Your First Metalsmithing Project: Create Textured Copper Earrings

We found this project in an email from Jewelry Making Daily and think that it is a pretty great how to for beginning metalsmithers.  There are some parts at the end where you might find some tools that we do not have here in the store (ie: a flex shaft for drilling holes, or for polishing)  However, we find that, especially for beginners, you don’t always need all the fancy tools to complete a project.  A metal punch works perfectly fine for making holes in most projects and the beauty of working with copper is that you don’t necessarily need to polish it to a fine shine, making polishing material such as super fine sand paper and polishing cloth can do the trick.  Also copper tarnishes naturally so polishing may not even be an issue for you!  At any rate…we really do like this post!

 

 

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My first metalsmithing experience resulted in these handmade textured copper earrings. My friend and teacher, metalsmith Lexi Erickson, taught me how to saw and then set me loose, helping me quickly turn a piece of sheet metal into two pairs of one-of-a-kind earrings in just a few steps. (As a newbie, she wisely started me on less-expensive copper, but the same process can be applied to silver or other metals.)
Here’s how you can make your own handmade textured metal earrings:”

 

Tools and Materials:

20-gauge copper sheet metal
Sharpie marker
jeweler’s saw with 4/0 blades
bench pin sawing setup
medium tooth #2 file
textured hammers
sanding block
flex shaft with polishing wheel, drill bit
dapping set
hammer and awl or nail punch
burnishing tool
jewelry pliers
2 pairs of ear wires

Steps:

 

 

 

 

1. Draw or trace a circle on the sheet metal. Stay close to the edge to conserve the rest of the metal   for future projects.

 

 

 

 

 

2. Saw out the circle. Aim for a flowing, slowly bobbing, fluid stroke with a good rhythm for the most efficient sawing and to prevent breaking your saw blades.

 

 

 

 

 

3. Pushing the file down and away from you, file the edges (in one direction only) to smooth them and to perfect the shape of the circle.

 

 

 

 

 

4. Use a straight edge to draw perpendicular cross lines on the circle. Saw along those lines to divide the disc into four pie-shaped pieces. Slow down a bit and be careful as you saw close to edges to avoid bending and warping the metal or breaking the saw blades as the pieces bob and bounce. Repeat Step 3 on the newly sawn straight edges to smooth and straighten any irregularities

 

 

 

 

 

5. Hammer the triangular pieces to add texture. Note that the more you hammer them, the more their triangular shape will stretch and distort a bit, so if you want their shape to keep its form, hammer conservatively.

 

 

 

 

 

6. Using a regular hammer and awl or nail punch, make the beginnings of a hole in the pointed top of each earring piece. Make it close enough to the tip to fit in the ear wire’s loop but not so close that it breaks or weakens the metal. Finish drilling the hole using a flex shaft outfitted with a drill bit. Tip: Do one hole completely and use it as a template to mark the other pieces in the same spot with the Sharpie marker.

 

 

 

 

 

7. Sand the drill holes and edges further with the sanding block. Place each piece in a dapping block and hammer it into a domed form.

 

 

 

 

 

8. Polish the surface to a high shine with a flex shaft and a polishing wheel.

 

 

 

 

9. Pressing firmly with the burnishing tool in a motion similar to that of peeling an apple, burnish the edges for a smooth, shining, well-finished edge. Open the loop on the ear wires with the jewelry pliers and attach the earring pieces to the wires.

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