Saturday, 16 February 2013

Experiments with foil

Do you remember using the copper etching kits when you were a kid?  Maybe you have to be a baby boomer because I haven't seen them for years.  You got a box with a sheet of copper, tracing paper, a design, wooden sticks to emboss and repousse and a little vial of solution to darken the low spots.  Sound familiar?
They've been on my mind for some time because I wanted the copper.  Something light enough in gauge to be able to do the embossing and repoussing (is that a word?) to make some really interesting jewellery pieces.  No luck at all, anywhere, until John Rasmussen suggested Whimsie Studio, which has not only copper, but brass and aluminum!  Woo Hoo, success at last, I thought.  And then found out that Whimsie will not export.  So John stepped up and offered to be the intermediary, shipping-wise, which he did.  And because I couldn't order direct, instead of ordering small in case my ideas didn't work, I ordered a roll each of copper and brass.  I might be doing all sorts of copper and brass embellishments around the house.

First step was to cut a piece of copper foil about an inch-and-a-half square and see if it was going to be easy to do the stuff.  You know, the in and out stuff.  Embossing and that other word that spell-check doesn't like.  A pencil was perfect for drawing the design, the tools were little double-ended metal ball-type things that came from the hobby section of the dollar store.  I have no idea what they were originally intended for but they were just the ticket here for the rubbing.  I used the sharp end of a pair of compasses carefully over the pencil drawing to line the design.  The compass was pretty handy too, for making the double line even all the way around, even though this was just an experiment.

 Second step was to see if I could solder the foil sheet onto a sheet of heavier copper.  I wasn't sure if the heat required to melt solder would also melt the foil sheet and I'm a rank amateur at the soldering business so anything is possible. 

The first attempt, I used extra easy solder pieces and sweat soldered it onto the back of the foil piece.  I was using my mini-torch and it's almost out of juice so it melted the solder, didn't melt the foil but wasn't hot enough to heat the copper backing enough to make the transfer and hold the two pieces together.

Having learned the hard way that dirty solder will not melt and will not stick, I took my foil piece to the kitchen sink and scrubbed it with a piece of steel wool.  Unfortunately, I forgot that the heat had made the little piece butter soft and I scrubbed away part of my design before I realized what I was doing.

I used a piece of sandpaper (carefully) to finish cleaning both pieces and tried it again with a plumbers torch and some easy paste solder.  This time the two pieces soldered together, although on a "good" piece, I'd worry more about all the edges being perfectly flat.  Two big lessons learned here:  clean with sandpaper GENTLY and use less paste solder, further inside the top piece, so that it doesn't squish out when it melts.
The blacking was just done with a black sharpie with a quick sanding, just so that I could see what a finished piece would kinda look like. 

Conclusion?  This is going to open up some fun possibilities for me if I take my time and remember the lessons learned.  Copper backing will work and leather too, although that might be a whole different experiment! 


  1. Just to make one point, I am NOT a commercial reshipper. This was done for a good friend. Great work Susan.

  2. Lovely job Ma'am! Can't wait to see what else you come up with!!