Make Friends with Your Electrician
by Nancy Vaughan.
(La Mesa, California USA)
Last spring after finishing a remodeling job that included some electrical work the contractor asked me if I had any use for the leftover pieces of copper wire.
I’m in favor of recycling and re-purposing so you can imagine all of the ideas that started forming in my mind.
The wire was quite heavy, 12 gauge, but very bendable.
I started out making simple pendants then moved on to more and more complex pendant designs.
Before long I was out of wire.
So I began calling around to various home improvement centers to see what gauges of wire they had. Home Depot to the rescue!
When I went to my local Home Depot I found just what I wanted, 12ga bare copper wire.
The gentleman who measured and cut the wire was a bit startled when I ask for 25 feet. He was curious about how I planned to use it and I told him, “I’m going to use it to make jewelry.”
He just raised his eyebrows and cut the wire.
To date I’ve used over 50 feet of wire.
Pendants were the first things I made.
Then I started making bracelets. The first bracelets were simple wave cuffs with various kinds and colors of beads.
After that I made a few with silver and some with brass, some with little waves and other with bigger waves.
My next step was to incorporate circles of wire into various designs. The most recent designs are made with a series of continuous circles that are formed around a sharpie pen.
The only other tools used are a pair of round nose pliers for the small loops and my fingers.
I have a cheap pair of needle nose pliers with heavily padded jaws to make bigger loops and curves but I don’t generally use them on the circle cuffs.
It has been a grand adventure into the world of electrical wire.
It really does pay to make friends with your electrician.
I love what you’re doing with copper wire, Nancy!
Very nice work, and thank you so much for sharing your great story – and great tip.
by: Patricia C Vener
I have been dragging along a huge spool of insulated copper wire thinking that someday I would strip off the insulation and start playing with the stuff to see if I could use it in my work. It’s so cool to see that you have tried it first and I see that it will work. 🙂
Love the Design!!
by: Michelle Buettner
Love this bracelet design and what a great way to ‘go green’ and recycle and use materials that might have been thrown out!
by: Angie S
Your bracelet is WONDERFUL!
I have made some awesome pendants with copper wire, and hammer them flat. It enhances the look, and people never guess the wire is from the electrician.I’m wanting to experiment with colouring and discolouring copper. Does anyone know how to get that rainbow effect on copper?
Love Home Depot!!
by: Lisa Kewish
We’ve been purchasing copper wire from Home Depot for quite some time…thus far, the clerks that cut the wire have become fascinated when we tell them we use them for jewelry!
Another fun thing…copper pipes. Get a pipe cutter and you can cut some really fun loops. Our hoop earrings made from copper pipe is a HUGE hit.
(hmm…thinking I need to send in some pics of my work with copper pipe!)
Copper Washers Work Well, too!
by: Virginia Vivier
Great tips on recycling copper wire.
I went to Harbor Freight and bought a set of copper washers in a wide variety of sizes for about $9. I put them through my rolling mill to distort the shapes and they make great necklaces and bracelets.
Here is a link to photos. If the link doesn’t work, you can see them on my website – www.esprit-mystique.com.
Copper washer bracelet: http://www.esprit-mystique.com/bracelets.html
Copper washer necklace: http://www.esprit-mystique.com/necklaces.html
someone asked how to get the rainbow affect on copper…you’ll need a torch, but it’s easy…just get it wet (yeah, plain water!), then hit it with the flame from the torch to “dry” it and it turns those funky colors.Totally unpredictable and each one different.
MORE great sources for copper wire!
by: Lianne – The Grand Fern Alley
We’ve got our creative juices runnin’ now! 🙂 And here’s some more “goldmines”…maybe I should say COPPER mines…to look into! If you’ve got a broken vacuum cleaner around, get that screw driver out and dig into the motor of it. There’s a BUNCH of copper wire in there! My hubby tells me it’s coated so it won’t tarnish (no patina-ing this, sorry ladies), but it’s a cool color and works great in jewelry. My hubby has learned living with me not to throw anything away that’s broken without looking inside for treasures. 🙂 One day he took apart a big battery charger (like a car battery charger) that had died. There was at least 3 different gauges of wire inside, with 20-30 feet of each gauge – all for a little time to take the thing apart. Have fun, girls!
Recycled Copper wire
My brother is an electrician and he gives me loads of old copper wire that he doesn’t need.
He said if he didn’t take it it would just be thrown out as garbage.
So it makes me feel good that I am recycling and helping the planet whilst making beautiful pieces of jewellery with it.
by: Vicki Dorling
Aww I love that cuff… I only work with Silver, but have often thought about copper because its cheaper and I like the colour!!! But I don’t know much about it, other than from a healing point of view. Do you have to coat it in anything to stop it turning that funny green colour and tarnishing?
Thank u 🙂
It really depends on your skin type. Some people react to copper and in turn that makes there skin go green. You can cover it in varnish to stop this happening if you don’t like it.
by: Nancy Vaughan
I just read Virginia’s comments on using copper pipe for making jewelry. At different times I have thought about doing it but there was always another project. However, I’ll check out her web site. I can just see it now…plumbing department, Home Depot, “You going to do what with this pipe?”
Thank you Natalia for that, Ill give it a go!
Changing the color of copper
by: Mara Nesbitt
I’ve not tried it yet, but I’ve read about a couple of ways to change the color of copper.
The first way is based on an older method: burying the copper piece where horses pee. I guess that would be the hay in a stable, but since I’m not a horse person I’m not positive. In any case I think it would be difficult to place and retrieve it without the jewelry or your hands getting hurt.
The adapted way is to bury the jewelry in your cat’s litter box. It’s the urine that makes the color changes, not the hay. My only concern is that I’d forget to retrieve the piece before dumping the litter!
The second method is by using some “Miracle Grow” plant food. I didn’t get a dilution ratio on this, but you could play around with the formula. I think I’d try a one to one ratio with water to start with.
What will your copper look like after you try one of these methods? Beats me, but since copper is inexpensive enough to play with, you could experiment to your heart’s content.
I don’t have any copper sheet metal, so I thought I’d hammer some wire flat and put it in my cat’s box. Just haven’t tried it yet. Have fun!
by: Mike Cherone
Wow, that is a really great idea. My wife and I are in the Spring, TX area and we recently had some work done by Mister Sparky. We were so delighted by the job that they did that my wife wants to send the tech something to say thank you. This will be a great idea!!
Where I get my copper wire
I get my copper at the scrap yard. I just got a 24 by 24 inch sheet of copper and about 40 feet of wire free. 3 pounds of copper in all. The sheet is 40 dollars at Menards. It had a little dirt and some dings in it.
They also have aluminuim wire as well. Pick through for some clean wire and head home.
Same experience with copper!
by: Karen Kelsky
I also found copper and aluminum wire at the hardware store and leftover scraps at the building supply recycle site.
I make earrings just like the bracelet you posted here, and then I fill in those circles with handmade Japanese washi paper in different colors. It’s really pretty!
Also in the recycling mode—i use old knitting needles as my mandrels for wire wrapping. Some of them come up to almost an inch wide, and down to tiny skinny embroidery needles.
My only complaint about copper is that it can sometimes tarnish a black-grey, which I don’t like. it seems that a lot of my paper finishing and sealing products react badly with the copper. But so far my standby of Paverpol and Acrylic spray sealer seem to work.
by: Diann In L.A.
I LOVE the bracelet!
Recently, our building was re-piped with copper pipes. I found some pieces and asked a workman if they had more scrap. I was given pieces of pipe, but have no idea how to cut it. (I thought of cutting it into a series of circles of various widths, to make pendants). Can anyone recommend what type of tools and equipment I would need to cut it and smooth it out? What about a torch?… and where to go to get those supplies? Thanks for any advice you can give me.
I had some electircal work done at home and I have 2 rolls of wire left. I still have it in the leftover box. Now I can put it to use. Thank you so much for posting this information. Love your bracelet.
Electrians are our friends
I got lucky as my brother in law is an electrian. He shared different size wire with me and I’ve been having a blast with it since. Love making free hand designs with it and adding silver in the mix. Making a trip to the hardware store is another handy jewelry supply stop. Let your imagination go wild.
If it’s so maleable, shouldn’t you have to harden it? I’m eager to try it, but when I tried something similar with silver, it didn’t hold its shape around the wrist.
How to work harden silver and copper
by: Virginia Vivier
If you want to work harden silver or copper, just tap it several times with a rubber tipped hammer. You can find them at Harbor Freight or Home Depot. The rubber won’t mar the surface but will compress the crystals in the metal so it will retain its shape. Fine silver is softer than sterling silver, so it will always be more flexible. Perhaps the metal was very thin gauge. Try a heavier (thicker) gauge next time.
Hope this helps!
Sunny & Hot Tucson, AZ