Thoughts of Design Inspiration


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What is Copper?

Check out my new Blog post  What is Copper?

I am now also blogging at my other sites, here’s the beginning of the post. Please check the above link for the rest of the article! You’ll learn about history of copper, its properties, uses, with samples of art and jewelry.

copperrmain

Copper is an essential mineral found in plant life and in the human body and it is also a metal alloy with a reddish-orange color. The use of copper dates back over 10,000 years. Pure copper is very soft and malleable and is combined with other metals, such as brass and bronze, for use in jewelry and other uses. Copper is used in currency (the U.S. penny), and is used as a heat conductor, in medical instruments, and has been used as a decorative coating of famous gates, such as the Temple of Jerusalem, sculptures, and statues, most notably, The Statue of Liberty, the largest copper statue in the world.

Since 100% of copper can be recycled without any loss of its original mined quality, it is the third most recycled metal. Over 80% of the copper mined since it was discovered thousands of years ago is still in use today. When copper tarnishes, a beautiful green patina covers the piece… Read more

Etching copper tutorial study experiment


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Etching Experiments

Etching copper

Etching pan and the etched copper piece with the electrical wire and foamies attached

There are so many techniques to try when it comes to making copper jewelry. I just had to try etching. It requires the use of some chemicals, although I am learning there might be ways to etch using some more natural ingredients. (Hopefully, more on that later.)

You can buy these etching kits which makes trying it very easy. You get a pan to put your etching liquid (ferric chloride is the chemical), foam thingies to float your copper and the required electrical current gadget. All you need is a piece of copper and rubber gloves. You are supposed to use distilled water, I used Brita water and was just fine (tap water that has been put through a filter that removes impurities).

There are many ways to produce the picture you want to etch on copper. I used an oil based marker and just drew the picture. Some other etching hobbyists use things like ink transfers (from laser printer), Staz-on ink, lettering systems, even UV film.

Copper etching kit

The etching kit – pan, ferric chloride, foamies, wire and the gadget you plug in.

So, I had my picture drawn on a very well cleaned piece of copper. I mixed my etching granules with the water and let it dissolve. You then have to cover the back side of your copper with tape so it doesn’t etch, attach the etching gadget wire on the back of your copper piece under the tape, and insert these foam pads on the sides so it can float and doesn’t fall on the bottom of your pan. Submerge the item in the etching liquid, turn the power on and wait.

I let mine etch for a couple of hours, I realize it was way too long! The time depends on the size of the piece, or the depth of etching you want. Many patterns you don’t need to etch very deep. A good thing also is that you can reuse the solution. Eventually it will lose its power, but it should last for many etchings. Just please remember to take your used etching liquid to a hazardous waste facility when you’re done, no hurting of fishes allowed! Now I just want to figure out a way to do this with some natural non-toxic materials!

Etching copper

My puffin happily etched. You can clean the marker lines with nail polish remover.

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tumbling media and copper


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Tumbling Madness

rock tumblerA tumbler is a great tool to do a few things – tumble, polish, harden, smooth and so on. I did my first experiment with copper (and a few pieces of stainless steel, even though they do say it’s good to keep the metal one kind).

The tumbler I have is a 3 lb model with a rubber barrel. The only thing you had to do before use according to the manual was to oil the bearings. (I used shredder oil.) The shot I use is stainless steel, sort of all purpose with varied sizes of pieces especially made for jewelry tumbling. I put in 2 pounds because I read that you should have the barrel half to 3/4 full of material. Not sure yet if this actually only applies to rock tumbling since I have been reading contradicting info elsewhere. Some jewelry tumbling instructions say to just use a little shot media and there are videos showing the tumbler only 1/4 full.

tumbling media - mixed stainless steel shot

Tumbling shot – mixed stainless steel for jewelry

tumbling copper jewelry

Tumbler filled and ready to go.

copper jewelry and junk pieces to be tumbled

Copper pieces ready for the tumbler.

So how did it all go down:

  • I filled my tumbler with 2 pounds of stainless steel shot and the metal pieces in the picture (with some junk copper end pieces in there to fill it up more)
  • Added water to just cover the contents and one drop of dish soap

 

Notes: My tumbler had a little trouble getting rotating at first. I washed the outside to make sure there was no oil that might cause it to slip, cleaned the nylon shaft covers to make sure they were clean. My husband’s opinion was that because I had all the 2 lb of shot in there the barrel was too heavy. It did start turning though and kept going eventually, and then later on when I stopped it you could see some of the rubber started wearing off on the nylon shaft covers and the grip got better.

copper coated with rubber after tumbling

I let the tumbler run for about 7 hours.  (It is surprisingly quiet!) Excited, I open it…everything looks fine, except my metal is totally coated with black rubber! Bummer. What is this?! I went online searching and found some similar results by other people. There were possible explanations: the barrel needs a break in time where the loose rubber will come of,  there wasn’t enough soap, there was too much tumbling media. I have no idea, but I will try again with less media and more soap… It took me a good amount of time to scrub the metal clean. Otherwise, the pieces did get smoother edges and earwires were harder. I would say for perfect results, you would need to tumble a bit longer. I still had to hand sand some pieces a bit and hammer my wires a bit more.

Overall a good first attempt. Hopefully next time no more rubber!

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Enameled Copper Pendants Inspired By Blue Hazy Sky

Enameled copper blue sky pendantI experimented enameling the pendant shapes inspired by the blue hazy beach sky (see previous post). These shapes are larger than I usually work with, but I wanted to create some new free form shapes and try something a little different.

There are limitations when you are working with a torch to enamel pieces this size, you really need a tripod. Well, I don’t have a tripod (after this experiment I am definitely getting one!), so I was holding the pieces with pliers. (Dangling them in the flame with a rod won’t work either, these shapes were too large for that.) So, the problem ended up being getting the counter side enameled properly and that’s where the tripod will come in handy. I am very happy though with my results on the front side.

Enameled copper pendant , 3 1/2 by 1 1/2 inch

Enameled 3 1/2 by 1 1/2 inch piece

bluesky3

Enameled 2 3/4 inch piece

So how did it all go down? I first designed a couple of shapes on paper that I wanted to try to enamel. I cut them from 24g copper sheet and sanded and drilled the holes. I then hammered them with my texture hammer trying to make puffy round shapes in clusters. It’s pretty close to the bubbly fuzzies in the sky, but I’m sure there is some home made tool that might make shapes that are more like the real thing. I enameled them with my torch by holding the copper pieces with pliers.  The problem ended up being getting the back side properly done. I don’t have big enough containers for my enamels to dip the whole shape in so I ended up shifting the rest of the enamel on top. I used some cat whiskers on the narrow piece (you can see them in the middle on the right side) and I kind of like the effect it created.

I want to keep experimenting with these larger shapes, get a tripod and some more colors!