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Conner Michaux

Copper shaping?

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Ive recently seen a post on instagram, Someone was making copper fruit bowls and big spoon/ladles with a Swage block and a plumbers torch, and then he would forge some 1/4 inch mild steel for the handle and he would rivet it onto the spoon  

I want to try it out, How many of you have done copper work? How difficult is it, and what tools do I need for it?

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Copper is actually really nice to forge, you can work it both hot and cold and it is a lot softer than steel.

When working copper cold it hardens with hammering and will eventually crack, to anneal it you heat it up to a dull red and quench in water, this will make it really soft, the oposite of steel.

One important thing to remember is that copper conducts heat super fast, so you cant hold one end while forging like you would with steel, well fitting tongs are a must.

When grinding it the same heat conductivity is a problem again and you will burn your fingers easily, files work better.

for forming bowls you will need a domed hammer and a stump with a dent in it, for the rest the same tools for iron work great on copper.

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Does the dent in the stump need to be the size of the ladle/bowl your making? Or just a small round dent, so when you hit the metal on it, it makes a roundish dent?

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Welcome to the wonderful world of sheet metal! Yeah, you just need a dished out space with slightly more radius than your final shape. You can even use something like a sandbag, or soft rubber, or neoprene foam.  I've made parts for a truck bed with deep creases with a ball peen hammer and a rubber mat. 

Watch Jesse James make a motorcycle tank or fender. You'll get the idea. 

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Thanks for the info! I’m going to try it with a sandbag until I can find a stump. 

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Thanks! One more thing, Im guessing that if I use a sandbag, I shouldn’t use a torch on the copper? And what thickness of copper should I get? I’m assuming 1/16 

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Im going to get some of these tongs to hold the copper, once it’s somewhat in a bowl shape.

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Remember that all metals respond to heat differently. He torched that aluminium to soften it. You should anneal copper just how Peter Paul said. I would work it cold. Even steel sheet can be (and usually is) cold forged. Annealed copper is exreamely soft and malliuble. Tongs will help with annealing, but depending on the size of the bowl; you may find your thumb and index finger to be sufficient. 

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And after working on the sandbag, you'll need to fine tune the shape. You might find something with a little more support than the sandbag to be handy. The smoothed rubber from the sole of an old shoe, doubled over leather, a dished out piece of wood as Peter suggests, maybe an anvil, or workbench, it all depends on where you are in the process.

your goal is to stretch the interior of the metal while keeping exterior rim the same size, then just smooth everything out.  

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Thanks! I’ll start this project after I finish the knife im currently working on. 

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