Introduction: How to Make a Vintage Locket

About: Awesome Gear I've designed myself.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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