Put a Copper Top on a Table




Introduction: Put a Copper Top on a Table

This will show you how to cover an old table with copper sheeting.  I used a sheet metal brake (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brake_%28sheet_metal_bending%29) and while it helps make nice corners it's not necessary.  These instructions assume that you can cover the table with one sheet of copper; i.e. there are no seams.

If you are interested in this see the page with the discussion on the copper aging over time.

Step 1: Tools and Materials

Table (duh)
Glue (I used TC-20)
Just-for-Copper epoxy
Wood for clamping (I used 2 2x4's)
Short tacks
Small piece of flat wood for bending.

Tools you'll need:
Metal snips
Clamps (at least 4)
Safety razors
Work gloves
Sheet metal brake
Sandpaper for metal
Light hammer
Ink/glue roller (optional)

Some people use a common  adhesive like Liquid Nails but I used TC-20, a copper adhesive from www.veneersupplies.com.  It's more expensive (~$25 w/ shipping) but compared to the cost of the copper it's not much.

Step 2: Choose a Table

I bought a cheap table on Craig's List for $5.  The important things to look for in a table (besides your own tastes) are:
1) Flat top.  It's ok if there are scratches but you don't want any peeling veneer or warped wood.
2) Square corners and edges.  You can put copper on a table with rounded or beveled edges but it will probably get dented over time.  If you don't have a sheet metal brake it will be difficult to get sharp edges with the copper.
3) Good size.  My table is 46"x30", small enough to cover with one sheet of copper.

Step 3: Copper Sheet

I bought a 8'x3' sheet of copper from guttersupply.com for ~ $150 (w/ shipping).  They were one of the cheaper sites I could find.  The copper was delivered in a roll and had a few small wrinkles.  I didn't think about it at the time but if I was doing this again I would insist on getting the copper delivered without wrinkles because you can't iron them out and they are fairly obvious on the finished table (see picture).

The thickness of my copper was 16 oz (which means the copper weighs 16 oz per square foot), which is 0.023 inches thick (also known as 23 gauge copper).  16 oz copper is the thinnest of recommended gauges for table/counter tops.  Thinner copper is easier to work with (and cheaper!) but it will more susceptible to dents.  Since my table had sharp edges and a flat top I wasn't concerned about dents.

Wipe down the copper to remove dust.

Step 4: Cut the Copper to Fit the Table.

The copper must be long enough to cover the table, run down the sides, and then fold underneath the top.  Measure the length of the table, add the thickness x 2, and add another 2 inches to wrap the copper underneath the table top (one inch on each end).   For me the total length of my copper top was:

46" + .66 x 2 + 1 x 2 = ~50".

Which meant I had to cut off ~46".  The cut was too long to use the brake so I had to cut it using the snips, which left a jagged edge.  To straighten it out, put the jagged edge into the brake and cut it using the razor blade(s).  Score the copper along the edge of the brake with the razor then use the brake to bend and snap off the copper.  This will result in a nice clean edge.  Using the brake is a two-person job so my photographer couldn't take a picture of the brake in action.

If necessary, do the same thing to the long edge so that you have a sheet of copper that overlaps your table by a few inches on all sides.

Step 5: Bend the Sides.

Using the measurements of your table, figure out how much copper is need to cover the side and fold under the top.  For me it was 1.5".  Mark down your measurement on the copper, put it into the brake, and make sure it's reasonable square.  Then make a 90-degree bend in the copper.

Put the copper on the table so the bend is up against the edge.  Get under the table and mark the copper where the next bend should go.  Put the copper back in the brake and put in the next bend.  For this second bend it is important that you have the copper aligned correctly.  The best way to do this is to mark both ends of the copper where it will be bent and make sure they line up with the brake.

When you're done you should have the copper bent into a shallow, square U that fits snugly on the table.  To bend the ends you'll have to first cut out 4 squares of copper.  Then insert the ends into the brake and bend them.  You should end up with edges that look like the last picture.

Step 6: Glue the Copper Top to the Table.

Apply the glue to the table top.  A rubber ink roller worked very well.  Put the copper on the table and clamp down tight.  I had only four clamps so I just clamped the edges and put heavy objects on top of the copper.  It worked well but you'll get fewer snide comments from your friends if you clamp the whole table.

The TC-20 glue has no odor and cleans up in water.  Very nice.

Step 7: Bend Lower Edges.

Flip the table onto its back (use a carpet or blanket to prevent scratches).  Use a short piece of wood to bend the copper.  Start with small bends all along the edge and progressively bend it sharper.  You can't bend the copper to stay flat against the wood so hammer small nails or tacks into the copper.

Use the snips to cut a slight angle into the edge that hasn't been bent yet, then fold and hammer the last edges.

Step 8: Fill in the Corners.

You'll probably be left with gaps in the corners where the two edges of copper come together.  The Just-for-Copper epoxy is a hard copper-colored epoxy that can be used to fill in the holes.  It won't totally blend in with the copper on the table but it will reduce the chance of someone cutting themselves on the edges.  Over time, as the copper patinas, the epoxy should become less noticeable.

Cut a small piece of epoxy and mix the two ingredients together.  Stuff it into the gaps at each corner and let it dry for an hour.  Take a file and some sandpaper and smooth it down until it blends in with the copper.

Step 9: Taking Care of the Copper Over Time.

Over time the copper will naturally grow dull and pick up stains.  I like the look of aged copper with a warm patina so this isn't a problem.  I also like the bright color of clean copper but It's a real pain in the neck to keep it bright and shiny and it won't be practical for most people.  If I can, I'll update this instructable with new pictures of the table as it ages.

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    6 years ago

    This would work well with other metals as well; zinc, stainless, (rusted steel might be interesting).. whatever. I don't have a brake, so when I wanted a stainless skirt to fit around the bottom of my over the range microwave (I wanted it to look like one of those custom range hoods), I had the local Air Conditioning shop cut out and bend the complex shape. It cost me about $50 in total.

    BTW, I just checked online. A 36" by 48" sheet 0.21" thick runs $149.82.


    7 years ago

    I was wondering would it be very hard to prematurely age the table top? And on a scale of 1-10 (1 easiest, 10 hardest) how would you rate this project for a first timer working from home?


    Reply 7 years ago

    It depends on how fast you want to create the patina. You can accelerate the process by constantly getting the surface wet and letting it dry but I would expect that to still take a few weeks at least. Take a look at this page for other ideas: http://www.wikihow.com/Oxidize-Copper

    I'll rate this one a 5. I did this project without prior experience so it's not too hard but I did have some woodworking-type skills. Do you have access to a brake? It'll be tough to get sharp corners without one.


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    That's going to be tough. It depends on how many seams you have. If you have just one then maybe glue the two sheets to the table and bend them as well as you can.

    If you're good with a saw something else you can consider is cutting all the pieces and gluing them to the table. You'll want to be able to cut the pieces with a bevel so they fit tight together at the corners. That's what these people did: http://ths.gardenweb.com/discussions/2672975/i-did-it-diy-copper-countertops


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    It depends on the planned use for your table. Your example could work but it will tough to keep it waterproof, especially with all the rivets, and that could be a problem for a kitchen table. A work desk would be fine. The more cuts (i.e. seams) you have the more chances there are for getting it wrong (when I do stuff I seem to find all the ways to do it wrong :) ).

    I've covered my kitchen counters in copper with a couple of seams and I soldered the seams with lead-free solder. It's tough to get it right so I suggest practicing a few times on scrap copper (or get a plumber to do it). Most of my seams came out well but one in particular looks rough.

    You can have an overlap between the seams but then there will be a bump all along the seam where the copper sheets overlap. You could use a router to cut a channel in the wood so that the overlap lies flatter in the table.

    On a largely unrelated note, if you ever build your table, try rolling magnetic spheres (like these) quickly across the top of the copper. You'll be surprised at what happens (at least I was but maybe that's because I'm a science nerd).


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    awesome, thanks for the tips!

    I'm not too worried about 'messing it up' as it should look rough and industrial at the end of it. Good call on the waterproofing as it will be used for dining... will need to think that one over a bit more.

    Truly appreciate your input and looking forward to magnetic experiment!


    9 years ago on Step 3

    If it does have dents, you could give it a hammered texture for a different look, this could also hide impurfections if say someone dropped a heavy object on the table.

    Neat idea, wish I had the time and tools to build something similar. Would love to see how the table looks today!


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    Hmm, I guess I never did come back and post pictures. For reasons I won't bore you with I can't take pictures of the table right now but the following are various pictures from my Instructables that have the table in it. Not great but they'll give you an idea of what the finish looks like now. I'll try to remember to post better pictures when I have them.

    2013-08-19 19.46.40.jpg2013-08-09 20.52.53.jpgIMG_20120223_184801.jpg

    11 years ago on Step 9

    Nice revamp of an ordinary table!
    One could use lead-free solder on the corners if so inclined.
    Copper cleans easily with vinegar and salt solution and a soft cloth.
    Don't use scrubbers unless you want the scraches and swirl marks.
    If one wanted too keep it bright they could use clear spray paint in gloss or satin, varnish it with lacquer, urethane or even just automotive wax to slow down the tarnishing.
    Acid etch a design with masking or screen print methods and then clear-coat.
    So many possibilities!


    11 years ago on Introduction

    I've seen it done without using glue. They used the fancy upholstery nails (the ones that have a pattern on top) to nail it on with the nails being spaced close together.

    Doctor What
    Doctor What

    13 years ago on Introduction

     This is very pretty!  It would look awesome in a steampunk environment.


    Your table is beautiful.  I think I might glue copper pennies on to mine since I don't have your clever  skills.