Etched Nickel Ring




Introduction: Etched Nickel Ring

About: I'm just a guy who likes makin' stuff. I love the creative process. Professionally I am a Therapist (LCSW). I got my Associates Degree in Fine Art before pursuing a career in helping people work through th...

The Ring Contest really inspired me with some fanatic entries. I had intended to submit this for the contest, but unfortunately I ended up in the hospital with my daughter for a couple days. she is doing better now, so I finished up the ring.
The story behind this ring is that my oldest son is super good at getting himself into trouble. As such, he is frequently getting "talks"from his parents. He often starts to feel pretty bad about himself. My wife and I regularly remind him, "I will always love you no matter what."
I figured he needed a more consistent reminder that his parents love for him was not dependent upon his choices. with that in mind and all the inspiring home made rings, I embarked on this project.

(Credit to the coin rings that I drew upon are linked below)

The Inexpensive Pinky Ring
by tomatoskins

Make a silver ring for 25 cents
by target022

Step 1: Materials

This was a pretty cost effective project since I had all the tools for it already. So essentially, if you don't count the time spent making it, this ring only cost 5 cents. These are all the things I used for the project:

  • Nickel (obviously)
  • 2 Hammers
  • Drill
  • Bolt and Nut
  • 320 & 600 grit sandpaper
  • Dremel
  • Vinegar & Salt
  • Nail Polish
  • Q-Tiip
  • Trickle Down Battery Charger

Step 2: Hammer Time

This process is more simple than I thought it would be. Tomatoskin's idea to use another hammer as an anvil was brilliant. Simply begin tapping around the edge of the nickel with the second hammer evenly until it mushrooms out. Make sure to make sure to measure the size you will need for the opening. In an attempt to make the ring thicker you might prevent yourself from having enough room to make it even fit on the planned finger.

This process took me about 30-40 min. (including little child interruptions).

Step 3: Sand & Smooth

Again, Tomatoskin's technique is brilliant here. Drill a hole in the center of the nickel large enough to stick the bolt through. Then place the bolt through the nickel and tighten it on with the nut. Stick the bolt into the drill and now you have the easiest way to sand and polish the nickel imaginable.

Starting with the 320 grit sandpaper, turn the drill on and and hold it to the sandpaper. Within a minute or two, all the pounded surface is smooth. Then, repeat the process with the 600 grit paper. This will bring a higher polish. If you want, you could then do this with a polish compound and a rag, but I liked the "brushed nickel" look of the 600 grit paper.

Step 4: Etching Prep

This is where I ventured away from simply just copying others great instructables. Because I wanted words along the outside of the ring I needed to figure out a way to do it on such a small rounded surface. Research on the internet led me to a simple and inexpensive way to etch metal.

Because the etching process will eat away at any exposed metal I needed a simple way to cover the metal and allow me to scrape off the material in the pattern I wanted. Nail polish was the easiest and cheapest solution. So, I pulled out some nail polish my wife never uses and coated the ring a couple times. Then, using a safety pin, I carefully carved the words "NO MATTER WHAT" around the perimeter of the ring.

With this all prepped, I was ready for some power...

Step 5: Start Etching

The process of etching is really cool and easy. I can't explain the science of it, but I know it works.

To start, pour a small amount of vinegar into a cup. Then pour some salt into it and mix it up. The exact amount is not that important. I put in about a teaspoon. Let the salt saturate.

Then comes the cool part. Using a trickle down charger (I have great neighbors who let me borrow their stuff), clip the positive end to the coin. Then clip the negative end to a Q-Tip dipped in the salt/vinegar solution. It is important that it is clipped right on the wet cotton part. Then hold down the Q-Tip against the place to be etched. This takes between 30 sec. to 1 min. per area. It won't seem like it is doing anything at first, but eventually it will start to bubble.

Once the reaction has done its work, unplug the charger and then disconnect the connectors from the coin and Q-Tip. Don't underestimate electricity ever.

Then all you have to do is get some nail polish remover and wipe off the mask. You are now left with the etched surface. Super cool and astonishingly easy.

Step 6: Drill Out Center

The challenge of this step was getting the ring the right size without my son knowing about it. Luckily he is a very heavy sleeper once he finally falls asleep. So, bit by bit, late at night, I tried it over and over on his finger until it fit just right.
To do this, I used a larger drill bit to get the center hole a little larger. Then I got out my dremmel and slowly shaved away the metal.
In order to not rough up my son's finger each time I tried it on I sanded it down with 320 grit and 600 grit paper. Once the size was correct I sanded it down more fully to a nice polished surface.

Step 7: Put It on & Look Awesome

It was fun to give this to my son. While his initial reaction was rather anti-climactic, he wears it all the time and really likes it. Hopefully he will remember that he is loved despite his flaws and mistakes every time he looks at it.



    • Fix It! Contest

      Fix It! Contest
    • Game Life Contest

      Game Life Contest
    • Tiny Home Contest

      Tiny Home Contest

    20 Discussions

    does the etching only work with a nickel or can you use other coins

    1 reply

    Awesome !!!

    I enjoy making rings from coins. I did photo engraving some 20 years back and had no idea about the salt and vinegar trick ! Aside from all that, the reason behind the coin makes this one gold for me !! The ring went from great to priceless with the reason for making it. I have three kids. Your an awesome father, and I hope your daughter is well. All the best to your son. ( I was a tough kid as well! )

    Thank you! On that note, what would you suggest holding the ring in while shaving with the dremel?

    1 reply

    I tend to wear a leather glove and hold it with my fingers.

    So, I'm making this (great job, btw!), and I'm ok up to the point where you drill out the big hole and begin carving the inside of the ring. Every time I get there, as I drill the hole, the bit catches and spins the ring in my vice, causing deep gouges. Any suggestions, anybody?

    1 reply

    Mine did this too. I turned the coin over and worked on the other side until it caught again. Then, get out your dremel or your file and get to work.
    Also, hopefully you have a protection for the ring in the vice. I have pads in mine, but you could use a cloth also.
    Let me know if you have any other questions.

    that's cool think we're going to try this for our kids next

    that's cool think we're going to try this for our kids next

    The etching process your using is called electrolysis, look up the science behind it its really cool, and great instructable!


    3 years ago

    Great ring and even better sentiment!

    1 reply