Sunday, November 11, 2012

Playing with Copper & Fire

I admit it, I'm a big coward! There are things I want to do, to try, when it comes to expanding my jewelry making craft skills and I'll even go so far as to buy the items and books on how to do a particular skill, but then they'll sit on my shelf for months, collecting dust, calling my name, just begging me to use them. And I won't.  I'm too chicken.

I know it takes time to develop certain skills, to make my items look like what I see others (who have been doing the same thing I'm interested in, but they've been practicing for YEARS to get where they are) and I chicken out on even making the attempt.

The latest thing I'm wanting to learn is metal work. Stamping, firing, anything and everything. I look at all the blogs I follow and see those who have taken up metal working and how it's expanded their abilities and skills and I think, "Wow! I could so do that! It looks so easy I could just pick it right up!"  And, it's entirely likely that I could pick it right up. I'm not stupid or lacking in skills. I can read quite well (started reading in kindergarten where I grew up) and I'm not afraid to try new things.

What I am afraid of is failing.  But, failing is a good way to learn. Especially if you don't have classes you can attend.  Reading, following the written and pictoral directions, and making mistakes that you learn from is how you get good at something. If you (or, should I say "I") don't ever try, you/I won't learn and you/I won't improve to the point others are saying "That looks easy! Bet I could do that, too!"  By the way, making it look easy is the mark of a good craftsman/woman.

Well, this weekend I finally took a deep breath and took... not "the plunge" so much as a toe-dip in the water.  I'm working on a new lanyard to go with my Fishes & Loaves design and I'm working it in copper. I have copper wire, so that's no problem.  I also have copper necklace links if I want to go that route so, again, no problem.  What I don't have is copper headpins. 

What I also have is a hand-held micro torch.  And it's loaded.  And I have the reloads if I need them.  And, I also have copper wire!  Real copper, not the copper-coated artistic wire, but the real thing (from Lowe's, if anyone's curious).  24 gauge.

I took another deep breath, cut several 3" pieces, flicked on my torch, picked up a piece in my special don't-get-burned! pliers and went to town.


I remembered that one blog I read said you should heat the whole wire length slightly, first, before attempting to create the ball at the end and I did that.  Then I remembered what someone else's article said about holding the wire so it pointed into the flame and I did that.  Then, on a whim, while holding the whole thing over a bowl of water (in case any of the wire decided to cut loose and fall) I rotated both hands so the flame was pointing up at the wire that I was holding into the flame.

Did you know copper, when it starts to ball up, will run UP from the flame?  It was totally cool to see!  Then, I also remembered what someone said about, if you want the head pins to have a rosy-pink look to them, you need to drop them in the water while they're glowing so I did that with several.

Here's just a few of the results so far:

Several copper headpins, work hardened, buffed and
ready to be used ~ EEEEEEE!

A closer look ~ you can see both "normal" copper headpins
and rose colored headpins

Once I realized I was ACTUALLY MAKING HEADPINS, much squealing and bouncing in the chair ensued.  I was fairly giddy over my success. 

I also quickly learned that annealed 24g copper wires is very, VERY soft and you want to work harden it with very, very gentle taps of your hammer before trying to get the fire scale off (very gentle, you don't want to flatten the wire, just re-harden it)

Also, I know you're supposed to pickle the wire after it's been cooled, but I didn't (and still don't) happen to have any pickle (I always think of Vlasic Dills when anyone says "pickle" and I know that's not what that means!) but I also remember reading (again!) that you can make your own pickle from household items. Does anyone remember or have that recipe? It's a LOT of work getting that scale off!

So, lesson learned. Don't just decide to try something new at the Expert end of the spectrum. Just because it LOOKS easy, it isn't. Those Experts have worked HARD to get where they are. Take the small steps, first. Make those copper headpins. Once you/I are/am comfortable with that (and have made several dozen! EEEEEEE!) then move on to the next level.  It isn't sink or swim, it's get in slowly and work up to that Freestyle stroke!

p.s., once again I forgot the date/time for a Hop I signed up for, the UK Inspiration Challenge. (sigh) I think I'm going to quit signing up for hops and simply try to make the challenge of each hop a personal goal. That is, I'll set myself the challenge to create whatever the hop is for, but not sign up. I think it's sad when someone signs up for a challenge, then doesn't "show up" for it (as it were). Guess I'm just a sad, sad person this last couple of months! :(  Be that as it may, you should go visit the sites of those who DID "show up" for this interesting challenge:
The HostsLesley Watt Gossiping Goddess

Rebecca Anderson Songbeads

Pippa Chandler Pip's Jewellery

Teresa Hulley Bo Hulley Beads

Natalie McKenna Grubbi


Ginger Bishop Lilmummylikes

Cece Cormier The Beading Yogini

Therese Frank Therese’s Treasures

Cilla Watkins Tell Your Girlfriends

Sherry Baun


Therese Frank Therese’s Treasures

Kashmira Patel Sadafulee

Caroline Dewison Blueberribeads

Sherry Baun

Leigh Thow Jewellrleigh

Lucy Haslam


Sherry Baun

Isle of Wight

Duane Clark Bizzy Bead

Sharyl McMillian-Nelson Sharyl's Jewelry

Leigh Thow Jewellrleigh

Jean Wright Just Beadey

D Lynne Bowland Islandgirl’s Insights

Sherry Baun


Shalini Austin Jewellery by Shalini

Doris Stumpf Glaszwerg

Sherry Baun

Lennis C Windbent


Sherri Stokey Knot Just Macramé

Sherry Baun

Leigh Thow Jewellrleigh

Kathy Lindemer Bay Moon Design


  1. I think pickle is just a mixture of vinegar and salt, but don't quote me on that.

  2. Hi Pam,
    Love your post on working with metal and taking the baby steps the copper head pins turned out fabulous!

  3. Pam, I use pickling salt and water. Boil it and add the headpins or metals. I don't use any particular recipe just throw a couple of hefty tablespoons of the pickling salt into a couple cups of water. I prefer to stay away from the heavy duty chemicals and I find this works just fine. You can find pickling salt at your local grocery store.

  4. Thanks for the great blog! You have given me the inspiration to
    "Go For It'

  5. Thanks for sharing your story. I too want to start trying some metal work , it's good to remember that it will take me baby steps before I become a pro.. Keep posting your progress :-)