Colorful Copper: Make Square Rings Using Enamel or Resin and Hardware-Store Copper Pipe
Just in time for summer, these cool square rings by Laurel Nathanson are colorful, hip, and perfect for stacking. And get this: they’re made from plain old copper pipes from the hardware store! Whether you embellish yours with enamel or paper and resin, they’re deceptively simple and inexpensive to make, so you can make one to go with every outfit this summer. And copper jewelry making is easy and affordable, perfect for beginners!
Square Copper Pipe Rings
By Laurel Nathanson
My recent obsession with copper pipe stems from my explorations of using it to create solder-free bezels for resin. I have been annealing the pipe and forming it over mandrels to create different shapes, and I was thrilled to discover that 3/4-inch pipe makes a perfect square ring (about size 6-1/2).
Here are the basic steps for making the square ring, along with two cool ways you can add color to the metal rings: with torch-fired enamel and resin.
1. Using a pipe cutter from the hardware store (or your jeweler’s saw), cut 3/4-inch copper pipe into segments of varying widths. Editor’s note: Remember that wide-band rings need to be larger than your normal ring size.
2. Use a half-round file to remove the sharp edge inside the pipe.
3. Anneal the segments.
4. Using a square mandrel, force a copper ring as far as it will go up the mandrel. Using a plastic mallet, hit one side, rotate 90 degrees, hit that side, rotate 90 degrees, etc. Always push your ring up the mandrel as you keep rotating. It becomes perfectly square after a few rotations.
5. Sand to finish the metal and texture your square ring, if desired. To texture, simply put it back onto the mandrel and hammer and/or metal stamp it. Here are some examples of the texture and stamps on finished rings.
After you’ve formed the square rings and textured them if you like, you can add color with enamel or paper and resin.
I enamel only one side, because enamel is pretty vulnerable on a ring.
You can play around with different methods of applying the enamel (I sift mine on, above) and then fire from below inside a fire brick furnace structure (or follow your own torch or kiln enameling technique).
For adding color with resin:
I experimented with paper, glitter, and pigments. Again, I did only one side, mainly because with the resin, I had to wait 24 hours for one side to cure before doing another side and I wanted to wear them as soon as possible!
Tips for Applying Resin to Square Rings
I made sure to have a small border of metal around the paper, so the resin has more than just the paper to adhere to.
I glue the small rectangle to the ring, then I apply at least two coats of glue to seal and protect the paper from absorbing the resin (below, left).
Be careful not to apply too much resin, or it will spill down the sides. Use just enough resin to get a little doming action (below).
My copper square rings are my new favorite thing. I wear them all the time, and my finger does not turn green, but I suspect if it did, I wouldn’t care anyway! —Laurel
About the designer: Laurel Nathanson is an artist, metalsmith, and high school shop teacher. Her jewelry line, Sugarcoat, combines her roots as a jeweler with her passion for pattern and surface design. She lives in a purple house in Oakland, California, with her beloved Bichons, Bonnie and Bailey. Learn more about Laurel and see her work on her website, jewelry shop, and Facebook page. Laurel is also the creative mind behind these popular tutorials: