Steampunk Dog Tags/Key Chain




About: Called a renaissance man more times than I can count, I am the type of person who believes you can do anything you put your mind to. As a veteran I've seen some awful acts committed, and I guess my wanting t...

I've never been to crazy about this steam punk stuff, probably because when I was first introduced to it, was at Youtube, Several of the video's mention that it was born with a question "What if the British steam powered generation had gained more attention worldwide than the American industrial revolution had, steam punk represents this idea of how different the world might be?" I can't agree! While the concept is cool I thought all week how I can make a steam punk project that brings a little bit of the American spirit and ingenuity. I remember the first day I was getting geared up at Fort Knox, the lady who was printing the dog tags had this saying "I'm giving you these tags but you have to earn what they mean", I used to always think that she was making a bad joke because they are for identifying your body if you get shipped home in a box. But now I know she meant she never wanted to get them back. It hit me like a ton of bricks no matter what you do, you work for anything you do, even making something for an instructable, you have to earn your tags!

"Americanized" SteamPunk Dog Tags

Step 1: Materials

Materials needed:

Copper pipe
Dremel w/cutting disc's
Gas torch
Various pliers
Flat head screw driver
Work gloves
Lettering punches
Ball peen hammer
Drill and bit
Dog tag chain

Step 2: Slice It! Spread It!

With a small piece of copper pipe in hand put a slice down the center of the pipe then slightly wedge it apart with a flat head screw driver

Step 3: Ready, Aim, FIRE!

Next start heating the pipe till it gets red, copper bends really easy when you add heat. Use a pair of pliers and start spreading the super heating copper out till it fairly flat. Take your ball peen hammer and start tapping it till flat, occasionally adding more heat. Once you have it as flat as it's going to get take a wire brush (or a bench grinder with a wire wheel) to clean it up and make it shine.

Step 4: Punch the Tag!

Starting the first tag is simple, make a tag size that your comfortable with (for mine I traced the ones I've earned). Take a straight edge and clamp it to the copper blank to line up the letter punches. Spell out your words by hammering out each letter side by side use a ruler to space them evenly. Once you have your letters punched out, trace out your scribe line with a permanent marker to make it easy to cut.

Step 5: Engraving Tag 2 to Honor the Insipiration

To honor the site that gave me the inspiration to show my work to the world I decided to for-go my regular logo's and give props to the instructables crew. Using a picture or a logo to engrave by hand is easy, Print it out, tape it to your work, then use the lowest setting on your engraver to trace out the design. it should be cutting through the paper and barely making contact with the metal below, leaving a light trace. set you engraver on a higher setting and re-trace the logo. once your happy with the engraving use your permanent marker again to trace out your cut line

Step 6: The Big Finish!

Now that you can see the tags it time to finish them up! Cut out the tags using a dremel, scroll saw or just a pair of shears. Find a center point on the top of your tags and drill a hole a little larger than your tag chain, with a fine sand paper finish the edges and buff the tags a little to get some shine into the scratches. To really give it a "been through battle" look take some Brasso metal polish and a rag and lightly hand polish the tags (Tip: Don't machine polish them it take to much of the dark and hammered spots out of the material)



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    16 Discussions


    4 years ago on Introduction

    Dude, you went through a huge, unnessesary step. copper is naturally a very soft metal, so you can just hammer it flat. Making one now.

    2 replies

    Reply 4 years ago on Introduction

    Your right it's a soft metal, heat just makes it that much more pliable. With heat its like rolling out tin foil. I subscribe to the work smarter not harder way, when I hit it with heat it about laid out flat without touching it, But sadly you can't take a picture of that so the hammer was just a nice effect.

    Also think about those who are just trying it for the first time, they may not be as skilled with a hammer as you and I, Heat just makes working with copper that much easier with someone who has very little experience. So I felt it was necessary step to illustrate to those to keep them from giving up to quick, and I've always tried to leave ego out of my i'bles and think most people come here to learn.

    But to those who've never done it, and reading this for the first time Jake's right, if you hammer on copper long enough you can get any shape, adding heat is just a shaping time saver.


    I'd like to add: By heating the copper you'll also be annealing it (making is softer after it's cooled) and not work hardened from the cold work hammering, making any embossing etc. easier. Also forming it hot should result in a flatter and less damaged surface (smoother) since less force will be required than cold working. You can always reheat and quench after all work to get some of the hardness back. Also gives it an aged look.

    But if you want just plain simple, the cold working is the way to go. But personally, I think a better finish will be achieved hot working the metal.


    4 years ago

    I have always wanted to make a dog tag but could never figure out how, sure I have one that I found but it isn't the same as a home made one with my name. Now that I read this it is all clear what I can do to make the tag. And since you are a veteran I thank you for your service. Great instructable.

    1 reply

    Thanks for the comment, There are probably a lot easier ways to make tags but I was playing around with the steam punk stuff, looking for something that would be appealing to that style but I'd like as well.

    It was for a steampunk contest, Sheet metal would be preferable,but I was thinking a ton of the SP stuff is copper based, so I was thinking this was appropriate, i'bles judges didn't seem to think so...

    Not to mention it seems like a lot of the contest winners tend to not put much work or thought into what wins (well at the time I posted this, that's the way it seemed), so I put together a quick little project that I thought might just be lazy enough to win.

    All in all though (contests aside, which is initially what drew me here) its great sharing with others for advice and comments like this.


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    I took it from a basic understanding by one of the moderators of the Irish Steam Punk group's site had commented to me. My question was exactly the same what exactly is to Steak Punk something. He gave me two explanations "At it's basic understanding to steam punk something is to take anything that is modern and made of superior modern materials (i.e Plastic, Steel, etc) and re work something that looks machine manufactured to use a medium that would have been more widely available (i.e. copper, brass, etc) and made by hand. Some even understand steak punk as to take something modern product and turn it inside out or more to the point; things we buy today we don't see the clockwork behind how they work".

    So I guess my intention was to take something that could be made from better materials and to show the working with copper from a handmade perspective as traditional Steam Punk, I just didn't want to slap some copper colored paint on a project to made it look old and from that era to me that's just a cheat. The working of the copper was my steam punk intention.


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    Now, please don't delete this instructable by the argument I'm about to pose. (it's not directed at you and it's still a good valid instructable) This just happens to be a perfect place for this discussion..

    In my opinion, and probably quite a few others, this is one of the underlying issues with the steam punk style. Yes, it does embrace the mythos of the continued Victorian era. The flawed understanding, by modern standards, of science. The extensive use of non polymer materials; wood, metal, cloth. and the existence of modern tech without modern advancements in materials and tech. But in turn the common activity of slapping a gear on or making it out of brass does not a steam punk make.
    There needs to be research on the history of items and how they have evolved, and then in turn adapting it to how it might have evolved. This also goes for looking at past views of how the future could be, how we are supposed to be living by our ancestors standards. (i.e. the "Where's my Jetpack?" argument)
    Now first thing first.
    The Victorian era occurred from 1837–1901, this needs to be the basis of design and style.
    Second, Research.
    Now your dog tags views the logical progress of the tags (beyond the psychosomatic reasons instructors liked to beat into us during boot) and is quite right by the standards you were given. But you could have gone one of two ways with this.
    Having been in the military and having done the research for Civil War reenactment. I have a decent knowledge of the history of them and of ones of the era.
    One way you could have gone is like you did the change in form but kept the information styling and emblem imprinting of the old ones. Or kept with the older circular form with modern information styling.

    Well that's my tow cents and its probably worth a load of rubbish. But that's for you to decide.


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    I agree with your statements, and while humbled by your knowledge on this particular subject. Never my intention to insult those who practice the art of this today, i am more of the modern mind making things better through knowledge and experience. My thoughts on something steam punk with the tags in mind was not to re-create or re-enact the old style tags but to use that method of making the old style round tags and building on the style of the ones currently used today. I entirely agree that many steam punk projects I've looked at have no real basis in a historical value, but then again I think my whole view on the stem punk genre is that its widely publicized as a British movement. Leaving out my Irish descendents views on the British, and sticking strictly to a Victorian frame of mind, science does lack the imagination of its predecessors in many of today's creations. However I think what this genre really puts forth is the understanding that these achievements we've made in science are important lest we not forget the past. I think what most people seem to forget (with this in mind viewing many of these projects) is that steam punk is not a recreation of the past but the artistry and craftsmanship. I think what bothers me with the genre is the fact that as Americans the Industrial revolution was a huge leap forward for us as a country, to belittle those Americans ingenuity and forward thinking (which seems to happen a lot in this genre) is an insult to us. In my book a 65 Ford Mustang all the way up to a Chevy Prowler is modern artistry in motion, and to say that Victorian artistry is the the last time any forward thinking to the future was made is just wrong. History does teach us one thing it was through our continued belief in a brighter future that we made advances like we have, and while steam punk may honor that history, I certainly can't see living in a fantasy world of "how" history may have been different, at some point your have to stop fantasizing and start blinding, without experience through hard work we would have never learned that the jet pack just really isn't a feasible concept it today's world, and would never even been achieved through the Victorian way of thinking instead of doing; it is only now that steam punk genre takes the fantasy and makes it a reality.

    As for the tags themselves, I guess my intention was to honor the past, by doing what our predecessors had done; Using the tools they had available at the time to create something by hand without going out and buying a bunch of extra tools to try to re-manufacture a look, while using idea from the present, to think toward the future, which my my understanding of what the spirit of steam punk was really all about.

    Thanks for your insightful comment, never is an opinion rubbish and should never be dis regarded as such, I have always felt that through our interactions with others we grow and garner a greater knowledge.

    BTW, not sure what happened but the link you provide was a dead link say no such article can be found.


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    Welcome and Thank You.
    I see you point buy your choice of construction method.
    The rubbish remark was a bit of self deprecating humor so don't sweat it too much.
    As for the link issue it's actually two separate links. I though it was on two separate lines instead of a small spacing between when I was typing it.


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    Hey guys,
    I just wanted to say that I appreciated friendly discussion with good points and polite discussion, I wish we could see a little more of that on this site. I would also like to say that your discussion actually cleared up some of my questions (I had not had the time to research yet) and I now have a better understanding of the genre. Thank you.
    P.S. thank you both for serving!


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    My feeling is most people get an ego about their creations, and I'm the type that wants to constantly learn, I'm not perfect, never will be, my ideas are just that my ideas. I share them in the hopes of sharing what I know and learning from you in exchange. Shamus made such a good point on so many levels it was important for others to know if we all work together like this we accomplish more. Those who would argue because "They know better" are not true makers. Makers never stop learning, we have to keep an open mind, and we have to compromise to build on that learning.

    As for the Steampunk genre I'm still up in the air about it. I think it has it's place but I still don't think copper paint and cardboard props are steam-punking. But then again I was never a big fan of the Victorian era, I am more of a student of the Industrial revolution and depression era ingenuity, people who build things out of the need for it rather than the fantasy of it.


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    Learning is defiantly the best goal, the need to build something useful with few materials or inexpensive materials is the driving force behind all ingenuity. If that same ingenuity is directed at making something beautiful or artistic in spare time then it is a good cause, But I agree copper paint and cardboard is not really my idea of steam punk either.