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Western copper bracelet

The striking contrast between patterned copper and silver wire creates a bracelet with a tooled look

Elaborately engraved and stamped belt buckles, spurs, and horse bridles made of silver and copper are part of the tooled-jewelry tradition of the American West. To create the look of a silver-and-tooled-copper bracelet, you will use patterned copper strip in this project. Unlike hand-engraved and stamped metal, the manufactured patterned copper strip is available in several styles and you don’t need extensive training to learn how to use it. Since the wire and patterned copper are also available in gold-filled, you can make variations of the featured bracelet, using different metal colors. Before you start, clean the patterned copper strip with a liquid jewelry cleaner or a polishing cloth.

SUPPLIES

  • Patterned copper wire strip: 7 in. (17.8 cm) 
  • Sterling silver wire: 
    • 20-gauge (0.8 mm), square, half-hard, 4 ft. (1.2 m)
    • 20-gauge (0.8 mm), half-round, half-hard, 18 in. (45.7 cm)
    • 18-gauge (1.0 mm), round, half-hard, 3 in. (76 mm) 
  • Metal shears: heavy duty; or jeweler’s saw, 2/0 blades
  • Bench pin
  • Hand file: flat 2-cut
  • Wooden dowel: 1⁄2-in. (13 mm) diameter, 3 in. (76 mm)
  • Glue
  • Felt
  • Marker: dry-erase or permanent
  • Pliers: bentnose or chainnose; concave round forming; flatnose; roundnose
  • Bench vise
  • Pin vise
  • Masking tape: 1⁄4 in. (6.5 mm) wide
  • Cutting mat: ruled
  • Polishing cloth
  • Rubbing alcohol (optional)
  • Flush cutters

INSTRUCTIONS

Western copper bracelet 1
Photo 1
Western copper bracelet 2
Photo 2

Prepare the copper strip. For a 7-in. (17.8 cm) bracelet, cut a 6-in. (15.2 cm) piece of patterned copper strip, using heavy-duty metal shears or a jeweler’s saw with 2/0 blades. The copper strip should be 1 in. (25.5 mm) shorter than the desired length of the finished bracelet. File both ends of the copper strip to give them a gentle curve with no sharp edges [PHOTO 1]. 

Prepare the square silver wire. Cut one 15-in. (38.1 cm) piece and four 7-in. (17.8 cm) pieces of 20-gauge (0.8 mm) square wire. To make an 8-in. (20.3 cm) bracelet, increase all measurements by 1 in. (25.5 mm), and for a 6-in. (15.2 cm) bracelet, decrease all measurements by 1 in. (25.5 mm). Straighten the square wire to ensure that you measure the wire accurately and to make assembling the bracelet easier. 

 
Western copper bracelet 3
Photo 3
Western copper bracelet 4
Photo 4

Make a U-shaped wire frame. Mark the center of the 15-in. (38.1 cm) wire with a marker. Place the center of the wire in forming pliers at the widest part of the jaw, and squeeze [PHOTO 2]. Use your fingers to press the wire around the jaw, making a U [PHOTO 3] that is wide enough to frame the copper strip. Set the U-shaped frame aside.


Western copper bracelet 5
Photo 5
Western copper bracelet 6
Photo 6

Make the looped wires. Use the smaller tip of the forming pliers [PHOTO 4] to make a closed loop at one end of each 7-in. (17.8 cm) wire [PHOTO 5].

Western copper bracelet 7
Photo 7
Western copper bracelet 8
Photo 8

Assemble the wires. Place the copper strip inside the U frame. Lay the looped wires on each side, forming two tiers [PHOTO 6]. Tape the wires and the strip down. Mark each wire at the point where the copper strip ends [PHOTO 7], and then remove the tape. 

Twist the square wire. Secure the U frame in a bench vise [PHOTO 8]. Use a pin vise to grasp the lower wire end. Thread the wire end through the pin vise until the tool is 1 1⁄2 in. (38 mm) from the bench vise [PHOTO 9]. Tighten the pin vise and rotate it. It doesn’t matter which direction you rotate in as long as you maintain the same direction for both sides of the U frame.

Western copper bracelet 9
Photo 9
Western copper bracelet 10
Photo 10

Make six rotations, then loosen the pin vise and move it 1 1⁄2 in. (38 mm) down the wire. Tighten the pin vise and make six more rotations. Maintain even tension on the wire while rotating to get a consistent twist. 

Continue rotating and relocating the pin vise until you reach the end marks. Repeat the twisting procedure on the other side of the U frame [PHOTO 10]. Be sure you rotate in the same direction for each wire.

 
Western copper bracelet 11
Photo 11
Western copper bracelet 12
Photo 12

Repeat to twist two of the 7-in. (17.8 cm) looped wires, placing the looped end of the wire in the bench vise [PHOTO 11] and twist-ing until you reach the end mark.

Mark the wires. Place the copper strip inside the U frame. On each side of the U frame, place a straight square wire and a twisted wire. Wrap masking tape around all the wires to hold them together. 

Place the assembly, back side up, on a ruled cutting mat. Find the midpoint of the copper strip and mark it with a marker. Measure and mark the copper strip 1 1⁄4 in. (32 mm) from each side of the midpoint. 

Mark the copper strip just below each of the tiered loops. At the open end of the assembly, mark the copper strip 1⁄4 in. (6.5 mm) from its end [PHOTO 12]. You will wrap the bracelet at each mark.

For complete project instructions, click here to download & print this PDF

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