Copper Turtle Earrings




Introduction: Copper Turtle Earrings

About: I am a USMC Veteran and a Mechanic. I like fixing stuff, making stuff, and being outside.

I know two lovely mothers that are very fond of turtles. I wanted to make unique gifts for them, something more involved and interesting than just buying another turtle figurine.

After seeing a photo Instructable by thegnome54 about a turtle pendant made from a nickel I felt inspired to create some turtles of my own and share the method I used.

My first step was to create a template by drawing a little turtle, then I hammered some pennies until my template fit on the pennies.  I used pre-1982 copper U.S. pennies.  I marked around the template with a black marker and removed the blackened area with small files.  I drilled a small hole in the turtle's head for the hook and gave it a rough sand with some medium grit sandpaper.  Using some wire I stamped the shell lines into the turtles and followed that up with doming the turtles and fine sanding.  After sanding I buffed out the copper for a little shine and added some french hooks.

Lets take a second to to talk about legality.  I have read seveal Instructables about making jewelery or souvenirs out of coins, and there are always comments about how illegal it is. Mutilating coins is illegal in some places and many countries have laws about defacing and mutilating coins. I live in the United States and "a federal statute in the criminal code of the United States (18 U.S.C. 331), indeed makes it illegal if one "fraudulently alters, defaces, mutilates, impairs, diminishes, falsifies, scales or lightens" any U.S. coin. However, being a criminal statute, a fraudulent intent is required for violation. Thus, the mere act of altering coins into souvenirs is not illegal, without other factors being present."   The statute 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.  In the United States there are penny pressing machines in just about every museum, zoo, and amusement park.  By putting a penny into one of these machines you can have a penny stretched and and embossed as a souvenir.
It is my understanding that it is illegal in Canada but not in the UK, do your own homework to be sure.  If you are concerned that treasury agents will kick in your door over two cents then use copper blanks, they sell for $1.20-$1.60 apiece on amazon depending on the quantity you purchase.

Step 1: What You Will Need

Two pre-1982 U.S. pennies, these are the copper ones.
Turtle template,  I drew a turtle on a business card and cut it out.
Hammers, a big one for stretching the metal and a small one for stamping.
Wire for stamping shell lines.  I used several types of wire and settled on wire from a small spring.
A punch or small drift for line stamping.
Files, I used some needle files and a small triangle file.
Sandpaper, medium grit and fine grit. 
A rotorary buffer, like a dremel buffer/polishing wheel.
A drill and #60 drill bit.
Small pair of needle nose pliers.
French hooks, I got a bag of them from the craft section of wal-mart, they had three color options.
Doming tools, I used a carraige bolt and an old ignition lock cylinder.  You could just as easily hammer the bolt into a block of wood and use that indentation.
Optional, rubber tire plug or rubber tubing.  I wrapped the fine sandpaper around a rubber tire plug for sanding around the domed copper, it felt easier for me to keep a good grip on everything that way.

Step 2: Hammer Time

Place your penny on something solid, I used the back of my bench vice.  Hammer the penny, working the metal out as evenly as you can until your template fits over the material with no over hang.  If you can still see the old images of the coin you will need to stretch it a little more.

Step 3: Marking and Stock Removal

With a black marker carefully mark around the template, make sure the template did not shift during marking.  Use your files to remove the blackened material.  File down any rough or sharp edges.  You may need to remark as you go, so keep that template handy.

Step 4: Drilling and Medium Grit Sanding

With a #60 drill bit drill a hole in your turtles head.  After drilling the hole there will be some burs, sand those off.  Using medium grit sand paper sand the surface, you want some uniformity to the surface before you start stamping lines.  I like to leave some of the hammer marks for some texture.

Step 5: Wire Stamping

To stamp in the shell lines you will need some wire, paper clips or safety wire will work.  Soft wire like paperclips flatten out when you hit it, I used a spring because the wire is harder than paperclips or safety wire so I was able to reuse it several times with no deforming. 
Place the wire where you want to stamp a line, put your drift on top of the wire and tap the drift with a hammer.  You can hit the wire directly with your small hammer but the drift prevents hammered finger tips.

Step 6: Doming

To dome the turtles will need concave and convex tools.  I used a carriage bolt with a rounded head and a broken lock cylinder that was curved inward.  These are not the only tools that will do this job, I used what I had on hand.  Be resourceful, you should not need to buy tools for this.
You will need to place the turtle over something concave with your shell lines facing down into the concave area.  Put yout convex tool over the turtle and tap it around the turtle's back in a circle.  Hiting it with one good hard smack can leave the dome of the turtle shell off center, so work it around a little at a time.

Step 7: Fine Sanding and Buffing

Use fine grit sandpaper until you are happy with the look of the surface, then using a small buffing wheel buff out the surface.  I used the buffing wheel and compound that came with my dremel. I did not like the dremel mandrel so I made my own that will fit several buffing wheels at the same time.
If you prefer the shell lines to be a little darker, after buffing trace the lines with a black marker and wipe the turtle off with a cloth before the ink dries.  This is optional, it depends on your personal preference.

Step 8: French Hooks and Done

Add french hooks to the turtles by spreading the eyelet at the bottom of the hooks and inserting it through the hole in the turtle's head.  When hook is inserted squeeze the eyelet shut with pliers. 

I would like to use the laser from the Epilog Challenge to make more elaborate and detailed projects.



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    33 Discussions

    Love love love this!! Can you explain what a "drift" is and how its used?

    1 more answer

    I'm glad you enjoyed the instructable. A drift is typically a rod made of brass or mild steel, they can be made or purchased in a variety of lengths and diameters. To use the drift you would place one end of the drift on the object you are going to hammer and then strike the other end with the your hammer. The drift will transfer the impact while taking any deformation that could be cause by the hammer strike. A drift is commonly used to drive a pin or axle out of a location that cannot be directly hit with a hammer.

    wonderful and resourceful, I used to make earrings out of sheet copper and get similar results but I never tried to dome anything. Nice workmanship and symmetry. What about heating up penny to soften for hammering? Would look great with patina green finish also. Thanx

    1 reply

    I had not considered heating the pennies, copper is already pretty easy to hammer on.

    Beautiful pieces. Just as an FYI, Canada has just recently (2013) stopped using the penny, and will no longer be producing any more. Using Canadian pennies should no longer be a concern.

    2 replies

    Interesting, I had not heard that the Canadian penny was done being used. Did they just stop minting the pennies or is it no longer used as currency.

    if you have a jar of canadian pennies you can bring them to the bank but otherwise they are no longer used at all.

    Landroo, key word here is FRAUDULENT. Nothing fraudulent here since you know that it is being done. Tsk. Tsk. Why are you worried about one set of two (2) pennies made into one (1) set of earrings. Don't you think the government has much more to take care of than this? Just saying.

    I believe there is a U.S. federal law against defacing or otherwise causing harm to United States money, including pennies. Be careful with what you do with your pennies!

    2 replies

    Did you read the introduction? I did discuss (18 U.S.C. 331).

    Do you hang out by the penny smasher machines at the fair and warn people away?

    The key word being FRAUDULENTLY. It is a big word, and it means to do so with criminal intent to profit through forgery. Do you see that happening?

    ...and....[drumroll please]......the Penny Police rides again!.....

    good for you!! now keep those unwanted comments to yourself please..........


    2 years ago

    Landroo - get a clue! you are so wrong. You have written the same statement on every penny instructible I have seen - please read the statute.


    2 years ago

    Beautiful! Great instructions.