A few years ago I made my first coin ring out of a golden dollar by following along to a youtube video. Today, I've made about a dozen or so rings using this method and have some tips and tricks to share that weren't in the video. In this tutorial, I will walk you through my refined method of producing a high quality ring from a coin.
There are two types of rings made from coins. One is where you punch out a large hole in the middle of the coin, and then proceed to start turning the coin inside out, such that the faces of the coin become the top and bottom of the ring band. This method required more specialty tools. I will be showing you the alternative method, where you hammer the coin along the edges to make a ring out of the edges, and then remove the center.
Step 1: Know Your Laws
Some people might be concerned with 'defacing money'. I researched the laws in my area, and so long as I don't intend to pass the currency off for higher value, it is not illegal to deface it in this manner. It would be illegal to, persay, make a 5 dollar bill look like a 100 dollar bill. Or if I melted down pennies and sold the copper for more money than the pennies were worth. But just destroying a coin to make a ring for yourself or as a gift that you don't profit from is legal where I live.
You should research your local and state laws first though to make sure their definition of defacing currency doesn't include what we are going to do in this tutorial.
Step 2: Getting Started: What You Will Need
You will need a hard metal surface to work on.
A hand held drill (or a drill press, which is better)
A circular file and a flat file
A small nut and bolt
A hammer (claw or ball peen is fine, but not a rubber mallet, it has to be a metal hammer)
A coin. If you have small fingers, use a quarter. If you have larger fingers, use a golden dollar or a silver half dollar. If you want to spend a few extra bucks for a nicer ring, buy a coin from before 1964, as it will be mostly pure and not have any copper. A 1964 quarter (for small fingers) or a 1964 Kennedy half dollar (for larger fingers) will be 90% silver and make excellent rings. A random quarter or golden dollar from today though is mostly copper, and still looks nice but isn't as high quality. The copper can also make the skin under the ring turn green (which is completely fine, you won't die. I wore a golden dollar ring and had a green finger for a whole year haha).
Jewlery polish (tooth paste works as a substitute)
Step 3: Hammer Away
Place the coin edge down onto your metal surface. I used the base of a table vice. For this step, you will slowly roll the coin while tapping it with a hammer. Don't hit it too hard. Take your time on this part, as you want the coin to form uniformly. After a dozen or so taps, I like to flip the coin around to keep the edges from favoring one side too much. As you progress, the edge of the ring will become wider and wider, and the diameter will become smaller and smaller.
You will want to periodically check the size of your coin ring using a ring you have that you know fits you. This is to make sure we make a ring that is the correct size. Once the coin ring's diameter is the same as a different ring that fits you, you will want to stop hammering and move on to the next step.
Step 4: Putting a Hole in the Center of the Coin
Grab your punch and line it up on the center of the coin. Once you are satisfied that it is as close to dead center as you can get, tap the punch with your hammer. This will create a small indentation in the center of the coin, so that your drill bit won't wander and will drill clean through the center.
After the coin is tapped with the punch, grab a pair of pliers to hold the coin with while you drill it. Don't worry too much about being orthagonal here. Put a piece of scrap wood underneath if you are using a hand drill, so you don't accidentally drill into the table.
If you are fortunate enough to have a drill press, use that in lieu of a hand drill.
Step 5: Shaping the Ring and Polishing It
In this step, you will need the nut and bolt mentioned earlier. Slide the bolt through the hole, and put the nut on. Tighten it up so that the coin can't spin. Next, insert the shaft of the bolt into the chuck of your drill or drill press. The drill press is better here because it leave both of your hands free.
First, we will shape the ring. The edges are kind of bent and non-uniform due to the hammering. To remedy this, we will spin the ring in the drill, and shape it with the flat file. You'll want to hold the file such that the ring is turning into the file. Hold the file flat against the top of the ring, and curve it to the edge of the ring. This will slowly produce an arc shape instead of a flat edge. Periodically check on the shape of the ring by slowing the drill down.
Once you are satisfied with the shape, grab some sand paper. Spin the ring up and sand it. You will want to continue this process until the ring's edge is completely uniform and smooth. After this is done, grab a paper towel and some jewlery polish or toothpaste. Squeeze a little bit of polish or tooth paste out onto the paper towel, and spin the ring up again using the drill. Hold the paper towel up against the ring. The grit in the tooth paste or polish will smoothen the surface, and eventually you will achieve a mirror finish on the ring. Note: it usually takes several minutes of high speed polishing, as well as several paper towels with polish, to achieve a nice polished look, so don't be discouraged if it doesn't happen immediately.
Step 6: Finishing Up
Lastly, we need to remove the remaining metal from the inside of the ring. To do this, grab the ring in a table vice as shown above. Here you will want to push a circular file back and forth, slowly removing the interior of the coin. Be careful once you get close to the edges. The inside of the edge will contain the text from the edge of the coin, and you will want to preserve that. To be clear, the text will have wrapped around to the inside band of the ring, and is no longer on the face of the coin. Thus you don't need to leave very much material in the ring to preserve the text. Once you get really close to the edge check the coin after each swipe with the file. Once you start hitting the top of the lettering, stop filing on that side.
Once all the interior of the coin is filed out, your ring is done! You can also polish the inside with tooth paste or polish, but the inside will also become very smooth from use if you wear the ring alot. My ring has been worn for 3 years now and the inside has worn to be very smooth, but the lettering has remained legible. You may also need to hand polish a section of the ring or so if it got scratched in your vice or by the file by accident. You can also use a dremel with a drum attachment to smoothen out the interior of the ring.
Well, I hope you enjoyed the tutorial. If you have any questions or feedback, I'd love to hear it in the comments below.
Runner Up in the
Makerspace Contest 2017
jkmoule made it!