How to Make Copper Pots

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Man used copper and other nonferrous metals to create pots and pans for generations. Copper pots conduct heat evenly and are excellent tools for cooking. You can find examples of early copper pots in museums around the world. Metalsmithing techniques have not changed much since mankind learned to use fire to pots. Metalsmiths begin creating a copper pot by cutting a large disk made from a thin copper sheet. The disk is formed into a pot by hitting it first with a sinking hammer to shape the pot and then using a planishing hammer to remove tool marks. Although torches today offer greater heat control and hammers are more specialized than early tools, when you make a copper pot, you follow a tradition that dates back to early man.

Things You'll Need

  • Large, round, 18-gauge copper disk
  • Torch
  • Pickle pot & pickle
  • Compass
  • Sinking hammer
  • Sandbag, dapping block or carved wood block
  • Planishing hammer
  • Mushroom stake
  • Files
  • 220, 320, 400, 600 and 800 grits of wet/dry sand paper
  • Polishing machine
  • Polishing compounds (tripoli, white diamond and red rouge)
  • Cut or purchase a large round copper disk. The size of the disk will determine the size of the copper pot. Anneal the copper disk with your torch to prepare it for sinking. To anneal is to use heat to change the molecular structure of copper so that the copper is soft and malleable and easy to form. Pickle the annealed copper disk to remove oxidation. Rinse the pickled disk with a mixture of baking soda and water. Dry the disk. Use a compass to mark a series of evenly spaced concentric circles on the disk.

  • Begin sinking the copper pot. Place your prepared copper disk on a sandbag, dapping block or carved wood block. The disk should sit at an angle. Use a sinking hammer to hit the outermost marked line. Work your way around the copper disk. The lip of the disk will begin to curve in as you use your hammer to form the pot. Move to the next line once you have hammered all the way around the first line of the copper disk. Repeat with each line you drew until you formed a 5-inch lip all the way around the outer edge of the copper disk. Stop and anneal the copper disk metal from time to time as needed.

  • Planish the pot to create a smoother, more pleasing curve for your pot. To planish is to pound out tool marks. Turn the pot over and use your compass to mark a second set of evenly spaced concentric circles on the bottom of the pot. Put the copper pot on a mushroom stake. Find the circle where the copper disk begins to curve to create the lip of the pot. Hit the copper disk with your planishing hammer all the way around the disk. Continue to planish until you hammered away all unsightly tools marks caused when sinking. Be sure to planish evenly; if you hammer more on one side, the copper pot will be uneven. Anneal and pickle the copper pot from time to time as you work.

  • Purchase or create a handle for the copper pot. The handle can be made of copper, brass or another nonferrous metal. Solder the handle to the copper pot.

  • File the edges of the copper pot. Sand the copper pot with wet/dry sandpaper using sequentially higher grits to remove excess solder, firescale and tool marks left on the copper pot. Begin sanding using 220-grit wet/dry sandpaper. Sand in one direction until you removed the solder, firescale and tool marks. Switch to 320-grit wet/dry sandpaper and sand in a perpendicular direction to remove scratches caused when sanding with the 220-grit sandpaper. Switch sandpaper again and sand in a perpendicular motions using 400, 600 and 800 grits of wet/dry sandpaper until the copper pot is highly polished.

  • Buff and polish the copper pot with a buffing wheel. Begin the three-step process by placing a stitched muslin wheel on the polishing machine. Add tripoli polishing compound to the wheel and polish the pot. Wash the pot to remove the tripoli. Repeat using white diamond and a fresh muslin wheel. Clean the copper pot and repeat a third time using red rouge. Be sure there is no cross contamination of the polishing compounds and the muslin wheels used.

  • Repeat to create additional copper pots.

Tips & Warnings

  • Take fire safety precautions when using a torch.
  • Wear eye protection and work in a well-ventilated space when using chemicals.
  • Wear a full face shield when working with a buffing and polishing machine.

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References

  • "The Complete Metalsmith"; Tim McCreight; 1991
  • "Complete Metalsmith: Professional Edition?"; Tim McCreight; 2005
  • \"Metalsmithing;\" Robert Ebendorf, Michael Jerry, Thomas Markusen; 1973
  • \"Form Emphasis for Metalsmiths;\" Heikki Seppä, 1978
  • Photo Credit copper casserole image by lefebvre_jonathan from Fotolia.com
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