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Fold-formed metal brooch

Create a organic metal brooch (or pendant) in the shape of a seed pod, using basic metal-smithing techniques and a common kitchen appliance – an electric burner!
Have you wanted to try fold forming, but constraints from your landlord or fear of an open flame kept you away? Now you can try your hand at fold forming, torch-free. Yes, torch-free. Your source of heat for annealing will come from an electric coil-style single burner unit.

These units are inexpensive and easy to find, and there is no dangerous flame to worry about. But keep in mind that the coil burners will not produce enough heat when the piece requires multiple folded layers. To produce a piece using multiple folded layers, you would need to use a torch.  

Although you are not going to be using an open flame for the annealing process, you  still need to adhere to basic studio safety.  If you are like me and do most of your work from your kitchen table, you’ll need to consider whether your work is subject to visits from pets. I have very curious kitties that always need to be “in the know.”  If you do not have a dedicated space that can be closed off to pet inspections, make sure you take into consideration the following tips:

NEVER leave the unit unattended. Even during the cooling down process, stay by the unit. No one wants a surprise pet inspection!

Remember to carefully read the paperwork that comes with your unit. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for safety, and use good common sense. 

Protective eyewear is recommended when using tools to hammer, as well as when cutting wire.  
 
SUPPLIES
  • 2 1⁄2 x 5-in. (6.4 x 13 cm) 24-gauge copper sheet
  • 5 8 mm beads of your choice
  • 6 in. (15 cm) 18-gauge bronze or 19-gauge stainless steel wire

TOOLS

  • Electric coil-style burner
  • Metal cutting shears
  • Ruler
  • Permanent marker, fine point
  • Index card 
  • Pencil
  • Scissors
  • Flexible shaft machine or pin vise
  • Automatic or manual center punch
  • # 56 drill bit
  • Steel bench block
  • Bench pin 
  • Chisel type hammer
  • Rubber or rawhide mallet
  • Duckbill or flat nose pliers
  • Metal file
  • Round nose pliers
  • Wire cutters
  • Brass brush
  • 360 and 600 grit sandpaper or sanding sticks

Electric coil burner is available at Bed, Bath and Beyond or CVS/Pharmacy.

Copper, bronze wire, beads, and other tools are available from any jewelry supplier or national craft chain.

INSTRUCTIONS

FoldFormed Metal Brooch Photo A
Photo A
1. Using the ruler and permanent marker, measure 1 x 4-in. (2.5 x 10 cm) and 1 1⁄2 x 4 1⁄2-in. (3.8 x 11.4 cm) strips on the copper sheet. (PHOTO A)

2. Cut out the strips using metal shears.
FoldFormed Metal Brooch Photo B
Photo B
3. Position the electric coil burner unit in a safe area, and place the copper strips on the coils, making sure you are placing them so they make the most contact with the coils. Turn the heating dial to high. As the coils heat, you will see the transformation in the copper strips. When they turn black and scale appears, turn the burner unit off and let them cool. (PHOTO B)
FoldFormed Metal Brooch Photo C
Photo C
4. After the pieces are cool, remove them from the burner and wash the fire scale off using soap and water.  The green scrubby backside of a sponge may help. Dry thoroughly.  

5. Using the ruler and permanent marker, find the center on each strip the long way. (1⁄2 in./1.3 cm and 3⁄4 in./1.9 cm respectively)  Mark and draw a line. (PHOTO C)
FoldFormed Metal Brooch Photo D
Photo D
6. Using duck-bill or flat nose pliers, begin to crease one piece at a time, folding in half at the line you marked. (PHOTO D)

7. Lay the pieces on a steel bench block and hammer flat with the rubber or rawhide mallet.
FoldFormed Metal Brooch Photo E
Photo E
8. To prepare a pattern for the ends of the folded pieces, measure and cut 1⁄2 x 4-in. (1.3 x 10 cm) and  3⁄4 x 4 1⁄2-in. (1.9 x 11.4 cm) strips from an index card. On one end, draw an arc with a pencil, this will be the pattern for the end of the pod. Using scissors, cut along the line. (PHOTO E)
FoldFormed Metal Brooch Photo F
Photo F

9. Transfer this pattern to the other piece of index card and cut along the line. Now, fold the pieces in half, matching the ends. Cut the other end to match. (PHOTO F)

10. Lay the index card strips on the copper pieces and trace the arcs using the permanent marker.

11. Using metal shears, cut out the arcs on the copper pieces.  You don’t need to worry about filing the metal smooth yet, as you will be filing after forming.


12. Anneal the pieces as in Step 3.

FoldFormed Metal Brooch Photo G
Photo G
13. Lay one piece at a time on the steel bench block. Beginning in the center, hammer as shown. Keep the hammer blows on the edge of the copper, as this will assure that the metal will curve nicely. Turn the piece and hammer the opposite edge. Flip and hammer to the other side, also along the fold. Repeat with the second piece. (PHOTO G)

14. Anneal as in Step 3. 

15. Repeat hammering as in Step 13, and anneal again as in Step 3. 
FoldFormed Metal Brooch Photo H
Photo H
16. When you are satisfied with the curve, begin to open the pieces using a blunt tool. (PHOTO H). Once you can grab the edges, finish opening the pieces with your fingers.

Tip: Sharpen a piece of 3/16-in. (5 mm) wooden dowel. This makes a great tool to gently pry open the fold.
FoldFormed Metal Brooch Photo I
Photo I
17. File the edges with a metal file and the sanding sticks until they are smooth, and buff them with a brass brush.  Using round nose pliers, curl the tips of the outer pod.  (PHOTO I)

Tip: If you prefer a shinier surface, you can pickle the pieces at this point.  A simple and safe pickle solution can be made using a salt-saturated white vinegar solution. Just stir table salt into vinegar until no more salt can be dissolved.
FoldFormed Metal Brooch Photo J
Photo J
18. To prepare the wire for the pin stem, make a right-angle bend 1-in. (2.5 cm) from the end, and slide the beads on the wire. Make another bend in the wire to keep the beads snug. (PHOTO J)
FoldFormed Metal Brooch Photo K
Photo K
19. Center the bead/wire assembly on the smaller pod, and make a mark off the center line of the pod shape that aligns with the ends of the bent wire. (PHOTO K)
FoldFormed Metal Brooch Photo L
Photo L
20. Use the center punch to mark the holes and drill using the #56 drill bit in a pin vise or flexible shaft machine.   (PHOTO L)

21. Place the small pod on the larger one and transfer the hole pattern. Drill as in step 20.

22. Remove any burrs from drilling with the sanding sticks.
FoldFormed Metal Brooch Photo M
Photo M
23. Align the holes in the pod shapes and thread the wires through. (PHOTO M)
FoldFormed Metal Brooch Photo N
Photo N
24. To make the keeper, bend the short wire towards the edge. Using round nose pliers, make a half round bend. Trim as necessary and file the cut end flat. (PHOTO N)
FoldFormed Metal Brooch Photo O
Photo O
25. Make a loop in the pin stem wire as shown using round nose pliers. (PHOTO O)
FoldFormed Metal Brooch Photo P
Photo P
26. Hook the pin stem wire under the opposite bend and trim to approximately 1/8 in. (3 mm) beyond the keeper. Lay the pin stem wire on a bench pin and file to a point. File smooth with sanding sticks. (PHOTO P)

27. Adjust the pin stem wire as necessary.
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