had your artistic skill and dexterity. Well done, I'll look out for more from you.

    0
    danthemakerman
    danthemakerman

    Reply 5 days ago

    Thank you, I appreciate it.

    Thank you for this post.. I have a suggestion about protecting the pipes during a cold winter. I live in the northern portion of the U.S. where below freezing and below zero temperatures are not unusual. Here is what I do, and I have never had pipes burst. First of all, open the cabinet doors that enclose all the water pipes, bathroom, kitchen, laundry room, etc. then, turn the water on and let just the barest trickle come through the pipes. I an 81 years bold, when I was a child, we lived in an apartment without central heating and no insulation. My father always let a trickle of water run through the pipes at night, and we never had a burst pipe. Hope this helps all who read this post. Again, thank you.

    0
    vp15wsl
    vp15wsl

    Reply 6 days ago

    in my country we don't use copper anymore, though you'll still find them in old houses.
    All our pipes our insulated between the concrete floor and the insulation layer, just under the room floor.From there they go in a wall like the bathroom or kitchen. Even in the outer walls of the building with no danger to a burst as all our houses are insulated inside out, or should be. We received even financial gifts from the government to do so. All pipes that are mounted in shafts to reach upper floors are also insulated.
    The ones that are not are from the city where the pipes comes into our houses, from 6f.under the ground, with the meter and the connections. Every year the water company advise us to use cloths as insulation for the meter and where the pipes are exposed. The pipes for the garden must be cut off from the grid and the faucets left open with no water inisde
    BTW it's a beautiful brooch, I wish I was that handy to make one myself, congrats.

    0
    danthemakerman
    danthemakerman

    Reply 6 days ago

    Thank you for the comment!

    0
    danthemakerman
    danthemakerman

    Reply 7 days ago

    Thank you very much for the comment and the advice. My mother did the drip thing at night but thought she didn't have too during the day. But the temperature stayed below freezing for several days so they froze, in our area it hardly stays below freezing for more than a few hours and even that is somewhat rare. Not to mention the city was cutting the water to different neighborhoods because of frozen pipes and having to deal with their own burst water mains. So, when she went to turn on the water in the evening, she thought the water had been turned off by the city. Unbeknownst to her the pipes had frozen.

    0
    bmohr
    bmohr

    6 days ago

    I think it turned out great. You may not be a 'professional' artist, but I think your phoenix design is pretty good. The finished product is really great. Very well done instructable to boot.

    0
    danthemakerman
    danthemakerman

    Reply 6 days ago

    Thank you very much I appreciate it!

    0
    LeslieGeee
    LeslieGeee

    7 days ago

    BEAUTIFUL!!! I think if I were to make this I would make a "pin" clasp out of copper wire. Take a length of wire sharpen one end and make a fishhook clasp at the other end. Solder to the piece.

    0
    danthemakerman
    danthemakerman

    Reply 7 days ago

    That's a great idea! Thanks!

    0
    LeslieGeee
    LeslieGeee

    Reply 7 days ago

    :)

    0
    DocP58
    DocP58

    7 days ago on Step 15

    Very cool! Nice job.
    I was thinking if you used the split of the pipe as the center of the Phoenix chest, might add some homage to the incident. ( just my thought).
    When the solder is still hot and liquid, you can take steel wool and wipe the excess off. This will save you time and effort.
    Anyway, again nice work!

    0
    danthemakerman
    danthemakerman

    Reply 7 days ago

    That would have been cool! Thanks for the great idea and helpful tips!

    0
    charlessenf-gm
    charlessenf-gm

    7 days ago

    Somewhere in Texas is a Mom kvelling about how her brooch was hand made by her clever offspring - after he's replaced her plumbing and rebuilt her kitchen by himself.

    Very nice work! Love the concept! Plumbing, Kitchen installations, copper craft - is there nothing you don't excel at?

    Hopefully you insulated all that exposed copper pipe and learned to either shut off the water at the meter or leave several faucets open to drip until the 'freeze' is over or drain your pipes before leaving.

    Curious as to how the second pipe burst after you had begun repairs as well as about the location of these two failures - it appears they were right next to a fitting. Were they in an exterior wall cavity? Close to one another? Which line went foirst Hot or Cold?

    0
    danthemakerman
    danthemakerman

    Reply 7 days ago

    LOL!! Thanks! I definitely insulated everything. Next time draining everything is the way to go. My mother did the drip thing at night but thought she didn't have too during the day. But the temperature stayed below freezing for several days so they froze, in our area it hardly stays freezing for more than a few hours and even that is somewhat rare. Not to mention the city was cutting the water to different neighborhoods because of frozen pipes and having to deal with their own burst pipes. So when she went to turn on the water in the evening she thought the water had been turned off by the city.

    Both pipes were in the attic one right next to the other and you are correct they both ruptured by a 90 degree elbow fitting. I think the cold line burst first, then after we turned the water back on the hot line popped. I think that pipe might have been on the verge of bursting but since the cold line went first it relieved the pressure until we re-pressurized everything then it burst. This was a common occurrence several folks talked about having this same thing happen to them after getting one pipe fixed another would pop, then they would fix that one and then another would pop. It was a complete cluster from some folks.

    0
    srilyk
    srilyk

    7 days ago

    I've never tried soldering to create accents like that, but it might have worked better to paint flux in the places you wanted the solder to adhere.

    Otherwise, I totally love this idea! Turning old trash things into new things that can be loved is something that I love a lot.

    Another thing - I didn't see if you hit it with some clear coat - if you want to keep the copper from tarnishing, that's something that you'll need to do. Some people like the patina of old copper, but others do not. Fortunately it's not too late - all you need to do is give the copper a little polish and sand and a couple of coats front and back with clear coat, if desired.

    One other idea to give it some more visual interest would be to use a scribe to etch wings and other details. Obviously that's up to how confident you are in your own skills. Another thing, if you like the look, is to gently tap it with a ball-peen hammer to give it the look of hammered copper. Naturally this will thin out the copper so it may not be ideal.

    Finally, if you wanted some thicker copper you might be able to solder two (or more) sheets together. This would require heating the entire both pieces as well as flux, but of you had even enough heat you would definitely get a nice solid piece.

    0
    danthemakerman
    danthemakerman

    Reply 7 days ago

    Thanks for the tips! I tried to paint the flux on the edges of the wings and tail but once the heat hits it, it starts to flow everywhere making it hard to isolate to one area. If I do something like this again, I think I might try acid etching a design into a thicker piece of copper and then add the solder. The idea being that the flux filled channels will wick the solder into them sort of creating an inlay effect. This process gave me a lot of ideas for experimentation in the future; I just need to find the right project to try them out on.

    0
    PRR5406
    PRR5406

    7 days ago

    What! You ruined the verdigris patina? (Joke) Great idea for a step by step walk through for beginners to learn together. Nicely done.