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Foldform mini copper stars

Easy, affordable earrings you can make tonight

Crease and pinch flat metal sheet to create dimension — this is the basic principle of foldforming. With its simple techniques, minimal tool requirements, forgiving tolerances, and the fun of instant gratification, you can see why metals artists embraced foldforming from the moment goldsmith Charles Lewton-Brain first pioneered this metal-shaping method. You’ll need just barely more than a scrap of metal sheet to make this pair of star-shaped earrings, using the most basic foldforming techniques. I used economical copper, but you could use brass, bronze, silver, or gold.

SUPPLIES

  • Copper sheet: 26-gauge (0.4 mm), 2 x 3 in. (51 x 76 mm)
  • Sterling silver:
  • 20-gauge (0.8 mm) wire: 3 in. (76 mm) (optional)
  • Pair of ear wires 
  • 4 mm beads: 2 (optional)
  • Wirework toolbox
  • Sawing/piercing toolbox
  • Finishing toolbox
  • Kitchen shears
  • Annealing setup: small butane torch, tongs, fire-resistant surface (soldering pad, firebrick, or charcoal block)
  • Bench vise: smooth jaws (optional)
  • Urethane spray: clear (optional)
  • Copper tubing: 3⁄8-in. (9.5 mm), 4 in. (10.2 cm) (optional)

INSTRUCTIONS

Foldform mini copper stars 1
Photo 1
Make squares. Cut 26-gauge (0.4 mm) copper sheet into two 11⁄4-in. (32 mm) squares. Because the copper sheet is thin, you don’t need to use a saw to cut it; you can use kitchen shears. Snip the tip off of each corner to remove any sharp points. Using a flat file, smooth the corners and edges to remove any burs [PHOTO 1].

Anneal the squares. Using your torch, anneal the squares, then quench them or let them air-cool.
Foldform mini copper stars 2
Photo 2
Make the first fold. Using your fingers, bend one square on the diagonal until two opposite corners meet [PHOTO 2]. 

Crease the first fold. Choose one end of the fold as the place where you’ll later drill a hole for an ear wire. Starting about 1⁄4 in. (6.5 mm) in from this end, you’ll need to pinch the fold to create a crease.
Foldform mini copper stars 3
Photo 3
There are three ways you can pinch the fold: Use flatnose pliers to gently pinch along the length of the fold, use the flat side of a chasing hammer on a bench block to lightly flatten the fold, or squeeze the fold in a smooth-jawed bench vise, leaving the 1⁄4-in. (6.5 mm) portion out of the jaws [PHOTO 3]. Repeat to bend and crease the other square.
Foldform mini copper stars 4
Photo 4
Anneal and open the squares. Anneal both creased squares. Quench them or let them air-cool. Using your fingers, open the squares, leaving the first creases intact [PHOTO 4].
Foldform mini copper stars 5
Photo 5
Make the second fold. Using your fingers, bend each square on the opposing diagonal so that the two corners meet [PHOTO 5].
Foldform mini copper stars 6
Photo 6
Crease the second fold. Using flatnose pliers, gently pinch the second fold on each side of the first crease [PHOTO 6]. Do not pinch the center. Repeat to bend and crease the other square.

Anneal and open the squares. Anneal both squares. Quench them or let them air-cool. Using your fingers, gently open the squares, leaving both creases intact.
Foldform mini copper stars 7
Photo 7
Shape the stars. Working with the creases, use roundnose pliers to curve each side of your squares inward [PHOTO 7] until you’ve formed them into four-pointed stars. Refine the shapes as needed with your fingers and pliers. Use a burnisher to smooth and highlight the edges.
Foldform mini copper stars 8
Photo 8
Drill the ear wire holes. On the un-creased corner of one star, use an awl or center punch to make a small dent approximately 1⁄8 in. (3 mm) from the corner [PHOTO 8]. Using a 1.5 mm drill bit, drill a hole at this dent. If necessary, smooth the hole with needle files or sandpaper. Repeat for the other star. 
Foldform mini copper stars 9
Photo 9
Add a patina (optional). Apply your desired patina to the foldformed stars according to the manufacturer’s instructions. I used a simple fuming method to patinate mine. Allow the patina to dry completely. In a well-ventilated area, apply two to three light coats of a high-quality clear spray urethane to seal the patina.

Shine the stars (optional). If you didn’t patinate and seal the stars, use a brass brush and soapy water to burnish the interior of each [PHOTO 9] to bring out the shine. 
To better reach the interiors of the stars, I used a scaled-down, homemade brass brush. Learn how to make your own in “Make a Micro Brass Brush.”
Foldform mini copper stars 10
Photo 10
Make the bead components (optional). Use wire cutters to cut two 1 1⁄8-in. (29 mm) pieces of 20-gauge (0.8 mm) sterling silver wire.

At one end of a wire, use roundnose pliers to make a plain loop. Slide a 4 mm bead on the wire, and make another plain loop, perpendicular to the first. Repeat with the second wire. 

Assemble the earrings. Use the bead components to connect each star to an ear wire [PHOTO 10]. If you didn’t make bead components, attach your ear wires directly to the stars.
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More from the author

The author of this project, Judy Freyer Thompson, has a book available: Simple Metalwork Jewelry features 25 cool jewelry projects created using cold connections - no torch or soldering necessary. You will learn cutting, piercing, riveting, sawing, finishing, and dapping techniques while you make jewelry you'll love to wear. The projects using a variety of metal finishes with copper, brass, and silver, and the author provides suggested variations for all projects.

Purchase Judy’s book, Simple Metalwork Jewelry, here.

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