Daily Wire Tip April 25: Forging Copper Wire

By on April 25, 2010
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Daily Wire Jewelry Making Tip
April 25, 2010

Question:

I shaped a choker wire from 14g dead soft round copper wire. What’s the best way to harden it so the choker retains its shape?

Answer:

The easiest (and most enjoyable) way to harden 14g round copper is to forge it. Use a chasing hammer with a steel bench block or vise, or get a regular ball peen hammer (if it’s been in the garage or basement for a while, use a grinding wheel or sandpaper to smooth both heads). The flat head, on either hammer, will flatten and slightly stretch the metal while hardening it, as well as adding a slight ‘rise’ to the piece (which you could incorporate into your desired shape) and the ball head can texture it. Experiment first, using a piece about 3 to 5 inches long, so you have enough to hold on to. (The scrap could later become a pair of earrings.) Forging/beating soft wire into different shapes can be a lot of fun!

The project on DVD #4 of the new Intermediate DVD series, introduces forging with a really cool Cuff Bracelet .

Answer contributed by Dale “Cougar” Armstrong

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8 Comments

  1. avatar

    Casey Willson

    April 25, 2010 at 9:01 am

    Having just started forging wire I heartily second that comment. It IS a LOT of fun. My question is how do you suggest torch annealing 10 gauge and 8 gauge copper wire? I’ve tried it on a bed of kitty litter but it isn’t getting soft enough for my poor hands to work it.

  2. avatar

    Amy

    April 25, 2010 at 10:17 am

    You can also heat the piece until it is glowing cherry red, and let it cool off by itself (no quenching). This will leave the piece as it was made, without any stretching or forge marks, if this is the preferred look. You can buy a small can (about 16″ tall) at any home improvement store or hardware. These canisters are easy enough to handle, and safe. And are inexpensive as compared to a regular soldering unit.

    FYI, if you DO want to forge, you may find that you would like to anneal the copper, to make it dead soft again, so you can continue to *push* the metal in the forging process without it “work-hardening” and cracking. You can also use this same torch to heat the copper to, again, a glowing cherry red, but you DO quench it (drop it *immediately* into a water bath that you have already prepared and is rt next to where you are heating the piece). It will immediately cool off in the water, and all of the particles in the copper will be *loose* again, so you can forge to your hearts content!! :D Have fun!

  3. avatar

    Debbie

    April 25, 2010 at 11:11 am

    What would be the best hammer to get if you are just starting this craft? I want to get some supplies but don’t want to spend too much until I can (hopefully) make a little money to start supporting my spending. Thanks!
    Debbie

  4. avatar

    Linda

    April 25, 2010 at 8:06 pm

    I have some 20 gauge dead soft raw round copper wire on the way, and appreciate all the advice on hardening it up some. I think I’ll try the pounding on it first and see what that gets. I know with silver wire, just running it through a cloth several times will harden it up some as will simply using it in wire wrapping as hands also harden it up as it is pulled and shaped.Copper may be a different animal though, so we’ll see.

    Thanks again,
    Linda

  5. avatar

    Judy

    April 26, 2010 at 11:50 am

    I work 8 gauge copper all the time. You will never get it really soft. You can try using a map gas torch but be careful because it can melt it very easily. I use a very strong set of pliers (taken from my ex’s tool box;-) and cover them in tool magic. After that it is just brute strength! Good luck

  6. Pingback: Forging Jewelry Wire | Jewelry Making Instructions

  7. avatar

    Katherine

    December 16, 2010 at 9:58 am

    If you don’t have a torch, try using a disposable lighter to heat your copper wire work. They are cheap and available at discount and dollar stores. I hold my wire work with a pair of pliers in my left hand and hold the lighter in my right hand. Once the copper is hot, place it on the bench. Use pliers to hold it steady and hammer away. Repeat as necessary. I use emory boards to polish the copper to a satin finish.

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