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Copper and polymer clay steampunk bracelet

Design and build a bracelet by using basic cold connections to mix and match found objects, base metals, and polymer components
Copper and polymer clay bracelet
The bracelet, including the clasp, is 8 1⁄4 in. (21.0 cm) long. The individual panels measure 1 3⁄8 x 1 in. (35 x 25.5 mm).

This inexpensive bracelet is a great project for beginning to intermediate skill levels. Have fun assembling copper segments, polymer clay, found objects and coins, or various metal components using cold connections. 

Polymer has been the medium I’ve used to make most of my jewelry. But in the last year, I’ve been learning more about metals to expand my range of possibilities. It has been great fun and now the challenge is finding the time to develop all the ideas that are swimming in my head.  

SUPPLIES

  • Copper sheet: 22- or 24-gauge (0.6 or 0.5 mm), 6 x 3 in. (15.2 x 7.6 cm)
  • Copper wire: 
    • 12-gauge (2.1 mm), 1 1⁄4 in. (32 mm)
    • 18-gauge (1.0 mm), 4 in. (10.2 cm)
  • Copper jump rings: 18-gauge (1.0 mm), 5–6 mm inside diameter, 18
  • Copper tubing (for rivets): 
    • 3⁄32 in. (2.4 mm), 2 in. (51 mm) 
    • 1⁄8 in. (3 mm), 1 in. (25.5 mm)
  • Copper disk: 20-gauge (0.8 mm), 1 in. (25.5 mm)
  • Polymer clay: black, 28 g
  • Charms, found objects, etc.
  • Sawing/piercing toolbox
  • Polymer clay toolbox
  • Hammering toolbox
  • Riveting toolbox
  • Annealing station: copper tongs, fire-resistant surface (soldering pad, firebrick, or charcoal block), torch
  • Liver of sulfur
  • Steel wool
  • Spray bottle
  • Dapping block and punches
  • Calipers
  • Wire cutters
  • Pliers: chainnose, roundnose

INSTRUCTIONS

Panels

Determine the bracelet length. Using a strip of paper that’s at least 1 in. (25.5 mm) wide, measure your wrist and add about 1⁄2 in. (13 mm) to allow length for the clasp to close comfortably.

Determine the size of the panels. The total length of your bracelet will be divided into seven panels, plus one panel for the loop half of a toggle clasp. There will be 1⁄16–1⁄8 in. (1.5–3 mm) of space between the panels, where they’ll be connected by jump rings. If you’re making the bracelet for a smaller wrist, you may want to make only six panels instead. 

My bracelet, including the clasp, is 8 1⁄4 in. (21.0 cm). Each panel is 1 3⁄8 x 1 in. (35 x 25.5 mm). My clasp panel is 1 3⁄8 x 5⁄8 in. (16 mm), with a roughly 1⁄4-in. (6.5 mm)-wide interior space to fit the toggle.

Copper and polymer clay bracelet 1
Photo 1
Copper and polymer clay bracelet 2
Photo 2

Cut out the panels. On a sheet of 22- or 24-gauge (0.6 or 0.5 mm) copper, mark the dimensions of the panels and clasp [PHOTO 1]. Using a jeweler’s saw with a 2/0 blade, cut out the panels [PHOTO 2]. Use a hand file to smooth the edges and round the corners of the panels.

Plan the texture and design components for each panel. Play with the design components for the top of each panel, mixing metals, charms, and found objects. Decide which panels to texture and patinate. 

For my center panel, I decided to make a domed copper disk. I wanted to use polymer as a unifying design element, so I decided which panels should have a polymer component. I’ll show you how to make these later.

Copper and polymer clay bracelet 3
Photo 3
Copper and polymer clay bracelet 4
Photo 4
Copper and polymer clay bracelet 5
Photo 5
Copper and polymer clay bracelet 6
Photo 6
Copper and polymer clay bracelet 7
Photo 7
Copper and polymer clay bracelet 8
Photo 8

Anneal and texture the panels. Anneal the copper panels with a torch. Then, texture them. Some texturing options include stamping, hammering, sanding, or passing the panel through a rolling mill with a textured material. I used the ball end of my chasing hammer to create a dimpled effect on my clasp panel [PHOTO 3].

NOTE: The texturing process may distort the shape of your panels. If necessary, file the edges to return them to their rounded rectangular form. 

Mark drill holes. Use a permanent marker to mark where you’ll drill holes for the jump rings that will connect the panels and clasp parts. The holes should be at least 1⁄8 in. (3 mm) in from the edge of the panels so that the border remains strong [PHOTO 4]. 

Mark one end panel with only three holes: two on the side where it will connect to the adjacent panel, and one in the center of the side where it will connect to the toggle bar. 

Draw diagonal lines from the corners of each panel to find its center point. 

Drill the holes. Use a center punch or an awl to make a dimple at each of the drill marks and at the center point on each panel. Using a 2.38 mm drill bit, drill through all the dimples. Use sandpaper to smooth any burs from the edges of the holes. Sand and file all edges and corners [PHOTO 5]. 

Pierce the clasp panel. Make a dimple inside the rectangle you marked for the hole in the clasp panel. Drill a hole through the dimple, and then pierce the inside of the panel. 

Patinate the panels. If you want some of your panels to be darker, patinate them with liver of sulfur [PHOTO 6]. Use steel wool to remove some of the patina and enhance the metal’s texture. 

TIP: I prefer to use liver of sulfur gel rather than lump form. The gel creates minimal waste when you’re patinating a small number of pieces.

Polymer components

I made black polymer components for five of the seven panels because it provided texture and contrast against the copper and gave the whole piece visual continuity.

Make a polymer clay sheet. Condition 28 g of black polymer clay, then run it through a pasta machine set to medium. Place the clay sheet on a rigid, nonstick work surface. 

Texture the clay sheet. Lightly mist a texture plate with water [PHOTO 7] to prevent the clay from sticking to the plate.

TIP: If you use natural materials, such as bark or coarse paper, to texture the clay, dust them with cornstarch to prevent the clay from sticking.

Place the texture sheet on top of the clay. Using an acrylic roller, roll over the texture sheet once using firm pressure [PHOTO 8]. 

NOTE: Your pattern may distort if you roll back and forth over the clay. If your texture isn’t satisfactory, pass the clay through the pasta machine again and start over. 

Cut out clay components. Using circle cutters, cut disks of clay to fit your design. Transfer the clay disks to a baking sheet or small ceramic tile, and bake the clay according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Allow the clay disks to cool.

Drill the clay components. Mark the centers of the clay disks, and use a 2.38 mm drill bit to drill a hole through the center of each disk. 

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