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basic copper working and tools


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hello, i am new to copper working and frankly, i have no clue what im doing. 


i was wondering if any of you experienced copper smiths could help me out. to be perfectly frank, i have no idea where to start on where to get materials for copper working, and i dont know what tools to use, or even where to get them. 


hoping you all can help out,


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Greetings my young friend,


I think before you waste material , time , and money you should get on line a research  a few books on the subject..    There are many tools available and many grades of copper.  Its not something you can just walk into and expect results.   What project do you have in mind?


Good luck and keep your mind sharp



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Hi Ram, 


I have been playing with copper a little while and my opinion is to just start.  Pick a subject you are interested in, flowers, animals, boats, etc.  Go online and search "pictures of owls" or whatever.  I have not had luck finding copper at hardware stores but have found small pieces at hobby shops.  A little 4 x 6 inch piece is plenty to get started.  Then stop at the local hardware store and get tin snips.  Download and size the picture to match your copper piece.  Draw the outline with pencil.  Cut using tin snips.  Smooth edges with files, sandpaper, etc.  Practice adding texture with various punches, screwdrivers, nails, bolts, etc.  Practice bending with pliers, hammers, etc.  Use pieces of wood as a base.  Don't let perfection be the enemy of the good.  What you are after is experience and learning and having fun.  You will soon learn what works and doesn't, and you will begin thinking of larger projects.  As always, think safety.  Get a good pair of soft leather gloves and a pair of safety glasses or goggles.



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What tools and supplies you need is dependent on what you are trying to do!


I can't tell you if you need to go to a non-ferrous scrapyard or to a Roofing supply store.


Can tubing work?  YES! NO! MAYBE!  Depending on information you haven't provided.


So repousse, carving, engraving, etching, 3D sculpture, casting, forging, hollow forms,etc, & so on... all "copper work"


Do you know how to solder, anneal, engrave?

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Sure, if you're just looking for 'something' to do with copper, and don't care what type of work that is, a copper rose is a good beginner level project.  You can use copper pipe for this. Split a length of pipe open and flatten it out.  Cut out several 4, 5 or 6 petal flower templates. Texture the petals a bit.  Anneal the copper (heat it and quench it) whenever it starts getting too stiff. Stack the petal templates on a stem and start folding it up into the flower shape.


When making copper roses, most of the work is done cold. You can cut flattened pipe easily with tin snips, and a lot of the shaping of the petals is easily done with needle nose pliers.  You really only need heat for annealing.  


Is that something along the lines of what you're asking for?

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Start at the beginning of "Metalworking Techniques for Craftsmen" and work your way till you get to the end.  Then open up a school!


Making Penannular brooches from heavy copper grounding wire is if anything easier than making a rose and has a ready market,  I've used treelimbs and baseball bats as forming tooling. The flattened ends can be done with pretty much any smooth faced hammer and using a sledge hammer for the "anvil", or RR track, or scrap steel. or forklift tines, or dozer steel, or.....

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When I started playing around with copper, I just used the tools that I had around. I used mainly:

- small ball pein hammer
- small cross pein hammer
- pointed-nose pliers
- small chisel
- big hammer
- flat, hard surface (back of the vice)
- tin snips
- cheap gas blow lamp using cannister of butane

I used a variety of scrap metal, including copper plumbing pipe.

The only "specialised" tools that I have since bought are an anvil and a more powerful blow lamp. Other things that I find useful are:
- lumps of wood of different hardnesses, some with hollows and grooves carved into them
- lumps of hard rubber
- bits of scrap metal bar around which to bend copper.

I have used these to make roses, trees, toadstools, jewellery, lillies and currently a dragon.



Oh, and a file.

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Go to youtube (or Google images) and search for Tim McCreight, George Goehl, Colin Alexander and Charles Lewton-Brain. All totally different artists in copper.


Oh, and most beginner jewelry classes use copper wire and sheet for training, it behaves hot and cold like silver at a fraction of the price. Aluminum is even easier to find and cheaper for cold work practice, but does not behave the same with heat.


I have formed accent leaves and tendrils from copper, and silver soldered them to forged mild steel wine bottle holders. Better hardware stores will sell solid copper ground wire and roof flashing by the foot. (For prices so low you merely scream.) Copper pipe can be split and flattened to make small sheets, or forged whole to make flowers and candle cups.

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I fell in love with forging when I annealed some scrap copper tubing and began to forge earrings from it!  I would hammer for many hours each day... completely fascinated with the process!  I would slice the pieces of tubing lengthwise and flatten them before cutting out my profiles.  Earrings are an excellent choice for learning because the small scale allows for cheap experimentation and gives quicker feedback... shortening your learning curve!  Candleholders are also good projects.  Hammers, torch, snips, tubing cutters or hacksaw, file, burnisher, anvil... these are the very basics.

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I didn't try to teach myself, I took a repousse class at a local school. That gave me a good base to start with. I picked up some tools and use copper flashing from the lumber yard (16 ounce/sq ft). I do a lot of reading and look for videos on You Tube. Now it is just imagination and practice.

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