Today, my quest was to see if I could use the same tools and process to make copper headpins. If you've been reading my blog, you'll know that after shunning copper for most of my jewelry making career, I have recently decided it is one of the best materials on earth for wire wrapping.
I haven't seen anyone on the blogs or forums I read saying they make copper headpins, and searching the web gave me mixed information, so I decided to just give it a try.
My soldering tools are the barest of basics. I have a solder-it butane torch - the equivalent of a creme brulee kitchen torch, a heat proof fiber tile (not sure what it's called) and a pair of long pliers that I have dedicated to the flame.
If you are looking for a torch like mine, here's a list of butane torches on Amazon. Look for one that is refillable, self-igniting, has good reviews, has a stable base so you can stand it up, and ideally can be adjusted to a sharp flame. Generally, the flame size is adjusted by adjusting the amount of gas flow (the slide lever just above the black on the handle).
To make silver headpins, I typically cut a piece of wire 1/8 to 1/4 inch longer than I would like the finished headpin. I fold the end on the side I want the ball - but I've never thought this was absolutely necessary. I think it just helps you get the same size ball heads on the headpin. Then, I hold it in the hottest section of the flame (the blue points), it gets red, balls up and I either quench it in water or wait for it to cool a little and put it on my fiber board and continue to the next one. If I am using fine silver, there are no other steps.
So, I tried the exact same thing using the 24g copper wire I bought at the hardware store - and guess what?
Ta Da! It works!Now, the picture is actually a little misleading - because when you are using copper, there are some additional steps, just like when you are using sterling silver.
After the wire pin is held in the flame, it blackens (oxidizes) and the dark color doesn't just wipe off. It needs to be chemically removed.
Before I talk about cleaning up the headpins using pickle (the name for the chemical that removes the black stuff), look closely at the headpins on the right. Can you see that the head is red? Pretty cool, isn't it? What I found was that if you quench the pin in water immediately - while it is still red, the head stays that lovely red color. If you wait until it cools slightly, it is dark like the pile of headpins in the middle.
So, after the headpins were made, they all looked like either the ones in the center or the right. I wanted them to be shiny and clean - but I'm not very fond of chemicals. Pickle can be purchased at jewelry supply places - one brand is Sparex, or you can also use pool chemicals that lower the PH (PH Down).
When I am doing a lot of metal work - I might mix up one of these - but I always try to go the simplest and safest route. In this case, that means homemade pickle using white vinegar and salt. I put enough vinegar to cover 1/4 inch of the bottom of a small glass jar and sprinkled some regular table salt in (not sure how much - but not a lot). Then I heat the mixture for 30 seconds in my microwave. When it comes out, I put the headpins I want to clean into the solution, swirl it around for a minute - and the headpins come out the wonderful shiny version you see on the left! I am positively thrilled with the results!!
I also tried making a headpin using 20g copper wire and... it didn't work!
I just don't think my torch is hot enough. The wire gets red, it just doesn't ball up. Honestly, 24g and smaller works just fine for me right now. I will try and push my luck later and see if 22g will work since that would make a nice 'thin' ear wire.
Update on Making Copper Ball Headpins with Thick Wire
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