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Copper is the easiest metal to work with for making metal styled artwork. Copper is very easy to bend and shape exactly how you want while being easy and safe to cut. All you need is 2 pairs of tin snips that are just like a big pair of scissors but for cutting sheet metal.
Hand made copper artwork looks amazing when finished, you can bring out an awesome shine with the right technique’s. You don’t have to worry about it rusting as copper is naturally corrosive resistant. If you keep it outside it can, however, turn green, some people like that but I much prefer the brown and golden shine that will stay if you keep the artwork indoors with the occasional clean.
Copper art is a great craft to pick up, also a popular “gift for him” idea. But did you know you can have a go at making it yourself? or set someone up with what they need to get started. It’s also a relativity rare form of art that you could sell at your local art gallery if you get good at it.
First, have a look at the example’s below and get inspired. The below copper wall art is a mermaid and a copper fish.
Copper Fish Art-work
This copper piece resembles a deep sea eel, using a colorful selfish called paua as the eye. The paua is also broken up to add a layer of shine to the body. Currently, it’s on the backing of a fireplace, but like all copper art, it can hang on a wall anywhere.
Copper Mermaid Art
This copper mermaid is this artist’s most proud piece. In fact, he showed me how to cut out one for myself. This piece also has a small amount of paua to bring out the eye. And looks good from using multiple layers to make it stand out as a 3D piece.
Tool’s You Need To Make Copper Art Work
Tools You Need
- You need 2 pair of tin snips, one straight cut and one pair of left or right-handed snips for cutting around corners. Click Here to read my best tin snip recommendation for cutting metal
- Optional hand nibbler can aslo be used for detailed more controlled cuts, just keep in mind that a hand nibbler will cut out a chuck of metal rather the a slice like tin-snips do.
- Anything to mark the metal using a tool to scratch the copper and a pen
- A metal file
Find Or Buy A Copper Sheet
- If you can find an old broken hot water cylinder lying around, you could recycle it into a nice piece. In fact, you would have enough copper to make heaps of copper artwork. The artist above recycled the mermaid and eel with an old hot water cylinder. It is very easy to cut out a bit and flatten it out with a hammer.
- The easier way might be to just buy a copper sheet the size that you need and get started.
- Don’t worry if the copper looks dirty when you buy or find it, that is normal, you can shine and polish it up later.
Tips For Making Copper Art Work
- Once you have your tin snips and a sheet of copper you want to come up with a design.
- The best way to do your design is on tracing paper.
- You can make your artwork, better by including a few 3D elements.
- Any 3D elements are cut out of separate pieces of copper and then connected at the end.
- You want to flatten and cut the copper close to the right size to work with.
- When you have finished drawing your design on tracing paper, and also drawing any 3D overlapping elements also on a separate piece of paper. Cut them out.
- When you have cut-out every element and you have paper templates of your design, you can now easily place the paper design directly onto the copper.
- Now trace the design by scratching the marks, with a nail, or any sharp metal marking tool.
- Now that you have marked the copper out. Use a pair of left or right-handed tin snips to cut the copper to the right shape.
- You can bend the copper a bit to help you make detailed cuts as needed.
- When you have all your copper pieces cut out, you can start bending them to give them shape.
- Position each separate element to make sure everything is fitting in the right spot.
- There are 3 options to from here depending on your skill level.
Once you have cut everything and the copper is shaped how you want it. It is time for the tricky part. If you don’t that is fine you need to find a local welder that can help you with the final torch.
Here are 3 options depending on how confident you are:
Find Experience To Help You
The best way is to weld brass edges and to join different elements, however, if are just getting started and you don’t have the equipment, you will need to find a local welder that can do the finishing torch for you.
If you want to do it yourself and you don’t mind going for a different look you could look into using a soldering iron and/or pop rivets instead, this is a very easy method to join copper artwork, not as strong as brass welding though. The solder will have a silver finish and can also look good. You could use pop rivets to join elements and find a way to cover the pop rivets up using the solder, or you could make the pop rivets a feature. It’s a very good option for beginners before diving into brass brazing. That is harder to do and requires bigger tools.
How to Braze Brass Edges And Joints Yourself
Brazing a bronze edge is the best way to finish of your copper artwork, it is also the strongest way to stick on 3D elements. This method, however, requires a few big tools, practice, and skill. You will need to get someone to help you to get started that knows what to do. And you will need to cut a few practice pieces of copper to get your head around how to do it accurately. Brazing copper art can be different and require a different technique than welding copper pipes. Here are some tips from the artist that has done the work above.
What You Need To Braze Brass And Join Copper
- You need oxy-Acetylene tanks, you can commonly hire these tanks from your local building supplier. You shouldn’t need a license or anything.
- You will need your own gauges, gas hose torch, and welding mask.
- If you get serious you can buy your own tanks when you get more into it.
- Brass Rods
- Appropriate leather gloves
Tips For Welding Brass To Copper
- If you have never done this before finding someone that has done some type of welding before for safety reasons, to show you how to set up the torch and get started. Or watch the video below. For more information about setting up the tanks. Wikihow has a good guide.
- With gloves and a welding mask, start to heat the copper up with the torch. You want the copper hot so that the brass will easily stick, but at the same time not to hot that the brass will spread out too far.
- Some people recommend dipping the copper rods in flux to help the copper join. The artist from above recommends not using flux, and only using flux for joining elements applying the flux on the back of unseen elements.
- When the copper is hot you can place the brass rod on the edge’s you want to start brazing and doing so by using the gas torch. (do some practice pieces first)
- When you have gone around all the edges you can dip the brass rod in flux, to join other elements onto your work.
- Finally, you want to give the copper a final shine and buff, especially after the welding as it would have left black burn marks that need to be cleaned off.
How To Solder Edges Instead (Easy Method)
If it’s your first attempt to make copper art the best first choice is to use a soldering iron, its cheap and easy to do. You can use pop rivets to join different pieces of copper together. This can make the whole copper art process easy enough for anyone to get into. But once you have done a few bits of work and you get confident you should look into improving your skills and get a brass welding kit.
Coastal Penguin Metal Art
Here is something extra on the subject of metal art although this is penguin is cut out from steel and not easy to cut out like copper is. Made for the outdoors, like a garden or coastal area.
Copper Wire Art
A copper wire art project is something you could also consider, commonly people make a copper tree with wire on wood. You can be creative and make whatever design you want.
My favorite type of copper wire art is when the copper wire, and or other materials like rocks, embed into a slice of native timber. You can then use a clear resin to fill in all the wire to timber gaps. This gives you a glass like look over the top of the copper wire.
This is the easiest copper DIY project that looks cool because you also have timber. You could turn this timber with your design into something creative also like a table.
Tools You Need To Make Copper Wire Art
- Tin snips
- A good carving chisel set. Click Here to find the best carving knife in my chisel guide
- A hand plane or belt sander
- A hand saw or a electric circular saw for DIY work I recommend getting a battery-powered cordless circular saw as it is portable and safer to use. Click Here to read my light-weight circular saw review.
Copper Pipe Art
You can also use copper pipes in your artwork if you need the shape of a cylinder. You could cut a copper tube in half if you want and have a perfect half circle shape.
Copper tubes are best used for building an outside wind chime. Copper pipes are easy to source from your local hardware store as its commonly used for hot water piping. Simply cut a few tubes at different lengths, and hang them on a string.
For copper pipes you cannot cut them with tin snips like you can easily with copper sheets. You need to use an angle grinder or a fine tooth hack-saw works fine.
Copper Roof Art
Here is copper art built into a roof, to create an opening inside a courtyard. It goes well with shist blocks and matches the color of cedar wood.
The above examples are something you could craft yourself if you put your mind to it. I understand not everyone knows how to do the welding equipment, but if you can’t for whatever reason and you still want to make copper art, just like every DIY task don’t think too much about, what you don’t think you can do. just start doing it.
When people who know what to do, see someone else putting in the effort of self-learning, other passionate people will want to help you.
When you just start building, you will always find a way. A way always presents itself be that finding someone local who can help you, or possibly teaching you if you ask nicely when it comes to the end of the project and you’re ready for someone’s time.
Here is a video on youtube on how to set up an oxy acetylene torch:
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