By Kate Richbourg
Today I am sharing one of my favorite projects from my Simple Soldering book, the Copper Tube Bead Necklace. This was the first piece I made for the book. I love how it features a bunch of different skills (multistep soldering, dapping, cutting, and hole punching) and also highlights mixed metals as a design element.
2" x 3/4" 24-gauge patterned copper sheet
1" x 4" 24 gauge patterned brass sheet
hard, medium, easy paste solder
soldering set up *
disc cutter, jeweler's saw, or French shears
1 lb brass-head hammer
1.25mm hole punch pliers
liver of sulfur setup **
necklace or stringing materials of your choice
*Max Flame butane micro torch, kiln brick, soldering tweezers, quench cup, solder picks, safety glasses
** liver of sulfur, hot water, plastic container, task basket, rubber gloves
1. Anneal the copper and brass sheet by heating with a torch. Patterned metal can be very stiff. Remember it will be easier to shape the metal after annealing. Pickle the metal to clean.
2. Use a pair of flat-nose pliers and chain-nose pliers to bring the two short (3/4") ends of the metal together and shape the metal strip into a tube for the main body of the bead. If needed you can also tap the metal around a ring mandrel using a plastic mallet and then use the pliers to help close the tube and refine the shape.
3. Use your fingers to close the ends of the tube flush together by pushing one end of the tube up and over the other slightly and then pull back into place. The edges should "pop" together under tension and form a flush seam. File with fine-grit sandpaper to refine the seam if needed. If your shape is a bit wonky at this point, don't worry. The shape can be refined after it is soldered.
4. Solder seam closed using hard solder. Pickle.
5. Slide the tube onto a ring mandrel and tap lightly with a plastic mallet. Flip the bead over and repeat. Since the mandrel is tapered, you don't want to hammer the tube into a cone shape. Frequent tapping and flipping will help to avoid this and keep a round tube shape. Set aside. This unit is the center section of the bead.
6. Use a disc cutter, jeweler's saw, or shears to cut two 5/8" circles and two 3/4" circles from the patterned brass sheet. File any rough edges with fine-grit sandpaper. You can also use precut blanks.
7. Find the center of the circles by placing the blanks in the corresponding sized circle in the circle template. Use a ruler to draw a line down the center. Rotate the circle and repeat so that the circle is divided both horizontally and vertically into four even pie shapes. The center of the circle should be where the two lines intersect. Use the 1.25mm hole-punch pliers to punch holes in the center of each blank.
8. Place one 3/4" circle pattern-side-down in the coordinating well in the dapping block and dap into a dome. Repeat for second circle.
9. Apply hard solder paste to the inside of one domed circle and place it on top of a flat 5/8" circle. Check to see that the holes are lined up and that the two pieces are centered. Solder and pickle. Repeat with remaining circle set. These units are the end caps for the bead.
Tip: Pickle can get stuck in enclosed places that have small openings, like the small space between the dome and the end cap. All residue of the pickle must be removed before moving onto the next soldering step. Drop the end caps into a small pot of boiling water and let the pieces soak for about a minute. All of the pickle will boil away. Remember to reserve this pot exclusively for this use after using it to boil out the pickle and don't use it with food again.
10. You now have three components that need to be soldered together to make the bead. Place the copper tube upright on the kiln brick. Apply medium solder to the rim of the tube and center one end cap unit on top. Check the placement to see that it is centered. Solder and pickle.
11. The second side is a little trickier to solder, but I know you can do it. Use your chain-nose pliers to create a shallow depression in the surface of the kiln brick. Place the component that you just soldered dome-side-down so it sits in the depression in the brick and is stabilized. Apply soft paste solder to the upturned rim of the bead, center the second end cap on top, and solder. Pickle the bead one last time.
12. Oxidize the bead if desired with liver of sulfur and polish.
You can string the bead onto cord, chain, or beaded necklace as desired–or make several in different patterns for a bold necklace. You could repeat this process on a smaller scale to make tube-bead earrings, too.