Brass Monkey





Introduction: Brass Monkey

About: Awesome Gear I've designed myself.

This monkey was made from two bullet shells and 20” of brass wire. It makes for a cool way to hang your keys.

The face is my design while the rest of the body is based off a monkey I bought from a home furnishings store.

UPDATE: Step 1. now shows how I used SketchBook Express to make this project.

Step 1: SketchBook Express

 Here’s more to how I made this little brass monkey. These pictures were taken while making the project though, for the sake of being concise, I left them out. To get into the Make It Real Challenge I’ve included them.

I started by taking a picture with my Ipad and then opening it through Autodesk’s free app “SketchBook Express”.

I created a layer and sketched out what I wanted my monkey to look like. Once I was done I removed the original picture layer so all I saw was my sketch.

I printed out the sketch and used that “blue print” to make the project.

Step 2: Cut Open a Couple Bullet Shells

Safety Note: Never use live ammunition for any kind of project. These bullet shells are expended meaning the have no primer or powder.

Use a pipe cutter to remove the primer end from the shell. Start cutting the shell from the business side with a pair of metal shears. As you cut, use a small hammer to tap the shell further into the shears. This makes it easier to move the cut along the length of the shell.

Open the shell up with pliers. Hammer it flat on a hard surface.

Step 3: Monkey Face

To form the face start by coiling 16 gage steal wire around a socket bit. Cut off two loops.  One being a complete circle while the other is only ¾th of a cirle.  Use a pair a pliers to squeeze the complete loop into an oval type shape. Make sure the joint is perpendicular to the pliers.

Place the loops, one on top of the other on a piece of tape, as shown in the pictures. I’m using aluminum tape. Take this set up and place it sticky side down onto the brass. Keep in mind the brass is thicker at one end. The mouth part of the monkey should be placed toward the thicker side. This is because the brass will be stretched more in that area and the thicker brass is easier to work.

Next place the brass, wire side up, onto a piece of wood. Strike the wire with a hammer so that it indents the brass. Use a ball punch to expand the mouth. Use the same punch to highlight the eyes.

Step 4: Detail the Face

By this step the face is taking shape but it’s still all bumpy. Tighten the ball punch into a vise and use it as an anvil to tap out the dents. Use a flat punch to straiten out the brass so it’s flat.

The smile is made by embossing a paperclip into the mouth area. Elongate a paperclip and wrap it around a socket. Once you have the curve you want tape it on the face. Use the ball punch anvil while you hammer it in. Highlight the smile with an engraver.

For the eyes use a center punch to mark the points for a drill bit. After you drill out the eyes use a small hammer to flatten them a little.

Mark the nostrils with a permanent marker and set them with a center punch on the ball anvil.

Next use a permanent marker to draw the ears and hair. Use metal shears to cut it out. I shaped the edges with a diamond wheel and hobby files.

Use the edge of a socket bit to emboss the ear creases and eyebrows.

Step 5: Make the Body

The body is made by using the same wire relief method. To get the general shape of the body I took a section of 1” pipe and squeezed it into an oval shape. After wrapping the wire around it I cut a section out and shaped the body by hand with round nose pliers.

Again tape the wire on the brass and hammer the relief in. Use the ball anvil to smooth out the bumps. Keep in mind the lower belly will be more distended then the upper.

Cut out the body and use a socket to flatten a small tab at the top side. This will be the section the head is soldered onto.

Step 6: Form the Limbs

Set the monkey on a sheet of paper and draw out the limbs.

Use this as a template as you form the 3/16” brass wire with round nose pliers.

I used a diamond bit to grind out notches on the body. Theses notches accommodate the limbs for soldering.

Step 7: Solder, Polish, Fill.

After the limbs and head are soldered, polish the monkey with a polishing wheel.

For a further finished design I baked polymer clay into the backside.

Step 8: Find the Monkey a Home

Originally I was going to hang this little monkey from my rear view mirror but in the end I decided to use it as a key hanger.

So I soldered on a small section of wire to the upper arm and sharpened it. Now I had a way to hang it onto a wall.

Thanks for reading.



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    23 Discussions

    Thats a navy saying (the cannon balls were iron the storage bowl brass, in cold weather due to diff rates of contraction the balls would roll off)

    1 reply

    It looks like the balls have frozen off that brass monkey


    3 years ago

    That funky monkey

    Hang it outside, then you can say its brass monkeys outside whatever the weather

    I was reading a cookbook I picked up at Goodwill in Frederick,MD for USS Terrebonne (LST 1156) named after a Parrish of Louisiana. In it is a story of how on ships of "The Wooden Navy" that cannonballs could be stored close to the guns w/o rolling around by stacking in a 4 sided pyramid fastened to the deck with a brass plate (To prevent rusting) with indentations for the cannonballs stating the device was called a "Brass Monkey" & the indications in cold weather of the different metals. : ) Another good project!

    2 replies

    I remember hearing about this once in from a Navy man. He said that they used to place cannonballs on the decks, but they would roll around and cause trouble, so devices known as "monkeys" were fashioned to hold the cannonballs. The "monkeys" were first made of iron which allowed rust to form, rendering the cannonballs useless, as they could not be fired. Later, the monkeys were made of brass, which would not rust. However, the brass would expand and contract at a different rate than the iron balls and in very cold conditions, the brass would shrink to such an extent that the balls could roll out if the ship listed. This is (apparently) the source of the term "cold enough to freeze the balls off of a brass monkey." However, this is apparently not true, as shot was usually kept below decks...

    If you're searching for dapping/dopping punches to ball end tool used in this 'ible I got mine from Harbor Freight for about $40 with a wide range of punches & a block of matching dished shapes. Some folks in jewelry making blogs say the tools aren't quality, but they work for me! If you like paying more Rio Grande & Contenti also sell them.

    1 reply

    Great photos, and you certainly have a skill at shaping brass. This gives me an idea for making embossed signs for our herb garden - Oregano, Sage, etc.

    1 reply

    You are "da Man!" I would say that now I have something I can do with the brass bones, after I cut all the ends off (for other projects). I'd sure like to give this a try. Tools: the rounded tool... is that a "dapping" tool (is that the name?)... I've seen some of these tools on Etsy (as I'm geographically limited on fancy hobby tool buying places, I have to buy online).
    Speaking of "buying online".... if anyone else wants to try this project, but you don't have the brass... please feel free to private message me, or contact me at (put something in subject line to remind me)... I have brass (with and without the primer ends). I might even be convinced to cut and flatten them for you! Not only do I have the brass ones, but I also have some with a copper based alloy. Might be interesting for some projects requiring some varied color.
    Thanks again Balleng, for such an awesome project! If you decide to sell one of these, please let me know where to find it... I've got 4 teenagers (19-13), 3 dogs, some thousand cats, and a wife... Throwing a monkey in the mix would be just the thing!

    1 reply

    I think "dapping tool" is correct. It came in a set from harbor freight for $40. Don't forget to share some photos with what you make. Thanks!

    MAN!!! Your creativity and talent never fails to amaze me, Great, great, job! =D

    Looks like it got really cold... Great project! I have a bunch of 30-06 shells, I might do this!