Introduction: How to Make Pressed Penny Wind Chimes (+ Sound File)

About: Let's skip the pretentious titles. At present, I am a paper pusher. In the remainder of my life, I am a mother of two handsome grown men, a wife to a very patient man, a nana of two precious grandchildren, c…

Let's get the legality out of the way, first and foremost.

The process of creating elongated coins is legal in the United States, almost all parts of Japan[citation needed], South Africa and parts of Europe. In the United States, U.S. Code Title 18, Chapter 17, Section 331 prohibits "the mutilation, diminution and falsification of United States coinage." The foregoing statute, however, does not prohibit the mutilation of coins, if the mutilated coins are not used fraudulently, i.e., with the intention of creating counterfeit coinage or profiting from the base metal (the pre-1982 copper U.S. cent which, as of 2010, is worth more than one cent in the United States).[7] Because elongated coins are made mainly as souvenirs, mutilation for this purpose is legal.

Thank you, Wikipedia. Nothing fraudulent going on here. Now, back to the fun.

Whether you want to invest a lot of time and materials, or create a simple project with only a few items, this Instructable will provide the how-to, you provide the creativity and a few supplies.

A basic, lightweight, dainty chime can be assembled and hung the same day. Grab a few handfuls of pennies, some fishing line, a stick, and a drill bit. The rest is up to you. Add beads, sparkling things, copper adornments, these are just a few ideas. Although the pennies do not have to be pressed, they do make a lovely sound. They can otherwise simply be drilled, and suspended.

Come along, and let’s have fun while making a quick treasure for the garden, front porch, deck, or window. Hang one from a limb of a tree in your back yard, front yard, or both. Make them as gifts. Start now, and by the time the holidays arrive, you'll have plenty to give away.

Step 1: Gather Your Materials and Tools

The Horizontal Piece
– Cost: free for the searching

You’ll need a stick, a length of bamboo, or other item to serve as the support for all of your wind chime strings. For this project, I chose a piece of driftwood, found lying on the shores of Lake Fort Gibson, Oklahoma.

Look for a piece that is long enough to hang pennies that, when spaced close together, will touch one another, resulting in a chime. Pennies hung too far apart will depend on a strong breeze to make noise, which may result in a tangled chime you may not have the patience to straighten.

Fishing line, or invisible thread – Cost: Low. Likely in your tackle box, or sewing kit

Provided you aren’t hanging hundreds of pennies on your chime, a simple roll of 10 pound test fishing line should suffice for stringing the pennies. A stronger line is advised for the hanging of the chime, as it will be supporting the entire weight of the chime.

Invisible thread may also be used, though be sure it is strong, and consider doubling it for the weight of the entire chime. A single strand should be fine for the strands of pennies. You could also use nylon-coated craft or beading wire.

Pennies, pennies, pennies! – Cost: 1 cent per penny. This project uses 45 pennies, thus 45 cents.

Whether you hand smash your coins, or use a press, any coins will do, but consider using pennies with higher copper content. Pennies minted in the years 1962 through 1982 are great for projects like these, as their copper content is 95%, with 5% zinc. Curious minds, you may want to visit Penny Collector's page for additional information on metal content in pennies.

Is smashing / pressing / squishing a penny legal? Yes - Penny Smashing Legality

Beads, baubles, and bling! – What is a project without a little sparkle? Perhaps you have junk jewelry, boxes of beads, or other trinkets lying around the house that would work wonderfully in this project. Glass, or even faceted plastic beads will work beautifully, as they will reflect sunlight.

TOOLS & other components of the project:

  • Necessary -

    If using a sledge hammer to press pennies, please wear ANSI-approved safety glasses.
    Look for safety glasses that feature the ANSI title

ANSI - The American National Standards Institute is a private non-profit organization that oversees the development of voluntary consensus standards for products, services, processes, systems, and personnel in the United States. (Thank you, Wikipedia)

Please be extremely careful when using tools. Just one small incident could cost your vision.
Be smart, be safe, and wear the right safety glasses.

  • Suggested - Electric drilling device such as a hand drill, or Dremel Rotary Tool

    Add the handy Work Station, and you'll be drilling with ease.
    This is the extra hand you've always wanted. I'm not kidding.

    Be certain to check the numbers on your rotary tool to be sure they are compatible with the drill press attachment.

    Drill bits for wood and metal. Consider the useful Drill Bit Set for use with a rotary tool.
    Measuring stick / tape, or ruler

Hand-held sledge hammer (about 10 pounds), anvil or other thick piece of steel

  • Helpful – Crimping pliers, crimping beads
  • Optional – paint brush (if urethane or polyurethane is used), copper cleanser

Step 2: Preserve the Wood

Approximate cost for an 8 ounce can of polyurethane: $6.98. Trust me, get the bigger can.
You'll want to make more chimes when you realize how fun and relaxing they are to make.

If your chime will be hanging outdoors, you may want to consider protecting the wood with a few coats of polyurethane. Wipe on, brush on, spray on, anything is better than nothing. I used Minwax Fast-Drying Clear Satin Polyurethane. Three thin coats later, the wood looks great, and should withstand the elements for a bit.
In extreme winds or weather, bring your chime indoors to prevent damage.

Special thanks and mention, to Instructables member ChrisH385 mentioned that using a SPAR urethane is a great choice for chimes that may remain outdoors. Thanks, Chris!

Using a soft cloth, a bristled brush, or a compressor nozzle with pressurized air if you have it, clean the wood, especially if it has been laying on a beach or other natural area. Once it is clean and dry, apply a thin coat of protective gloss or satin, and allow to thoroughly dry. Apply additional coats as desired, according to the instructions of the product you chose.

*Note* I have tried drilling the holes first, and then protecting the wood, but that just resulted in polyurethane plugging up the holes. Yes, I could have kept poking the holes out, but…

Step 3: Drill Holes in the Support Stick

Once the wood is completely dry, you'll need to drill holes along the wood at evenly-spaced intervals, according to the size of the penny (or other coin) of your choice.

*Note* If you are not going to smash, squish, or otherwise flatten your pennies, you’ll need to hang them close enough so they will strike one another during a breeze, which will produce a tinkling, or chime sound. Keep this in mind as you drill the holes.

Consider leaving a bit of space on each end of the chime, so the penny strands hang in the center-most of the wooden support. As the driftwood I chose happens to be 15 ½” long, I spaced the strands about ¾ of an inch apart, drilling a total of 17 holes, with a bit of space on each end to spare. (Basically, I drilled a hole every inch and a half, then drilled another hole between them.) The spacing of the strands takes into consideration the fact that the pennies I chose had been run over by a train, squishing them to various widths, larger than the typical width of 3/4”. Some of my squished pennies are over an inch wide!

Wearing proper safety glasses, drill holes along the support.
This is work made easy with a Dremel Rotary Tool

Step 4: Smashing or Pressing the Pennies

The pennies I chose for this project were actually pressed on a railroad track. Years ago, I would stop on my way to work at a set of railroad tracks in a very rural area, place a few pennies, and stop back by the tracks on the way home to see the result. Sure enough, the pennies were flat as could be, and sometimes were still laying on the track. After all these years in a drawer, I decided to put the pennies to work. As I am not suggesting you should obtain your pennies in the same manner, I'll provide an optional method of pressing them, further below.

But wait! For those of you with curious minds, just what does it take to smash a penny, anyhow?
We appreciate the answer to this question by username 'Chronos' from the Straight Dope Forum.

Using the work-energy theorem, with some back-of-the-envelope estimates:
An intact penny is just about 1 mm thick, and a flattened one is maybe a quarter of that. So we're applying a force over a distance of 7.5e-4 m. Using the figure of 22 tons for a penny-smasher (which is going to be comparable to that from a train car, since not all of the weight is on one wheel), we get about 220000 newtons for the force. That gives us a total energy of 220*7.5e-4 N*m, or 165 J. For comparison, this means that if the handle of the smasher moves about 8 m (that'd be four full rotations, with a handle about a third of a meter long), then the person turning the crank must exert a force of about 21 N (about 4.6 pounds), which isn't too unreasonable.

It gets better. If you're looking to be impressed with penny smashing, look no further than the amazing Instructable by member mblem - Building a Penny Crusher.

If you are lucky enough to live in, or visit Eureka Springs, you could always visit the Eureka Springs & North Arkansas Railway. We've taken the ride, and it is quite nice. The conductor will even allow you to place pennies on the tracks for pressing, after dinner aboard the train ride.

If you don’t have your own train and railroad tracks, you may have to smash the pennies by hand. This can be accomplished in a number of ways, such as a hammer, an anvil, and a bit of elbow grease, or perhaps a hydraulic press.

Though anvils are not as readily available these days, they are quite handy to have for do-it-yourself creative people. If you do not have an anvil, you'll need to strike the pennies on something somewhat comparable to an anvil, use a thick piece of flat steel.

Wearing ANSI-approved safety glasses, place the penny upon an anvil and strike it with a hammer or flat-topped, hand-held sledge hammer. Strike the penny one blow at a time, pausing between blows to ensure the penny stays put in one place, ready for the next strike. You'll need to smack the penny a good number of times, depending on your strength, the tool, and the size you wish the penny to be when you finish striking it.

In the images above, I have shown a penny that has been struck 25, then 50, 75, and 100 times to show you that it can be done. Perhaps not as elongated or shapely as those run over by a train, but nevertheless, functional, and they still ring just as lovely. Please note that the largest penny is not a high-copper content penny, which allowed it to be pressed flatter, as it is a softer metal.

Step 5: Polishing the Pennies (optional)

Pennies are, quite frankly, dirty little things, and as such, show it. If you prefer your pennies to be bright and shiny, you'll need to give them a bit of a bath before assembling the chime. If you've used pennies with a high copper content, a bit of abrasive cleanser should do the trick. Brasso, and other products marketed specifically for cleaning brass and copper will do as well.

Optional cleaning method (a.k.a. use what you have) is to soak the pennies in 1/2 cup of vinegar with one teaspoon of salt. It only takes a few moments to make them super shiny. Rinse, and pat dry.

Step 6: Optional / Alternate Pressed Pennies...

For a precious memento of your travels and adventures, consider using elongated pennies in your chime. An elongated penny is created when coins are inserted into a special mechanical press that will emboss an image and / or text into a coin. The machines can be found all across the United States, and all over the world, in places from amusement parks, to zoos, restaurants, events and attractions.

Typically, for the cost of fifty cents to use the machine, an extra coin is placed into a slot on the machine, and a hand crank is turned, which operates the press and embossing feature. Clink! Your newly embossed penny falls into a drop below, in elongated form. You could also purchase a number of elongated pennies on Ebay.

Step 7: Drilling Holes in the Pennies

If you have a Dremel High-Performance Rotary Tool with a drill press WorkStation attachment, this is the perfect project for it. If not, have no fear, a standard hand drill with a bit intended for metal / wood will work just fine, just remember to put these items on your wish list for Santa.

As with any do-it-yourself project involving tools, do be careful, and wear proper protective gear such as safety glasses.

Using a bit intended for wood and / metal, such as a Dremel 660 Drill Bit Set, Drill a small hole in the top and bottom of each penny, being mindful that you don’t place the drill bit too close to the edges. If you are not going to hang additional décor on the edge pennies, it is only necessary to double drill those which will support a penny beneath it. Use a metal file to remove any sharp burrs on the holes, to prevent the pennies from cutting the hanging string. You could also consider drilling the holes a little larger, then adding eyelets for a unique look, and added durability.

Step 8: Line ‘em Up!

Once you have drilled holes in all of the pennies, it will be of great help to lay them out in the same pattern you will use to attach them. Move them around to get a good idea of the look you desire. Will you place all of the large pennies at the top of the chime, the bottom? You decide.

To give you an idea of the placement and hanging pattern, see the second image provided. I've numbered the pennies according to the way they will hang. For example, note that penny number 9 on the top row will have four pennies hanging from, or below it.

You may want to hang the pennies according to the flow of the wood, altering the height so the pennies flow with the natural curves and waves of the wood.

Step 9: Attach Hanging String to the Support Stick

Remember to use a double strand of fishing line for the support if you do not have a second, stronger line. The hanging string will support the entire weight of the chime, so you’ll want it to be durable and strong.

Insert a length of string into one of the end holes on the top of the support stick. The length will depend on how far down you wish the chime to hang. You can always shorten it later by adding additional crimp beads, cutting off the excess string.

Once threaded through the stick, from the bottom side, thread a bead or other item that will not be able to be pulled back through the hole. Thread at least one, but preferably two crimping beads for security on the support. Using a pair of crimping pliers, press each crimp bead firmly to the fishing line. Snip off the extra string that is now sticking out of the end crimp bead. Don’t worry about the beads showing, they will not detract from the final look, and it gives perfectionists something to squirm about.

If you do not have crimping beads and tools, you can also simply tie knots to secure the bead in place.

Hint: Crimping Pliers (average $5.00, be sure to watch for local sale coupons) and crimp beads (about $2.99 for 70 2mm) are fabulous items to keep in your craft arsenal. Both items can be found at just about any craft store such as Michael's, Fire Mountain Gems, or even Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft Store.

Step 10: Stringing the Pennies (A.K.A. the Fun Part)

There are no rules about stringing things on sticks, other than using secure knots. As I was winging my first project, I quickly realized little tricks and tidbits I’ll be glad to pass along. Don’t get frustrated. It is a very simple process, though it can be tedious working with delicately stringed things.

Take a deep breath, and proceed. Once you get going, and make progress, you’ll see how easy this really is.

Determine how far you want your first row of pennies to hang from the support stick. I generally use just a couple inches. Though we don’t want to be wasteful, it is better to allow for extra string. Go ahead and grab about a foot of string to get an idea of what will be needed. Insert the string into the first hole of the stick, from the top, the same hole that holds the support string. Place a bead that is larger than the hole, and a crimp bead, on the string sticking out of the top of the stick, not the string hanging down. Crimp. Repeat on the other side. You will now have two strings hanging from each side. It is easiest to assemble the chime when it is hanging from something at working height.

For those lucky enough to own a Dremel WorkStation, the arm intended for the cord is a perfect place to hang the chime while working on it.

Eyeball the height at which the pennies will hang, to ensure they do so evenly. As the daughter of perfectionist parents, I intentionally try to avoid such behavior. If you can’t resist, consider attaching the chime to a bulletin board, to make certain the pennies hang at a precise level.

Repeat the same procedure for pennies in the odd-numbered holes, keeping the hanging distance uniform, or be creative, altering the hanging distance. Remember, the second row, the even-numbered pennies, should hang slightly lower than the previous row, in order to cause contact, which produces a ring, or chime sound.

If you want a slightly easier way to assemble the chime, you can simply hang the string, and tie pennies along the same line. I prefer to cut the line at each penny, then tie it back to the bottom, and proceed.

It might help to secure a pretty bead with a crimp bead to a length of string, threaded through each odd-numbered hole to help you remember. It might also aid in making this a faster process. Add a penny to the left, the right, and then the left again, working your way toward the center, to keep the chime balanced, adding coins to the hanging strings as you go.

Step 11: Optional - Adding Beads and Baubles...

It is very easy to add sparkle to your wind chimes, with added beads and things.

Holding the end of a strand that has already been secured to the support bar, or previous penny, thread the string through a crimp bead, a small bead, a larger bead, and then another small bead, then thread through a penny. Now pass the end of the string right back through those same beads, coming up through the bottom hole of them. You will be left with a small tail sticking out of the top, which will be the crimp bead. Gently pull on the loose tail until the beads line up with the edge of the penny, but remember to leave just a tiny bit of room so the penny will swing freely, and not snug up tight.

Using a pair of crimping pliers, give the crimp bead a good squeeze. This will secure the beads, the penny, and the loose end. Snip off any excess tail on the string.

Passing the string back through the beads is also suggested for the attachment of the pennies, which allows for a neat and tidy way to add more strings, and more things.

Step 12: Pattern of the Pennies

Assuming you are using 45 pennies as shown in this Instructable, assemble the chime in the following fashion, adding decorative beads if desired.

Row one: Suspend a penny from each of the odd-numbered holes. (1, 3, 5, 7, 9, 11, 13, 15, and 17)

Row two: Suspend a penny from each of the even-numbered holes (2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, 14, and 16) so at least the top 1/3 of the pennies are even with approximately the bottom third of the pennies above it. The spacing will aid in creating the ringing sound. The measurement can vary, as long as the pennies touch at some point, and each row hangs lower than the previous row.

Row three: 3B, 5B, 7B, 9B, 11B, 13B, 15B. These pennies will be dangling from the first row of pennies, from the bottom hole drilled in them, less one on each side compared to the first row. In other words, as this is your third row, you will suspend a penny from the penny that would be referred to as penny #3 along the top of the stick.

Row four: 4B, 6B, 8B, 10B, 12B, 14B. These pennies will be dangling from the second row of pennies, from the bottom hole on them, less one on each side compared to the second row.

Row five: 5C, 7C, 9C, 11C, 13C

Row six: 6C, 8C, 10C, 12C

Row seven: 7D, 9D, 11D

Row eight: 8D, 10D

Row nine: 9E - I like to use the largest penny as the bottom center. On a bell, this is called a clapper.

Step 13: Rows 3 Through 9...slowly, But Surely

Although each additional row hangs slightly below, from the photos, it is sometimes difficult to tell how many rows are complete but if you follow the image from step 7 or 11, you'll know where you left off, and can finish easily without confusion.

Keep adding pennies until you reach the very bottom, which in a 45-penny chime, is the final, or ninth row.

Step 14: Final Step - Finishing Up...

Once the chime is completely assembled, snip all extra string ends, and gently run your fingers through the pennies. A rather delicate, lovely sound for material that was previously tossed into fountains and dropped at drive-through windows.

If you drilled holes in the top and bottom of every penny, you’ll see that the pennies on the outside of the chime have an empty hole. There is a method to my madness. Now you can suspend a little dainty from each penny. I like to add a spiral of copper wire, or a jump ring with a pretty bead. Nothing too heavy, as you won’t want to weigh the pennies down too much.

Be creative, experiment. You may prefer to simply string pennies without the addition of beading, which is fine, and will create a lovely chime all by itself. In case you missed it in the intro, to listen to the sound of my 45-penny chime, Click here!

Nothing says you must make your chime exactly as I have, so the chime is open to your own creativity. Make one bigger. Smaller. Longer. All the same length. Odd lengths. Have fun!

I hope you have enjoyed this process, and now that you have one under your belt, you may find yourself consumed with wanting to make yet another. Please do, and share a picture of your chimes with the Instructable community.

Thank you so much for taking the time to view my Instructable.
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