Make these beautiful earrings in about an hour. Friends and family will admire the results of the fold forming method, and it may become your favorite metal smith technique. Once you learn the basic steps, your creativity is unlimited. These earrings will be made from two pieces of sheet copper. The technique fold forming, involves forging, annealing, folding and unfolding the copper. Here are some basic pointers to understand before you begin fold forming.
1. Forging, or hammering, will stretch and curve the copper.
2. The longer you hammer and work with your piece the more it becomes “work hardened.”
3. Annealing is the process of heating the metal once it has work hardened. Heat changes the crystalline structure of the piece, and makes it easy to fold and manipulate.
4. After heating the metal it is immediately quenched to cool.
5. As you resume working with the metal and it hardens again, the annealing process is repeated.
First, gather your supplies together and organize and set up your work area. It is always a good idea to carefully read through, and review each step of the process thoroughly before beginning.
Tools and Materials
-Two 24-gauge, 2 inch by 1 ˝ inches pieces of copper.
-Medium point permanent black marker to draw your design.
-Jeweler's saw or metal shear's to cut out your design.
-Nylon or rawhide flat face hammer to flatten your copper.
-Border or chasing hammer to forge your pieces.
-Torch to anneal the pieces.
-Firing brick on a non-flammable surface to support the metal.
-Container of water to quench the pieces.
-Bench block or an iron or steel surface for hammering the metal.
-Flat needle file and fine grit sanding paper to remove any rough edges.
-Wax sealant to be used in the final step.
Always use proper safety precautions. An apron will protect your clothing. Of course, always wear your safety glasses! A fire extinguisher should always be within reach when working with an open flame. You will use firing bricks on a non-flammable surface to hold your work when using your torch.
*Fold Each Copper Piece
Using your fingers, fold each piece of copper in half lengthwise. Now you should have two pieces of copper two inches long at the fold and three quarters inches wide. Place the two pieces of copper on your bench block. Now gently tap the copper with your nylon or rawhide hammer until your folded piece it is flat.
*Draw and Cut Out Your Design
Using the permanent marker, draw a vertical half leaf shape on each piece. Start at the top of the fold curving out towards the raw edges and end at the bottom edge of the fold. Now, cut out the design with a jeweler’s saw or metal shears. I prefer to use metal shears, since the pieces are small.
*Filing the Edges
Remove any burrs or sharp edges and slightly round both ends of your half leaf shape with your flat needle file. Remember to apply pressure only on the forward movements when filing the metal.
*Anneal the Pieces
You have worked with the copper pieces quite a bit now, and they have probably become work hardened. Your next step is to anneal the copper. Place your copper on the firing brick, turn your torch on high and begin running the flame up and down the copper. Remove the flame when the copper turns bright red. Let the pieces rest a minute. Then, pick up the pieces with your tweezers and place them in the water. (The container of water should be to the side of the annealing area so you do not reach over your torching area.) Retrieve your pieces from the water and pat dry.
TIP: When annealing with the torch, heat the piece as quickly as possible to minimize fire scale or staining. The hottest part of the flame is the blue tip and is in the middle of the flame. Run the blue tip of the flame quickly and evenly up and down and the metal.
Now, to begin forging, place one of the folded pieces on your bench block. With your border or chasing hammer strike your copper with an even motion, moving up and down the piece and towards the folded edge, away from the raw edge. Starting at the center, hammer to the top of the piece and back down to the center. Repeat the process from the center towards the bottom of the piece. Turn your piece over and repeat. Continue these steps until the copper begins curving towards the fold. As the metal curves it becomes and hard and you will anneal again. I prefer a crescent moon shape and continue hammering and annealing the piece until it stretches into that shape. Repeat these steps on the second piece of metal.
*Unfolding your Leaf
Now, anneal and quench the pieces once more. Next, very carefully attempt to unfold your pieces. You may use your fingers. If this is too difficult, a butter knife works well. Wedge the knife between the edges and carefully pry the piece open trying not to scratch the copper. Once it is open, use your fingers to pull the edges away from the fold, forming an open leaf. You may choose to give the leaf a slight twist.
TIP: If your leaf does not open easily, you may have to anneal and quench again to soften the metal.
Using a divot, make an indentation on the fold near the top of your piece where your ear wire will be placed. Use your hole punch or a hand drill to complete the hole. Lightly sand around the finished hole to remove any burrs or sharp edges.
Lightly file or sand all edges to remove any burrs or sharp areas. You can apply a finishing wax or buff out the leaf with a polishing cloth. Insert your ear wires and enjoy.
Let us know if you enjoyed this project. Any tips or comments that you can share with the readers can be posted on the Jewelry Making Site’s forum page.