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From the Shop:

Making a Copper Leaf Pendant

A friend asked me at lunch recently how I made the pendant I was wearing. I thought I'd share a few photos of the "before" and "during" process. This is a fall leaf I just finished from sheet metal (jeweler's copper) to final product. The finish on this piece is not an applied patina - it is color brought out of the metal itself using a torch. This necklace is available for sale in the shop.

First, the pendant begins by cutting out the rough shape of the leaf using metal snips, and then drawing or tracing the leaf design onto the metal using a permanent marker. The metal used here is jeweler's sheet copper.

Next, the leaf shape it cut out from the sheet copper using a jeweler's saw. A jeweler's saw has a harp-style frame and a blade so small it is about the same diameter as a pencil lead. The blade is waxed to help it move smoothly through the metal as it cuts. (Special wax is available for jewelry saws, though I use candle wax by drawing the blade across the back edge of a candle, and that works well.) While sawing, the piece is braces upon a wooden arm which extends off the front edge of the bench. The wooden arm is known as a bench pin, and it helps provide stability and easy access to interior surfaces for small cuts.

After the leaf is cut out, a variety of finishing tools are used to smooth and texture the copper. Tools include sandpaper, jeweler's files, and a power tool called a pendant motor (shown here). The pendant motor hangs from the ceiling above the bench, and it works like a Dremel, but the speed is controlled with a foot pedal similar to a sewing machine. This pendant motor operates up to about 15,000 RPMs. A variety of bits allow the metal to be cut, shaped, sanded, and polished.

After removing scratches and achieving a sanded finish, the leaf pendant is then hammered by hand using a ball pien hammer on a steel bench block. The hammered texture first appears very distinct, but with further polishing a smoother effect is achieved.

For some projects, a dark patina can be applied at this point and then buffed off, leaving the dark tone in the dents only and polishing the high points to a shine. That's a beautiful effect, but for this leaf I wanted something more subtle and natural. So rather than applying an artificial patina, I combined patience and the flame of a torch and "fire-painted" the copper. Fire can be used to bring out bright colors from the copper, but for this leaf I worked slowly and stopped when the leaf had reached a rich, bronze color.

Then I made a jump ring from 20-gauge copper wire and soldered it closed. (The pre-soldering setup is shown below using a different pendant.) The white liquid on the top of the jump ring is called flux. Flux is what allowed solder to flow into the gaps once melted. In this case, the flux allows the solder to flow into the joint and permanently close the jump ring.

And, that's it! The pendant was strung onto a casual, 19" ball chain made from jeweler's copper and is ready to wear. The chain can easily be shortened, if desired, by trimming length off the chain with a pair of wire snips.

This leaf necklace looks beautiful against neutral colors as well as the rich reds, golds, and greens of fall.

Thanks for following along!

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