How to Soften Sharp Edges on a Metal Craft Project

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Nail files can be used in place of sandpaper on small projects.
Nail files can be used in place of sandpaper on small projects. (Image: BrandeeMeier/iStock/Getty Images)

Metals such as copper or silver can be cut for a wide range of crafts, from jewelry to holiday ornaments to home décor items. Cutting any type of metal causes sharp burrs and rough places along the edges of the metal. The sharp edges can be smoothed and softened using simple tools such as sandpaper and metal files, which can be found at hardware or home stores.

Things You'll Need

  • Metal file
  • Half round metal file
  • Sandpaper, 220, 500 and 1000 grit
  • Needle files
  • Rubber block or ring clamp
  • Polishing pads

Place the metal on a rubber block to stabilize the piece and leave the edge exposed, or place it securely in a ring clamp.

Use the metal file or the half-round file to remove the largest burrs or rough edges. Press the file on the metal gently, pushing it away. Lift at the end of the stroke and bring the file back without touching the metal. Continue around the edge of the metal until the large burrs have been removed. Use the needle files in corners or on fine details of the piece.

Use the 220-grit sandpaper and begin to smooth the edges of the metal using light strokes. As the rough edges are removed, switch to finer-grit sandpaper. Use a polishing pad once the metal is smooth to remove any metal dust and bring out the shine of the metal.

Turn the piece over and repeat on the other side of the metal. If working with a ring clamp smooth both sides, then remove and turn the piece to a new section.

Tips & Warnings

  • Metal files have teeth that are designed for a forward motion. Pressing the file backward can add scratches to the surface and press shavings into the piece.
  • Place a tray under the piece as you smooth the metal to catch the shavings. They can be melted and reused or sold at a metal recycling center.
  • A ring clamp will protect thin metals from bending while being filed.
  • Salon boards or nail files can be used in place of sandpaper. Because they are stiff, they may be easier to handle than sandpaper. Metal shavings will stick to the files, so once they've been used on metal they should not be used for manicures.
  • Clamp large metal projects to a work surface for stability while working.
  • Rough metal edges can be extremely sharp. Using fingers to check for rough patches can result in scrapes or cuts.

References

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