Hey everyone! In this Instructable I am going to go over how to make a super amazing necklace with copper and buttons! We are going to make a solar system necklace! It would be a perfect DIY for all the science "peeps" out there like myself.
So without any further adieu, lets get to it, shall we!
Step 1: Tools and Supplies
First thing we should do is gather a list of all you are going to need to complete this project in the same way I did. You are more than welcome to change things up and use other tools or supplies, but here's what I used to make this necklace:
Buttons (One for every planet and the sun)
copper sheet, wire and bezel wire (I used 18 gauge sheet, 16 and 20 gauge wire and 3mm and 5mm bezel wire)
A face mask
Proper ventilation for fumes and particulate.
Dremel tool or similar
- Including, but not limited to: a metal bur, a grinding stone, sandpaper mandrels from 150 grit to 1000 grit.
bit/bur and blade lube
polishing attachments for Dremel
Wire cutters (I used a flat sided one)
needle nose plier without teeth
Jeweler's saw and blades
sketchpad and pencil
Disc cutter from size 1/2 inch up to 1 inch (Or if you have access to larger, that works too)
solder (I used copper and easy solder for this instructable)
solder block and annealing pan
water for quenching
pickle and pickle bath
Alright, that should be it. Let's start working.
Step 2: Picking Out Your Buttons and Getting Them Prepped
So I went through my gobs and gobs of buttons to find some great ones that I thought represented the sizes and colors of all of the planets. And yes, I am including lil' Pluto in this. Although it may no longer be considered a planet, it still is out there in space and not forgotten.
Once you have them picked out, we are going to need to make the backs of them flat to fit into their bezels later.
As you can see on mine, some have metal shank backs, and some are plastic/shell/glass shanks. So we will need to break out our cutters, pliers and our Dremel with our grinding stone for this. And do not forget your face mask, goggles and proper ventilation here. There is going to be A LOT of dust flying around from the plastics and shell and we do not want to be breathing that in. As you can see in the photo of me, I got covered with it even with all of the safety precautions, but imagine if I didn't have any safety stuff! Yikes!
For the metal ones you can just clip the backs off and use the pliers to kind of gently bend the edges inward to make the buttons sit flat.
With the other ones, some you can clip, some you can't. The ones I chose for the sun and Saturn needed to be ground down completely. If I tried cutting them, they would have cracked the buttons in half.
So, with the plastic ones you can clip the backs off of, go ahead. Then we are going to take our grinding stone and grind down the backs of all of them so they are flat when you set them down on the workbench.
Alright, now you should have your buttons prepped. Let's start making the bezels.
Step 3: OOPS! Messed Up
So while I was sanding down the backs of the buttons to make them flat, I had a slip up on my original Earth and broke the face of it. It was for the best though as the back was tapered and it had a prong setting as you can see in the photo and was going to be hard to make the bezel work well for it.
So I went through my buttons again and found a very cool blue shell button that I think will work for our blue marble home in the sky.
Yay for happy accidents!
Step 4: Sketching Out the Design
Alright, now take your sketchpad and your pencil and start playing with layout ideas for your piece.
I started doing this and then realized it was easier to just play with the buttons themselves. Do whichever is more comfortable for you.
After coming up with several sketched and layout design ideas, I decided to go with my third layout design over the other ones.
Step 5: Measuring for Your Bezels
For this step, you will need your masking tape, sharpie and scissors.
We are going to first take our masking tape and scissors and cut a piece for the first button. Doesn't matter which one you start with. Just make sure you cut a piece large enough you think it will go around the button. It can be longer than you need as well. No worries.
Then what you are going to do is wrap the tape around the top edge of the button, making sure you do not pull the tape at all while doing it. That can distort the tape and give you a bad measurement. Wrap it all the way around and clip it with your scissors where it meets up with the other side.
Peel the tape off and cut the rest of the tape off from the clip you made.
Take your sharpie and write which "planet" it is with an arrow pointing to the top so you know which side was around the top of the button. I do this because I know I do not cut straight so I don't want to measure my wire with the wrong side.
Go ahead and finish this up on all of the buttons and have your tape set aside for the next step.
Step 6: Cutting the Bezel Bases
For the bezel bases, most of them I was able to use a disc cutter to cut out sizes the closest to the size of the buttons as I could. Having extra around the edges is good for putting the sides on so you have wiggle room. And also for sanding down to make smooth sides.
As you cut them, set them aside next to the pieces of tape with their names on it to keep them organized.
The only ones I did not have a cutter big enough for were Jupiter and the Sun. So I had to go "old fashioned" and sawed those puppies out.
So grab your sharpie and copper sheet that you didn't use for the other buttons. Now you can do this for every button if you want, but I found that the smaller they get, it is just easier to get a clean circle with a punch.
Put your buttons down on the copper sheet and use your sharpie to mark around the outside. Its ok if you get a bit of marker on your buttons, you can get that off easily with rubbing alcohol pads.
Make sure to mark which is which, so you don't accidentally switch them as they might not be the exact same size.
Take your jeweler's saw and get a blade if you don't have one in the frame already. I find any small jeweler's blade will work over 1/0. Make sure to put a bit of blade lube on it to make cutting smoother and to help preserve the blade.
I cut around the outside edge of the sharpie to get that extra I had talked about for soldering on the walls easier.
Set these aside next to the tape with their names on it, like we did with the other bases.
Now you should have the round bases for all of your buttons.
EDIT: Since making this necklace, I have come to discover that you can do it this way, or for a more solid piece, you could also take your sketch or button layout and cut the base as one piece by tracing the full pendant on to the copper sheet like I did for Jupiter and the Sun. Then solder the bezel sides on to that rather than each individually. Just food for thought.
Step 7: Cutting Your Bezel Wire
The bezel wire I chose for this piece is two sizes. I have a 3mm and a 5mm wire to work with. I am going to use the 3mm for the smaller buttons and the 5mm for the bigger/taller buttons.
What you are going to do is take your masking tape "measurements" from the last step and tape it down the strip of wire with the arrow side right along the edge of the wire. Then take your cutters and snip the wire at the other end of the tape. And VIOLA! You have your bezel wire for the side.
Do this again for every button and set aside the pieces. Keep the tape on them for now. I use them to keep them organized so I don't accidentally mess them up. You can even tape the bezel base on to the corresponding tape with the bezel wire like I did.
(At any time from this point on, if you want, you can put your button into the bezel to make sure it is still fitting ok. BUT make sure not to push it all the way in where you cant get it out until the very end. Otherwise you will have to cut it out and start over on the bezel for it.)
Step 8: Prepping Your Soldering Station
This step some of us may skip if you always have your setup in place. But I have a small studio so I have to set it up as I do soldering projects.
So go ahead and get your annealing pan out (or in my case, a ceramic tile) and get your soldering block in/on it. Then get your bowl with water for quenching and have that near by.
I also plugged my pickle pot in at this time and got my baking soda bath ready for it as well. (Forgive my dirty baking soda bath, I took this photo after my first run of soldering for this necklace)
And don't forget your goggles, mask and ventilation again!
Step 9: Prepping and Soldering Your Bezels
Let's start getting down to the nitty gritty of this project.
To prep my bezels, you first want to take sand paper or a scrubbing pad and sand/clean any dirt or oils from your hands off the metal. Both the bases and the wires.
Then I took my pliers that did not have the teeth and used them to pinch the ends of the bezel wires. If this happened to you too, you will noticed when you cut/clipped them, you have a little curl to them. Using the pliers to pinch them flat again works great. You will want to sand them down a little as well to make sure they are flush together for when you solder. You may need to redo the plier pinch again after that.
Once I had that, I grabbed my ring mandrels and wrapped the bezels around them to get them nice and round. What you want to do for the ends, is wrap them around so they overlap a little and then pull them apart gently until they line up.
Take your base for the corresponding wire and place it on your soldering block. Line up your bezel wire on top of it and make sure you have no open gaps either on the wire itself or along where it meets the base. Once you have that ready, get your flux and brush it on to the insides of the bezel. If your wire moves here, go ahead and realign it.
Next get your solder and put it in the inside. For most of my pieces, I only needed two small pieces on either side of the inside to do the trick. For the larger ones I need four of the same size I used for the smaller ones.
Once you have that all good and ready, go ahead and solder it in place. Be careful with your heat. Bezel wire is a lot thinner than the base and can easily melt if you are not careful. Then quench it once it is done. Wipe it clean with a paper towel and put it in your pickle pot once it is up to temp.
Leave it in there as you do the next bezel in the same way. Once you are done with the other bezel, take the first one out of the pickle and put it in the baking soda bath and dry it off with a paper towel.... And so on with all the other bezels.
One thing I do have to point out. My Sun and Jupiter were too large to use the mandrel to round, so I had to find something to round it out with. You can use the buttons in this case as they are larger and easier to handle, or you can find something the same size as the buttons if you are more comfortable with that.
Once I had all of your bezels soldered and pickled, I paired the buttons up with the bezels next to the tape pieces from when we cut the bezel wires. Just for organization purposes.
Now we can go to the next step...
Step 10: Cleaning Up the Edges
Now we pull out all of our burs, sanding mandrels, grinding stones and sand paper to start cleaning up all those gnarly edges around the sides. You can also apply your jeweler's saw here too. Like for my Venus that ended up having a huge extra piece, I first took the jeweler's saw to that bad boy to get it manageable for the burs and sanding.
If you took off your goggles and mask, better put them back on again. And get near your ventilation. More dust is gonna kick up.
After that, I started with my metal bur. Don't forget to add some bur/blade lube to it to help extend the life of the bur and also make "burring" a little easier. I "burred" down to about 1mm or so left around the edge.
Next, I took my grinding stone to take it all the way down to be flush with the bezel wire.
After this go through all of the sanding mandrels you have starting from 150 grit up to whatever you have. I ended with 1000 grit and got a nice and smooth bezel with no visible seams and a very nice polish.
Step 11: Lowering the Bezel Height
Now that you have them all cleaned up, you may noticed that some bezels are a little taller than the buttons.
Here is my Sun, for example. If you can see, I can take about 1mm off the top of that to bring it down so there isn't as big of a lip when I put the button in the bezel at the end.
I took my Sharpie again and marked on the bezel how far down I wanted to go.
Then all you need is sandpaper. Take a sheet and some masking tape and tape it down to a hard surface like your workbench. Then sand the top edge of the bezel in large circles around on the sandpaper until you get it down the the height you want.
Step 12: Making the Jump Rings
In order to make this into a necklace, we will need to make some rings to add to either side of the necklace to string a chain or cord or whatever you decide on to it.
I am using 16 gauge wire for this. I took a good length and wrapped it around a pen to make a coil. If you do this, make sure its a pen that you can side the coil off at the end. When you wrap it, make it tight together and do it slowly so the rings are even and right next to each other. The once you are done wrapping, slide it off the pen.
From there I took my jeweler's saw and cut the two rings I needed off of it. This makes the connections on the ends of the wire smooth for ease in soldering them together.
Now set those aside as we set up our pendant to solder the pieces together.
Step 13: Soldering the Piece
Now we are ready to go onto the final steps of making this necklace.
With your soldering set up again, lay out your bezels like your drawing or layout for your design. It's good to have it next to you so you can align them correctly according to the image you have.
Once you have these placed, put your jump rings where you want them at the ends of your chain/cord.
You may need pins to pin everything in place to your soldering block so they don't move while soldering. Otherwise, go ahead and start applying your flux. Again, if they move while you are doing this, no worries, just move them back.
Make sure all of your walls are snug together. If there is any room between them, they won't solder together properly.
Now take 11 tiny pieces of solder and put them at all of the connections.
Once you have that, you can start soldering. Remember you will need to heat the whole piece before the solder will cooperate. I was able to heat two or three of the bezels at a time and then the solder would melt for those, then continue moving down the line and making sure I didn't overheat the piece at all.
Once you have it all soldered together, quench and dry. Then put it in the pickle. Once it is clean, bathe it with the baking soda wash again and dry it off.
If you want to, you can also flip it over and solder the backs in the same way, but if you do, be very careful. If your piece is like mine where the bezels aren't the same height, they could fall apart while you are trying to solder the back.
But you shouldn't have to do that step anyway if your solder joints are strong enough.
Step 14: Finishing Up the Metal
So not much left for the metal on this necklace, just polishing it and adding any finish you may want to it.
Once you are finished with the soldering part and pickling, you can go ahead and sand and polish any leftover fire scale off of the metal.
You can also put it in to a polishing tumbler after that to get a nice smooth finish.
You can either leave it here like I did with either a smooth, shiny copper finish, or maybe add brushed copper finish (which in the end I ended up doing anyway). Or if you want a black finish, you can also liver of sulfur the piece and get a really cool dark metal to add an "outline" to the buttons.
Step 15: Finishing the Pendant
Once you have the finish and the look you want for the bezels, you can now start putting your buttons into them.
With a couple of mine, I had to apply a rubber hammer lightly to get them set into the bezels. But if you do this, be careful not to hit too hard, you could damage the buttons or even the bezel sides. But for the most part, you should be able to just push them down in to the bezels.
For the purpose of this Instructable, I only glued them in to the bezels. But if you want to go the full bezel route, you can take a burnisher and push the edges of the bezels over the sides of the buttons like they were cabochons. But if you did the liver of sulphur finish, it could damage the finish so I would suggest do the glue for that style.
One last thing I like to do with my copper work is add a clear coat to it to keep it from tarnishing over time. I use Krylon Triple Thick Crystal Clear Glaze. It does a great job on pieces this size. It also will put a nice shiny coat over the buttons and make them look like pretty jewels! A mask and ventilation is good here too for the fumes of the spray.
Step 16: Finalizing Your Necklace
The last step in this Instructable is to add a chain or, like I did, make a cord from yarn.
I had some colorful yarn I use for making tassels and thought the blues would work great with the copper.
I took 72 inches of it that had a lot of blue and folded it into an 18 inch piece of 4 strands.
Then I took 3 inches 20 gauge copper wire and wrapped it around the yarn with about 1/4 to 1/2 inch of the yarn on either end. I started by making a hook to start the wrap and then slowly wrapped it around 4 times and clipped it with my cutters. Be careful not to snip your yarn. Then you do the same on the other side.
Take your scissors and snip and extra yarn off on the ends and leave just one loop of yarn at each end. Again, be careful not to snip more than you need to.
Once you have that, you can take a second piece of 3 inches and coil it around a wooden dowel that is about 1/4 inch or less to make another coil of jump rings. Saw two off and put on either end of the new necklace cord.
We are going to leave these as open rings so we can swap it for a chain later if we want.
Take one end and put it on one of the jump rings we soldered to the pendant. Then on the other end add a lobster clasp and that will close the necklace off on the other soldered jump ring on the pendant.
Step 17: Your Final Product
And there you have it. A super cool and science-y necklace that anyone could love!
You could even do another one in silver and make it super fancy!
Hope you enjoyed my Instructable.
If you have any questions or critiques, please feel free to comment. I am always looking for advise on how to improve my skills and techniques.
Runner Up in the