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Copper earrings

A hardware-store staple goes glam with texture and a no-fuss patina.
Earrings 2
Whether you hammer or file your tubing, adding texture takes copper to a whole new level.

With silver and gold prices still inflated, it’s smart to harvest copper tubing from your local hardware store. Texture and trim the metal to make tube beads, then have some fun coloring to create a patina in the recesses. Now you’re set to string simple earrings! 

MATERIALS

pair of earrings

  • at least 6 in. (15 cm) copper tubing, 1⁄4–3⁄8-in. (6 mm–1 cm) diameter
  • 4–6 6–8 mm metal, gemstone, or crystal rondelles, round beads, or bicone beads
  • 7 in. (18 cm) 22-gauge wire (optional)
  • 2 2-in. (5 cm) head pins
  • pair of earring findings
  • bench block or anvil
  • clear, non-yellowing satin urethane
  • spray for metals, such as Minwax
  • Helmsman Spar Urethane Clear Satin spray or Rust-Oleum Ultra Cover Satin clear spray
  • metal file
  • permanent marker in the color of your choice
  • polishing cloth or paper towel
  • scrap flexible beading wire
  • texture hammer, cross-peen hammer, or ball-peen hammer
  • wire clothes hanger
  • chainnose pliers
  • roundnose pliers
  • tube-holding or tube-cutting pliers (optional)
  • tube cutter
  • wire cutters

Copper tubing and tube cutter may be found at hardware stores.

INSTRUCTIONS
Copper earrings_image a
Photo a
Copper earrings_image b
Photo b

1. Place one end of the tubing on a bench block or anvil. Using a texture hammer or the peen (back end) of a cross-peen or ball-peen hammer, gently strike the end of the tubing to texture the metal (PHOTO A). Hammer up to 1⁄4–1⁄2 in. (6 mm–1.3 cm) from the end, then slowly rotate the tubing to texture all the way around. Reposition the tubing on the bench block or anvil to add texture from another direction.

Alternatively, file the tubing with even strokes to create a subtle texture.

2. Using tube-holding pliers, tube-cutting pliers, or your fingers, grasp the tubing above the texture. Place the tubing in the tube cutter so the blade is positioned at the end of the texture. Tighten the screw of the cutter until the blade touches the tubing (PHOTO B), then tighten the screw a quarter turn more.

3. Holding the tubing still, rotate the tube cutter twice around the tubing. You should notice the blade scoring the surface of the metal. Tighten the screw a quarter turn more, and repeat. Continue tightening the screw and rotating the cutter until the end of the tubing falls off. File the ends of the textured tube.
Copper earrings_image c
Photo c
Fine gauge tubing note
Fine-gauge tubing may be too delicate to hammer, but it makes for a smooth and dainty version of these earrings.

4. Color the textured tube with a permanent marker (PHOTO C), then quickly rub it off with a polishing cloth or paper towel, leaving the color in the texture marks. Color the ends of the tube if desired.

5. Repeat steps 1–4 to make a second textured tube bead.

6. String a tube bead on a piece of scrap beading wire, and tie the ends of the wire together. Repeat with the other bead. String each beading wire loop over the neck of a clothes hanger, and arrange the beads so they do not touch. In a well-ventilated area, evenly spray the beads with clear satin urethane. This seals the copper, protecting it from oxidation. Let the beads dry overnight.

7. For a short earring dangle: On a head pin, string a 6–8 mm bead, a tube bead, and a 6–8 mm bead. Make a wrapped loop. Open the loop of an earring finding, attach the wrapped loop, and close the loop.

8. Repeat step 7 to make a second earring.
Tip!
  • Hammering too hard in Step 1 could cause the tubing to collapse.

  • If using a file to texture the tubing, larger file grooves will produce a rougher texture, which will show the marker better.

  • If you are using tubing finer than 1⁄4 in. (6 mm), use a jeweler’s saw to cut the tubing. Also, consider using tube-cutting pliers (like the ones shown in PHOTO B). They have a slit through the jaws to accommodate the saw blade.
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