Right about this time last year, Karen shared a great post/tutorial on using copper tubing in jewelry (here is the link). I vividly remember reading the post and dashing out the door to Home Depot to pick up some tubing of my own. While sitting at my bench the other day, I turned my head and realized I still had quite a bit of tubing left over...begging to be used in something new.
So, I set out to make some Big Hole Beads. Many artists use these beads with leather and thick cording, but I had other ideas. Here is a quick synopsis via photos of how I made the beads.
I used 1/4" copper tubing, found at Home Depot.
I wanted to try dapping the ends of the tubing, so I did not want the beads to be too big (long). I used my $7.00 tube cutter, also from Home Depot, to cut the tubing to length.
This "bead" is about 3/8" long. Now, when a tube cutter is used, the cut portion is not perfectly flat.
So, a couple of swipes with my flat file was in order.
Anneal the bead until red hot. I was going to attempt to add texture to the bead AND dap the ends, so I knew that I would have to anneal the metal several times. I let the red-hot copper air-cool instead of immediately quenching in water. Multiple annealing and quenching can make the metal brittle. Don't ask me how I know this....
To add texture, I slipped the bead on a thin center punch that I have sitting on my bench. A regular old nail would work, as well, Anything round and metal will work (my dapping punches were too thick). By slipping the bead onto a round metal "mandrel", it helps it maintain its round shape when adding texture. I just used the edge of my riveting hammer for this example.
If the bead becomes out of round from texturing, just anneal, air-cool, and slip it back on your round mandrel of choice. I had my plastic hammer ready - but just putting the softened/annealed bead on the mandrel and squeezing it down put the bead back in the round. A nail would have been perfect here, as my center punch is tapered, so I had to keep flipping the bead - just like when forming a ring on a ring mandrel.
To form a little anticlastic curve on either end of the bead, I simply found a dapping punch approximately the same size as the hole in the bead and gave it a few GENTLE whacks on my bench block (turn the bead often and be gentle with the hammer)!
I rather like this organic shape - slightly wonky but still round. Kinda rustic.
My intent is to use the Large Hole Beads on a bangle, as seen below (not yet polished or antiqued).
There are endless possibilities for adorning these little beads. The bead below was not dapped/ curved. Instead, I very carefully melted some silver scrap into a granule, flattened it with my hammer, sweat soldered a tiny pallet of solder, let it cool, FLATTEN AGAIN with the hammer, and soldered it to the bead.
The "first" bead I made - simply textured and dapped the ends.
I had some silver tubing on hand as well.
For the bead below, I dapped (no texture) the copper bead, soldered (I used paste solder here) just the end of a length of flattened 22 gauge sterling wire, cooled, "messy wrapped" around the bead, drew a ball on the end of the wire in my flame, and soldered the end down to the rest of the "messy" wrap.
If you use these beads for bangles, remember to slip the bead onto the bangle before you solder the bangle closed. :)
I actually drool when I mix my metals - love the look!
Only 45 more feet of copper tubing left to use up! :) :)
I hope you found this inspiring! Thanks for stopping by!