Introduction: How to Make Copper Bracelets

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

This is something that I have been wanting to try for quite some time. I used a piece of scrap copper pipe to make some bracelets. I also tried various methods of accentuating the aesthetic of a simple bracelet.


Copper pipe

Fine tip Paint marker

Portable Band Saw

Bench Vice

Ball Peen Hammer

Sandpaper - Various Grits

Clear Spray Paint

Barge Cement

Leather scraps

Leather Hole Punch Set

Vinyl Cutter

Weeding Tool

Ferric Chloride

Disposable Plastic Containers

Step 1:

I had a piece of scrap 1/2 inch copper pipe leftover from another project, I had no other use for it so I figured I would give bracelet making a try. I took a place a length of blue tape and fold it in half and used it to measure my wife's wrist. It was about 5 inches long. I used the blue tape as my reference length to cut the pipe.

Step 2:

I made this portable band saw table Portable Band Saw Table Build some time ago and it really is one of the best things I have made it gets a ton of use in my shop. I cut the length needed from the copper pipe then I used a wooden clamp to hold the pipe while I split it down the center resulting in two halves. I did this for several other pieces of pipe and realized I didn't need the wooden clamp to split the pipe in two so I didn't use again.

Step 3:

Next I took one of the halves over to my bench vice and hammered it flat. Copper is pretty soft so if you want to minimize the hammer marks don't be aggressive with your strikes. Its best to work the copper from the center out to the edge. That is hammer the center section first then move your hammer strikes off to either side of the center line. Also striking with the hammer head flat takes a little practice. If you hit the piece with the hammer head at an angle you might make a dent more so than actually flatten the piece. It will flatten but there will be deep divots in the metal. Which is fine if that's a look you are going for.

Step 4:

I used a piece of scrap 1-1/2 in. pipe that chucked up in my bench vice to shape the copper strip. Copper is pretty soft so any round pipe will work even thick walled PVC will do the trick. Here I just used the radius of the pipe to shape the strip in to a bracelet. I just used my hands for this no hammering required.

Step 5:

Here you can see the bracelet is shaped. I had my wife try it on and made any adjustments for comfort. I decided that I wanted to add some texture so I used the ball peen section of the hammer head to texture the bracelet. Ideally I should have textured the bracelet before shaping it as that would have been easier to do this when it was flat. The last pic shows the hammered texture.

Step 6:

With the texturing complete I sanded the bracelet with 220 grit then 400 then 800 and lastly with 2000 grit. Luckily copper shines up fairly easily compared to other metals so this went a lot faster than I initially thought it would. Copper will patina if not clear coated. Because of the acidity of a person's skin and sweat it may also tarnish the inside of the bracelet and turn the copper green which may end up transferring to a person's skin. So it is best to apply a good clear coat to the inside and outside of the bracelet.

Step 7:

I wanted to experiment with adding some details and accents to the bracelets so I decided to see if I could etch a pattern in to the bracelet. This is a bit of a lengthy process to explain here but I have written an entirely separate Instructable explaining the acid etch process Acid Etching Metal so for more details please give it a gander. I explain it briefly though. Basically I made a vinyl mask of a pattern I liked and applied it to a thoroughly cleaned strip of copper. The masked off section protects the metal from the acid and will not etch. So any metal that is exposed will be "eaten" away by the acid and create the pattern. This first attempt was a failure, I didn't leave the copper in the acid etch long enough so the pattern was not very distinct that is why it is not in the final pictures.

Step 8:

You have to make sure to protect the bare metal that you do not want to get etched. I use electrical tape to mask off any additional areas including the back of the piece.

Step 9:

I use Ferric Chloride to etch the metal. I use a 1:1 ratio of water and acid you can use just straight Ferric Chloride. Make sure to work in a well ventilated area and wear proper PPE when working with any chemicals.

Step 10:

Ideally for a good etch you want to suspend the object to be etched face down in the acid. I tried two different methods to accomplish this, one way to do this is to attach the metal strip to a piece of Styrofoam with electrical tape. The Styrofoam acts as a floatation device and keeps the metal face down. Another method is to use electrical tape to act as leads or handles attached to the backside of the metal strip. Then use clamps to help suspend the metal facedown in the acid, I found this method more cumbersome and prefer the Styrofoam method instead.

Depending on the ratio of acid to water that you use and how deep you want the etch will determine the length of time you leave the metal in the acid. I found that about 1-2 hours gave a me a really good etch. However this may vary over time if you use the same acid bath as its strength will decrease the more you use it. You can always remove the piece and inspect its progress and either take it out or put it back in the acid for more time.

Step 11:

If you don't have access to a vinyl cutter and don't want to order vinyl stickers you can use an acrylic paint marker to act as the masking. I wanted to try a wood grain effect so I drew what approximated wood grain and added some fine detail by removing the paint with an ice pick. The paint scrapes away to expose the metal. This works great for more organic shapes or if you have a steady hand you can also make some interesting patterns.

Make sure to clean the metal well before drawing on it.

Step 12:

So these are the experiments I tried from left to right. The first two pieces have vinyl masks, the third from the left was the paint marker and the far right one is a drawn circuit board pattern using a common Sharpie marker. I got really good results with the first three they all worked very well in the acid etch, pictures to follow. The sharpie in my opinion did not work as well as the paint marker the etch was just not as good as the rest and I had to scrap that piece.

Step 13:

This was a really nice etch, I used a green scotch pad to clean this up and then used various grist of sandpaper to polish the piece.

Step 14:

I wanted to try and salvage the first failed etch so I cut a strip of some leather scrap and punched a flower pattern in the center of it. Then I used Barge contact cement to glue it on to the copper bracelet. I really like the way this one turned out and it was relatively easy to make. I would think that other fabrics could be glued in to get different looks.

Step 15:

These are the finished pieces beginning with the hammered texture followed by the two masked vinyl etched bracelets and lastly the wood grain etched bracelet. To further accentuate the detail in the wood grain effect I coated the entire surface of the bracelet with a sharpie and then repeated this step again. Then I lightly sanded away some of the marker color with some 2000 grit sandpaper.

Closing thoughts, I think this was a good experiment that netted some good results and informed me on what not to do. The copper pipe I used is relatively thin, if I do this again I will purchase some copper flat stock that was a little thicker but all in all I consider this project a success.

Thank you for reading this and I hope some one out there finds this helpful.

Jewelry Challenge

Grand Prize in the
Jewelry Challenge