LumberJocks

Making Your Own Hardware, a Hammered Copper Finger Pull for the Tilt Front Laptop Computer Desk

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Blog entry by Mark A. DeCou posted 2505 days ago 14810 reads 9 times favorited 27 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Over the past few years, I have had the chance to build my own door handles out of copper for several commissioned art-furniture pieces. This is something I enjoy doing, and it gives my work another niche to offer.

I would not say that I am a coppersmith, as there is a lot that I don’t know about the process. I am almost completely self-taught, so there is bound to be a lot I haven’t learned yet. I bought two old reprinted books on the subject of coppersmithing, and I think I could have written them myself, as they weren’t much help.

I read an article in some magazine a few years back talking about making copper strap hinges for an Arts & Crafts Sideboard. If anyone knows the article I am talking about, please send me the reference, so that I can include it. I think it might have been WOOD magazine, but it has been too long ago, and I can’t find my copy of the article any more.

What I hope to do here is to demonstrate how simple and quick it can be to make something that would take almost as much time on dial-up internet service to get online and order from a catalog. And, I can tell the customer that I made the handle! Even with the photography work I was doing, this handle only took me a little over an hour from concept to fully installed. Quicker than looking at hardware catalog pages on the internet!

This project, the Tilt-Front Laptop Computer Desk, that I am finishing up now, has been a fun project for me, and so I wanted to wrap it up by crafting my own finger pull handle.

It is really very easy to do, and so I took several photos during the process to document the steps.

I’m hoping that other Jocks will try making their own door pulls, and stop buying that imported pig iron stuff. Handmade woodworking deserves better, at least that is my opinion. Did I actually say that? oh, my.

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“Ok, tools let’s get to work.”

The first step is to develop a template.
Here I am showing my idea of what the cut out copper should look like:

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The template cut out. I just us an old manila folder for the template material. Use everything to it’s end, Al Gore says. So, I try to do that, and recycled a manila folder. (ssshhhh, but not because he says it, despite his new medal.)

I just draw around it with a magic marker straight onto the copper sheeting:

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The copper that I am using is something I found at a salvage yard, but this one piece has lasted for several projects over the past 4-5 years. This sheet measures a little under 1/8” thick. I could use a caliper to get you the exact thickness, but it really doesn’t matter, and I was too lazy to walk over to the tool box and get the caliper. I have about 4-5 different thickness of copper plate, from about 20 guage, all the way up to 1/2” thick. This way, I can pretty much make what I need to make for a handle.


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After the lines have been drawn on the copper sheet, I just cut it out carefully with my bandsaw. This is just my normal wood saw, a 14” Delta style bandsaw. The blade is just a normal bandsaw blade. The copper doesn’t seem to harm the blades much, and the alternative is a hacksaw, which I used to do, before I read in a magazine that I could cut copper and brass with my bandsaw.

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Almost have it cut out:


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Next, I just smooth out the bandsaw cuts on my benchtop sander. I keep a small spray bottle with water in it handy, and when the copper gets too hot to hold, I just cool it off with the misting bottle. If I move quickly, I only need to cool it a couple times to get all of the edges sanded. Could be that my finger tip callouses help also. I do know that those callouses don’t help me to french braid a six year old girl’s hair!

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To get the pesky inside radius smooth, I use the trusty Dremel handtool with a small drum sander tip. I was careful when laying out my template, making the radius big enough that I could easily sand it with this tip. Thinking ahead again, scary huh?

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The next step is to soften the copper.

I don’t know where I learned this, but I think it might have been in a Flintlock Rifle video I bought a few years back by Herschel Howse. It is a great video, by the way.

The copper is heated with a simple propane torch. I have a twin bottle and gas handpiece for oxy/acetylene, but since this piece is so small, I didn’t figure I needed to go to all the trouble of unburying my gas bottle set.

I heat the copper up until is glows Red (hard to see in a photograph), or as close to Red as I let it get before I get impatient and move quickly to quench it in cold water.

This quench action in copper does the opposite of carbon steel, in that the quick quenching softens the copper, making it more maleable.

As I work it and peen the surface, I will reheat it two more times to resoften it.

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Quenching:

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Next is the peening process. I don’t do anything fancy, just use the round end of a ball peen hammer. I have several of these types of hammers, so I just grab the first one I run onto when searching for a ball peen hammer.

What I am looking for here is mostly cosmetic, but I use the peening to also help start the bending of the handle that I am after. Hit on one side, and it curls up, hit on the other, and it flattens down again, pretty simple, huh?

I do have a piece of railroad iron I use for an anvil, and also a bench vise with an anvil surface on it. But, since this process will be over before I could dig either of those tools out, I just use the top of my Grizzly table saw. I have to be careful, as the ball peen is hard enough to leave little peen dents in the top of the tablesaw also, and I don’t want that.

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After this peening process the first time, I reheat and quench before trying to bend the handle.
(not photographed)

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Now, I need to start forming the bend in the handle. Nothing fancy again, just an open vise. This vise is the one that my dad gave me when he built a workbench for my bedroom back when I was about 8 years old. Really, it was in my bedroom. I still use the workbench, and vise today, and the pine wood in the vise are still the same pieces he fitted it with. Thanks again Dad.

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Still working on the bend. This time I am hammering around a cold chisel, while the copper piece is held in the vise. Simple, eh?

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I reheated and quenched again, and the finished the bend. (Not photographed)

Now, I am ready to buff the stains out, and so I just use a Klingspor Sanding mop in a benchtop drill press. I use the medium speed, so that I can still hold onto the piece safely. I could use pliers to hold it, but it would leave scratches in the finish, so I use my fingers.

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After the buffing, I just simply install the handle, by mortising it into the door. I didn’t take time to show how that is done. Why? Well, some magazine pays an author at least every month to show how to do that again, and they take better photos than I do with one hand, while I work with the other.

To make the mortise, I just use a Bosch Colt router with a 1/8” down-cut spiral bit, and free hand out the mortise, up close to my line. I finish out the line by making it straight with a chisel and whittling knife.

(not photographed)

Installed, the handle is just too big. I look at it from several angles, and decide to draw with a magic marker, a cut line, to make it smaller, and fit the style I want better.

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To make the new cut line, I just go back to the bandsaw, then the disc sander, and then peen the edge again with the hammer. In about 5 minutes, we are to a different look that I like better.

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I didn’t take time to photograph the punching and drilling, and counterboring of the mounting holes. I figured that was pretty self-explanatory.

(not photographed)
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Here is the handle the way it looks installed.

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Here is another view, showing the mounting screws. To match the copper, I would love to find copper screws. I could also make them, or use nails made from copper wire. But, I just don’t think that copper is tough enough to be a screw. I have made my own copper bolts out of wire before, and just wasn’t happy with the performance life of the threads. So, I use steel screws, but spray paint the heads with a Krylon “Hammered Copper” Spray Paint.

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One last shot of the finished cabinet with the handle installed.

Now, the whole desk in the photo.

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There is a bookcase that sits on top of the desk, that I have not shown here. I will show the whole set up in the project posting, coming next week probably.

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Oh, there is one thing I forgot. I always inscribe my signature, date, and “USA” on the back of the handle. Some refinisher in the future, would be scratching his head looking at catalogs to try and find a match to it otherwise.

Here are a few photos of other copper hardware I have created:

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If you want to see some of my other Hammered Copper Hardware pieces, check out these projects:
1) Side Tables: http://lumberjocks.com/projects/44
2) Coffee Table: http://lumberjocks.com/projects/45
3) Orchid Plant Stand: http://lumberjocks.com/projects/31
4) Entertainment Center: http://lumberjocks.com/projects/59
5) Lamp Art: http://lumberjocks.com/projects/41

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If you would like to read more about this project, please see the following blogs:
1) http://lumberjocks.com/jocks/decoustudio/blog/2148
2) http://lumberjocks.com/jocks/decoustudio/blog/2101
3) http://lumberjocks.com/jocks/decoustudio/blog/2163

Thanks for reading along, send me your questions,
Mark DeCou
www.decoustudio.com

(This writing, photos, drawings, design, and sketches, are copyrighted by M.A. DeCou 10-12-2007, any use of this material is restricted without the express written authorization of the Author. Thanks for your help.)

-- Mark DeCou - American Contemporary Craft Artisan - www.decoustudio.com



27 comments so far

View dennis mitchell's profile

dennis mitchell

3994 posts in 2941 days


#1 posted 2505 days ago

Nicely detailed article. Thanks! I’ll have to keep my eye open for some copper.

View Buckskin's profile

Buckskin

486 posts in 2614 days


#2 posted 2505 days ago

I am with Dennis on this one. I will have to keep my eyes open for some copper. Great presentation as well.

View Roger Strautman's profile

Roger Strautman

645 posts in 2760 days


#3 posted 2505 days ago

The finishing of the carving turned out quite nice, Mark! You did get the contrast just right.

-- " All Things At First Appear Difficult"

View Thos. Angle's profile

Thos. Angle

4435 posts in 2588 days


#4 posted 2505 days ago

Thanks Mark.this is a really great blog of how to’s. The end result is exceptional and functional as well. Nice detail

-- Thos. Angle, Jordan Valley, Oregon

View MsDebbieP's profile

MsDebbieP

18615 posts in 2787 days


#5 posted 2505 days ago

why that looks so EASY!!!

Great blog and excellent photo journey. Thank you.

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (https://www.facebook.com/DebbiePribeleENJOConsultant)

View Dadoo's profile

Dadoo

1763 posts in 2617 days


#6 posted 2505 days ago

Excellent touch Mark. I wanted some wrought iron pulls for my entertainment center and settled for making my own out of #6 AWG copper wire. They all turned out nice and I saved a wad of money as well.

-- Bob Vila would be so proud of you!

View Obi's profile

Obi

2213 posts in 2863 days


#7 posted 2505 days ago

One question… How much did it sell for?

View Mark A. DeCou's profile

Mark A. DeCou

1979 posts in 3032 days


#8 posted 2505 days ago

Oh Obi: Spoken like a true Pro. “Show me the Money!”

Answer: not enough! But, there is never enough, the money seems to run down a drain. It is amazing how much it costs to live, even with no car payments and no mortgage, not going out to eat, shopping at Aldi’s for groceries…......

Thanks everyone. I’m getting ready to start the Carved Desk Chair to go with the desk, and then a really cool walnut bookcase with carving on it. Stay Tuned….....

Thanks for your comments and questions.

-- Mark DeCou - American Contemporary Craft Artisan - www.decoustudio.com

View Mark A. DeCou's profile

Mark A. DeCou

1979 posts in 3032 days


#9 posted 2505 days ago

Dadoo: show us a photo of your copper handle, I’d love to see what you did. If you have already posted it, what is the link?

-- Mark DeCou - American Contemporary Craft Artisan - www.decoustudio.com

View Lee A. Jesberger's profile

Lee A. Jesberger

6646 posts in 2606 days


#10 posted 2504 days ago

Hi Mark;

Nice work, and well documented!

My father was a master plumber, but not the stereotypical type with the butt crack etc… I apprenticed under him for a number of years. He was a perfectionist, and I think he should have chosen another vocation, like cabinetmaker, so his work wouldn’t be hidden in a wall or ceiling. Perfection for sure.

He was also a coppersmith, and would do some really incredible things. I have some experience in this, but certainly no where near his degree. Still, it’s fun to play with on occasion.

Lately, my metal work has been limited to making ezee-feeds, which other than making nice welds, has no arisitic rewards. Actually, it’s a real pain to be making them, as it’s getting out of control.

But , it’s nice to see some artistic metal work for a change.

Thanks,

Lee

-- by Lee A. Jesberger http://www.prowoodworkingtips.com http://www.ezee-feed.com

View scott shangraw's profile

scott shangraw

513 posts in 2695 days


#11 posted 2504 days ago

Nice Job!!May have to try my hand in some metal working.

-- Scott NM,http://www.shangrilawoodworks.com

View Dadoo's profile

Dadoo

1763 posts in 2617 days


#12 posted 2504 days ago

OK…This is the first time I’ve tried to paste pics in a blog…bear with me and hope they come out. (They didn’t but the links did…I need more time to practice. Maybe later.)

I wanted something rustic, in the line of wrought iron, to use as door pulls for my entertainment center. Since what I found is expensive (to the tune of $10.00 each), I took their ideas and created my own. I figured the first step would be to practice with soft copper and then decided I like this better! I then sprayed them with flat black enamel and just as quickly wiped them off, to give them an aged look. As you can also see, they’re “pinned” through one hole in the door. Simple installation!

http://flickr.com/photos/dadoo1/1568400993/

http://flickr.com/photos/dadoo1/1568385649/in/photostream/

-- Bob Vila would be so proud of you!

View WayneC's profile

WayneC

12260 posts in 2723 days


#13 posted 2504 days ago

Dadoo, right click the photo you want to embed, select properties and use the URL in the address property.

Dadoo's Photo

-- We must guard our enthusiasm as we would our life - James Krenov

View Karson's profile

Karson

34870 posts in 3027 days


#14 posted 2504 days ago

Very nice Mark. I’ve picked up some brass at the salvage yard but never picked up any copper. I guess i should have done that.

A very nice handle.

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Southern Delaware karson_morrison@bigfoot.com †

View Bob #2's profile

Bob #2

3808 posts in 2648 days


#15 posted 2504 days ago

Mark, you have inspired me.
This stuff is right on for a tinkerer like me.
I can hardly wait to try your technique.
Great details.

Bob

-- A mind, like a home, is furnished by its owner

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