Free Copper Sheet From Pipe!*

*unless you include installation of a new boiler

I just had my boiler replaced with a fantastic new one. The first thing the plumber did was to put the old boiler outside our house on the curb. It was quickly taken by a scrap collector. This got me thinking about all the scrap copper pipe that was slowly filling up a bag in my kitchen. It's my copper, I should use the scrap!

I use copper for jewelry, printing, decoration, props, robots, and design projects. For some inspiration on what you can do with copper, just search for “steam punk” on this website! Sheet copper is relatively inexpensive, there are lots of suppliers on-line, but free copper sheet is... well... free! Also, if you only need small sheets (the 7/8inch pipe makes a sheet 2 ½ inches wide) why pay for the shipping? This project can be done in the time it takes a cup of tea (or coffee) to cool.

Step 1: Gather Your Tools:

For this instructable you will need:

Copper tube (larger diameters are easier to work)
Saw (hack saw or jewelers saws work well)
Something to pry open the tube (chopsticks, metal sheets, screwdriver)

Not shown:
   Metal file or deburring tool
   Bench vise
   A chunk of metal to flatten the sheet with (often included with vise)
   10 to 20 minutes
   A nice cup of tea (or coffee)

Step 2:

It's really easy to mark a straight line around a bit of pipe. This trick works on most even edged objects (lengths of wood or other similar things) and gives reasonably accurate results. If you have a copper tube cutter you may want to use it for this step.

First determine how long you want the sheet to be and mark the tube. Keep in mind the cutting area of your saw. A hack saw can cut a much longer piece of copper pipe than my short jewelers saw.

Start wrapping a piece of paper around the pipe at your mark. Line up the paper so it meets its beginning point. This should be a nice even line. Now, mark around the tube or tape the paper in place.

Cutting tips:

Cutting with a jewelry saw has taught me some very important universal lessens about saws. Jewelers saws have very delicate blades that will snap if twisted, or if you put too much pressure against the object you are cutting. First, relax- let the teeth do the work not your arm, use a sharp blade, use the full length of the blade whenever possible, pay more attention to where the cut is going rather than where it has been, and keep the cutting movement smooth and even.

Step 3: Marking and Cutting Along the Pipe:

The procedure for cutting along the tube is much the same. Use the end of a piece of paper. Wrap the paper around the tube and even-up the edge of the piece of paper. Next, carefully pull back the paper and mark across the edge of the paper.

Place the pipe in a vise and cut along the line.

Step 4: Spreading the Pipe:

You may have to be a bit creative with this step if you use longer lengths of pipe. There are many ways of doing this step. This method works well for short lengths and can be repeated along the length of the pipe for longer pieces.

First use a screwdriver or chopsticks to spread the split enough to insert two pieces of scrap metal. Next move the metal pieces to a point that will increase your leverage. Then spread the top of the pieces of metal apart. (This is a good example of second order levers.) Finally, you can use your fingers or some plyers to spread the copper far enough to start hammering. 

Be careful with your fingers, the burrs along the pipe can be sharp!

Step 5: It's Hammer Time:

This is a step that will also take some creativity. The goal is to make a flat sheet out of a curved sheet. It is easy to get the copper reasonably flat with these simple tools, but there are specialist rollers that do a much better job.

Simply hit it till it's flat!

Drink your tea (or coffee).

Now the fun begins! Make Make Make!!!



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    7 Discussions


    8 years ago on Introduction

    Haha, Ive been doing this for the past few weeks, made a small 2 inch copper box that im likely going to use in my computer water cooling project. Its a pretty nifty method if you get the technique down so you can do it fast.
    For my steps, I cut a section of the tube, then hacksaw a line down the middle
    Then i take some pliers and fold out the 2 edges i made from cutting it.
    I then hammer it flat on an aluminum block with a 8lb mallet, makes it nice and flat.
    Proceed in sanding the edges, then i have a smooth, flat copper plate.
    Cool 'ible though.


    8 years ago on Introduction

    perhaps helpful things to add: you can harden copper by heating it until i turns a red color, then quenching in cold water. it can be hardened by heating until red and then allowing to cool slowly.

    2 replies

    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    can you clarify? hardening it is done by both heating until red then quenching in cold water and heating until red and cooling slowly...?


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    ah, my mistake. never caught that typo.

    1) copper, if heated to red hot and quenched, is annealed to dead soft.
    2) if left to cool slowly, it will be harder than dead soft......
    3) however not as hard as work-hardened copper. (beat on it for a while)


    8 years ago on Introduction

    i am trying to make myself an armor for a costume you could make copper plates and link them together with copper wire i guess. anyway nice instructables!!


    8 years ago on Introduction

    smart idea! copper pipe isn't cheap here where I live, nevertheless, great reuse


    8 years ago on Introduction

    The Alternative would be to semi-flatten the pipe and then stick it in a vice to flatten it.