Make a Silver Cross Out of a Coin




About: I'm a toolmaker, general hack, and I'm good at drinking coffee. Sometimes I draw.

A couple of years ago I made some small silver crosses for Easter for the family. I’ve done silver casting and soldering before, but wanted to do something a little more quick. I have a bunch of silver coin in a collection of coins I gathered during my days as a cashier years ago. People would come through the checkout line and somehow at the end of some nights I would have either a foreign coin or old silver.

U.S. coins, as well as many other countries’ coins, used to be made out of silver and not what we see today: combinations of nickel, copper, and aluminum.

So, seeing this bag of coins I’ve collected, I decided to try to make something out of them. I don’t cut up the Mercury dimes or Buffalo nickels, but I do use the quarters and nickels from the late 50′s and early 60′s. This is a project I wrote about on my blog, Sir Richard's Tool Kit.

These two crosses were textured with a propane torch. 

Step 1: You Will Need...

The process is rather quick and doesn’t take many tools.

You’ll need:

a coin
wire cutters
small drill bit and drill
jeweler’s saw and block or a hack saw
small files
a hammer
maybe a pin vise
If you choose to partially melt the silver for texture, you will need a propane torch.

safety goggles- plase wear them. I've gotten metal and wood in my eye before and scratched my cornea. It is not fun. It will ruin your day.

Step 2: Marking

Start by making the shape of the cross on the coin with a pencil. The pencil wipes off easily with your finger, so you can mark it with a perminent marker or a scribe.

Step 3: Cutting

A jeweler’s saw has teeth that are very fine and cut soft metal. The wire cutters can maybe do all of the cutting on a thin coin like a dime. That’s a maybe. The amount of leverage required to cut the coin at the tip of the wire cutters can be difficult unless you have really good cutters with long handles. I don’t.

If you can do the cutting at the back of the cutters, it’s easier. That can be done a little later.
Using the saw and the block, which clamps to the table, cut out the shape of the cross. Using beeswax to lubricate the blade helps to prevent binding and breaking the blade.

If you don't have a jeweler's saw, a hack saw can do the work if you clamp the coin in a bench vise.

Step 4: More Shaping

Once the shape of the cross is cut out, clip the top and sides of it to make the cross proportional, othewise it’s an "X". Clip the ends with the wire cutters towards the back of the jaws like I mentioned before. Use caution because the little ends fly off and are sharp. The top piece i clipped is somewhere behind the couch.

It is possible to shape the cross entirely with a triangular file, if that’s all you have. It will take longer, but it can be done. I would recommend clamping the coin in a vise to do that.

Step 5: Drilling

Drill a small hole at the top of the cross to attach the cross to a necklace with a jump ring. You could wait until the very end to do this part.

Step 6: Hammering

Next, take a hammer to it an flatten out the markings on the coin. This can be done on any hard and flat piece of metal, like the anvil flat on the back of a bench vise. Or you can do it on a brick or a sidewalk. Remember, the texture of the surface you hammer on will transfer to the metal, for good or bad. Flip the cross over while hammering and use gentle taps. The silver is soft and does require the blows of a blacksmith.

On the crosses I originally did, I didn’t hammer them. I heated them with a propane torch and melted them enough to reflow the surfaces and create some nice texture. Try it, but be careful. It also allows you to pretty much skip the next step of filing and smoothing the edges. That’s what is called a fire polish.

Using some small files clean up the edges of the cross. You can also introduce some texture to the cross with gentle taps from a ballpeen hammer as well.

Step 7: Texturing

I decided it would be nice to add a stipple texture to it. This is easy to do on a soft metal like silver, copper, or brass. Any small drill bit can be ground to create a burin tip to make this texture with. 

A 1/16″ drill bit has been ground on the back to a 45° angle with a Dremel bit.
I chucked the bit in a pin vise and did a final sharpening on a fine oil stone to remove burrs from the edge. That’s all there is to it. This makes a cutting edge that can be used to chip away a stipple texture. It takes a little practice, but it only takes a couple minutes to create a random pattern. If you really want to go cross-eyed, you can make a pattern that simulates a basket weave or linear pattern.

Step 8: Finished

Once you are done with with the texture, if you choose to do that, it's just a matter of adding a jump ring and stringing it up.





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    126 Discussions


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    Yes, United States currency and coinage are governed by federal law through the U.S. Treasury Department. Generally, it is illegal to fraudulently deface, mutilate, impair, diminish, falsify, scales or lightens any coins minted or "coined" in the United States or any foreign coins which are by law made current or are in use or circulation as money within the U.S. (18 U.S.C. 331) It is also a crime to fraudulently possess, pass, publish, sell or attempt to possess, pass, publish, sell or bring into the U.S. any such coin with knowledge that the coin has been altered, mutilated, defaced, etc. (18 U.S.C. 331) Defacing currency with the intent to alter the bill to gain a benefit is illegal. If someone alters a written instrument (such as a check) without permission and with the intent to gain a benefit, then it is called forgery, which is a crime. If one tried to alter a cash bill (like changing a $5 bill to a $20 bill) for the purpose of presenting the altered bill to gain a benefit, then that could be considered a forgery. Forgery of United States Currency in this manner is called counterfeiting and carries with it very stiff penalties.


    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    It is legal to deface money if it is not going to be used as "money" when you are done with it its perfectly legal to make jewelry out of coins.


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    Well, if that is the case then I think we shall be seeing a major crackdown on all of the penny smashing machines that are stationed at all the major theme parks, zoos, science centers, and tourist traps around the nation. I probably possess enough flattened pennies from the Woodland Park Zoo to have me put away for life. I'm flushing them down the toilet right now. i.e.- I don't think it's a big deal.


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    Oh, don't do that. You'll have the EPA all over you for dumping possibly toxic elements into the environment. ;)


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    It's illegal to attempt to make a fraudulent coin or to make a cheap coin worth more (try to make a nickel into a dime or quarter). You can however burn/melt down/ destroy your money if you so choose. You just can't attempt to spend it afterward.

    Awesome job! I've been wearing a cross made of nails and wire for a while, and it's becoming tarnished/corroded. I've gotta try this sometime!


    6 years ago on Step 8

    Using any kind of coin 1965 & earlier is not using commen since. Selling it & letting someone else enjoy it in there collection. Some coins can be worth $1,000.00's of dollars. Please check into pricing of the coin before u destroy it. Or use something besides a coin with silver content. Or better, just let me enjoy it in my collection.
    If ur going to destroy it.


    6 years ago on Step 8

    Great idea for a beginner or anyone...and great instructions..thanks for sharing..


    6 years ago on Introduction

    Hopefully you still check messages on this post...

    I like the project, very nice result from simple steps!

    Question: Could you (or anyone!?) help me out with the name of the mini hand drill pictured in step #6? Looks like the type you push and it cranks itself around with a spring and spiral action, but I don't know what to call that type of tool!


    7 years ago on Introduction

    Well executed design, well done instructable. If I had a helm I would doff it to you, sir.


    9 years ago on Step 2

    What about fake? what about other country? what about Canada? What about uncirculated? and really? destorying a nickle goes to prison? that honestly sucks lol

    1 reply

    Reply 7 years ago on Step 2

    "So how'd you get ten years in federal Pen.?"
    "I cut Jeffersons face...but he was askin for it!"

    I don't care people, this is beautiful. Again, as with MOST of my POSTS, I think it would be fabulous done with alcohol inks!


    It's not a letter, Tyler, it's a representation of the cross on which our savior Jesus Christ was crucified for our sake and for our salvation, under Pontius Pilate. The reason that so many people wear it is because crosses are a constant reminder of the day that Jesus died for us. I'm still half-assuming that you just posted that as a joke, btw.