Foundations in Metalsmithing: Bracelets


Lesson Info

Forming Cuff Bracelets in Wire and Sheet

The one thing that we want to think about before we do this, I'm gonna go into a little bit more detail about how to clean up with a file, any of things you cut, a little bit later in the class. I kinda want to get us like going and actually make something. But I do think it's important to point that, like if we were to just cut something like this out of metal, and then put it in our wrist, like, we've got some pretty point edges here. So, if you're doing something like that, or if you've cut your wire, you want to go ahead and actually file your ends. So, what I'm gonna do, brings these guys up here, a swivel, is I've got my handy-dandy little needle files here, and I'm gonna look for, instead of taking them out one at a time, let's just take them all out, I'm gonna look for my flat file, and what I'm gonna do, is I'm gonna come back to my bench pin here. And, so, if I've got my wire, and I've got this kind of wire cut end, it's ugly, right? It's ugly, it's a little bit pointy. I'm j...

ust gonna come in here to my bench pin, and I'm just gonna kind of file around. If you have a bigger flat file, you can use this as well. But, basically, I'm just kind of gonna go around, and round this up, so that if I were to put this on my wrist it's not gonna stab me. So, the thing with filing, is that depending on the purpose of filing, you may need to file, at some point, where you keep something totally flat. But in this case, we want this to be round, so I'm working my file kind of around this here. You want to file at your bench pin. You don't want to like air file. It's not like filing our nails. Needle files do work both directions, so you can go back and forth with a needle file. But, that said, I generally mostly use it in a pushing motion. Now, if we've got our little rectangle that we cut out here, I'm gonna come in and actually round off these corners. If you wanted to, if you were smart, when you were designing your bracelet blank cutout, you could actually even cut rounded corners with your saw, so that you could skip this step, right? We wouldn't necessarily have to do it with our file. And there's no rule. Generally, it's easier to do your filing before you bend your cuff bracelet, but if for some reason you forget, or you do what you think is a decent filing job, and then you go to put it on, and it scratches your wrist, you can always come back in a do more of this after you've formed. So, I'm just gonna give this a nice little rounding here. So, now when it comes to bending our bracelets, generally, we want to form around a mandrel. And my rule of thumb, is if I can, I like to start by bending by hand first. So, I'm just gonna take my wood mandrel here, and this is pretty thin gauge copper. I think it's probably like 20 gauge. So, it's pretty thin. It's copper, so it's pretty malleable. So, I'm think it's probably pretty likely that I can just do this, right? So, I just literally bent it around. Now, that said, the ends kind of stick up a little bit, so, now I'll just take my rawhide mallet, give it a little tap, and it's always gonna want to spring back a little, so I literally might just come in here with my hands and bend it a little bit more. That's it. There's no magic. Sorry, guys. I wanted it to be more exciting, like, boom, now we have a cuff bracelet, like goes on our wrist, there it is, like we're good, ta-da, class over. No, totally kidding. All right, so, literally it can be as simple as that. And, again, if you don't have this, you know, I keep just a couple of different sizes of PVC pipe in my studio. I didn't bring them all, because I only had so much room in my suitcase. But this is another thing that can just at least get your started. So, I can start here. I don't know why, I should've brought the smaller size. Give my ends a little hammer. And then maybe I'll just do a little bending by hand. That looks pretty bad. We'll fix that up, make it a little nicer. So, depending on the gauge you're working with, you know, you can get away with, I'm not gonna try to put that on my wrist, 'cause those corners are really sharp still. But you can see, if you really don't have a mandrel, you can get away with that kind of bending. And then the same thing, you know, if you've got our metal mandrels, then you can go ahead and bend around. Now, right now, I'm not putting these mandrels in a vice, but in two seconds, I have a tendency to just hold mandrels. And if you're just doing any kind of general forming, you can do this. Sometimes, when I'm not doing this on camera, and I'm sitting down, I'll actually just lay the mandrel in my lap, and kind of bend around and hammer on it that way. It's not really a good working practice, because you end up bending over a lot. But I have a tendency to work a lot in my lap. You know, you kind of do what's comfortable. Now, that said, if you're doing a lot of bending, or you've got to do some hammering, it's really nice if you can put your mandrel in a vice. So, we have this little tabletop mounted vice here. It was pretty inexpensive. I think I got it off of the place where everybody shops online for everything. So, I'll just go ahead and clamp this in here. That's actually why they have this little piece. So, now, instead of having to worry about keeping this vertical or holding it, I can just go ahead and, you know, take my wire, bend it around, take my hammer, hammer this around. And, so, that's gonna make my life a little easier. Again, not necessary, but it's definitely a handy thing. If you're gonna be doing a lot of bracelets, this could make your life easier. Now, the other thing that you can do then, is think about adding hammer texture. Now, it's important to know that hammer texture, is going to work harden your bracelet. So, what that means, is it's going to make it much harder to bend. Like right now, I can still pretty much bend this and flex this with my hand. As soon as I start hammering, I'm not gonna be able to do that. And, so, because of that, we always want to bend our bracelet into shape first, and then add hammer texture. Actually, before I do that, I want to bend this big guy here, just to kind of show you guys that sometimes these bigger shapes might require a little bit more hammering. So, I can still bend this around, but you can see, it has kind of breaks where it wants to sort of fold based on where the cut patterns are. So, this guy probably just requires a little bit more with the rawhide mallet. So, when I say hammer texture, I don't mean with our rawhide mallet. A rawhide mallet we use any time we want to non-mar, and just shape our metal. So, I'll just go ahead, kind of give this guy a hammer. This is awkward, 'cause I can't stand on the other side. And then like everything else, I might kind of just bend it and play with it until I get what I want. Now we can adds some hammer texture. So, there's a couple different hammers that I use. Let's find them under my little magic tray. Different hammer faces will give you different textures on your metal. So, something that's flat, surprise, surprise, is pretty much just gonna flatten your metal. This little round guy here can actually give us a nice rounded texture. And then this guy, we've got a little cross peen, that's what that's called on there, so, this can actually give us some nice vertical lines. So, you can think about, and what I recommend for anyone, is pretty much if you're like, "Hammer textures sounds fun, Megan." buy a couple of inexpensive hammers. Again, I think there's links to those on your PDF, if you're like, "Megan, I want to know exactly "where you got his." and it's not on there, you can always message me on Instagram, or tweet me or something. I'll help you find the right hammers. But buy a couple of hammers, get some scrap metal, play around, experiment. So, you know, on this wire piece here, what you might want to do, is think about something like taking this perpendicular to your wire. If you're going to be doing a lot of hammering in your own studio, wear ear protection, right? You can see how this, after a long time, I'm not gonna hammer texture an entire bracelet for that very reason. But just go ahead and make sure that you're wearing ear protection in your own studio. The other thing with hammer texturing, is may want to play around to find an angle that's more comfortable. Like, if I was gonna do this for hours, this is like awkward, so I might turn the angle. This has got a little ball head in it. I might turn the angle of the vice. So, you can really kind of just come in here. So, now I've got some vertical texture in there, working very perpendicular to that. So, for something like sheet, this is where we really want to be careful, that we are keeping it closed, because as we're adding hammer texture, so is gonna want to spring open, so, I actually, usually, start holding it on the mandrel, like at a smaller size than what it actually is. So, you can see I'm really pinching this closed here. And then let's say I wanted to give this like... An all over hammer texture. The more I do this, the more this is gonna want to spring open, so, I really just kind of want to work nice and tight. For obvious reasons, I'm not gonna hammer texture this entire thing. It is something that you can certainly do. But I just want to show you. The other thing you want to be really careful about when you're hammer texturing, is if you hammer too much on an edge, you're actually gonna see distortion on the edge. So, what you want to do, is kind of not go all the up to the edge, but kind of go near the edge, so that you're not actually distorting that. And when you mean distortion, you mean that edge will actually flatten out? So, it'll flatten, and you may actually see even like little ridges or little bumps where the hammer hits it. Thank you. So, yes, we want to avoid hitting right on the edge. Cool. Other questions about hammer texturing? So, this is one of those processes where you're not gonna ruin stuff, you're not gonna break the metal. I mean, you could, technically, break the metal, but it's not something that I would worry about too much. So, if you're the kind of person who's really drawn to a lot of texture, and things like that, I'd recommend just getting some hammers, getting some metal, cut out either like little strips like I did, or use some wire, and just start experimenting and playing, 'cause you'll find there's a lot of really fun stuff you can do with hammer texture. There's even hammers that you can get, I did not bring mine, because there's only so much allowed in your suitcase. But there's also hammers you can get that literally have like different, interchangeable faces, so you can get lots of different texture. On wire, they're kind of like, eh, they all sort of start to look the same. But when you're doing like big surface area of sheet like this, that's where you really start to see those different patterns. So, those are really fun to play with as well. All right, so, actually, we're gonna leave that guy in there for a minute. One more thing that you may find, is that depending on the gauge of your metal and what you're doing, you may not be able to bend by hand. So, you can see I've got some pretty thick brass here, and like it sort of wants to bend, but it doesn't really want to bend. So, in that case, now, this is something that will require a torch, so keep that in mind, is that if you don't have a torch, you probably don't want to buy, it's more so a case with sheet, right? This is, I think, I don't have to think, I can tell you what gauge it is. So, this is 14-gauge sheet. 14-gauge wire, super easy to bend by hand, right? Even up to, like I think this is, you know, I want to say this is 10-gauge wire, you saw I bent it with my hand really easily. So, in terms of wire, you can probably even go up to like an eight-gauge, where it's gonna be really easy to bend. But I would say anything over about 18-gauge in sheet is gonna be really tricky to bend by hand, particularly in a metal-like brass, that's a little bit harder. So, I had gotten this brass strip, and it's really hard, so if you want something thicker like this, you may end up needing to anneal your metal, Now, annealing requires us to use a torch. So, the first thing that I'm gonna do before I get out our torch, is I'm gonna take everything flammable off our table, right? And, again, if you guys have not checked out those prereq video that we've put up for you, there's a whole video on torch safety. And the goal of that video is not to make you scared of the torch, but to help you bring a torch in your workspace in a more safe manner. So, I'm gonna clear out my flammable things. And then I'm just gonna get out, and we'll talk a little bit more in detail about our torch when we do the soldering area. But for now, really, all I need for this is my annealing pan. This is just a surface where I can heat up without having to worry about anything being flammable. If you haven't noticed, our table is also metal, so I'm not doing this on a wood work surface, I'm doing it on a metal surface. So, what I'm gonna do, is I'm gonna take this. And, actually, if we can dim our lights. So, annealing is a process of heating up our metal to a specific temperature and then quenching it in order to actually shape the molecular structure to make it softer. I don't know exactly how it does that, it realigns things. What I really know, is that we're looking for a specific color. In most metal, that color is a nice dull red. So, whenever we're annealing, I like a big bushy flame. And I'm just gonna start to heat this. We don't want it to get red hot. I don't know if any of you guys have gotten into that show on the History Channel, Forged in Fire, where they make the swords and the knives, and we're not getting anything that hot. So, it should never look that hot. Instead, I'm kind of heating this up slowly, and what I'm looking for, is a dull cherry red color, but not red hot. So, you can see, it's just starting to get there. Let's see if we can get it. And, Megan, while you're doing that, can you talk a little bit about the tray that you're using underneath? Yeah, so, it's just called an annealing pan, and I believe it's like a kind of pumice stone in it. And it's just an easy way to have a non-flammable surface. It also reflects the heat a little bit, and, conveniently, not so much for this, but for other things, it spins. It's a little Lazy Susan. So, you guys can see a little bit, I think, hopefully, how we're just starting to get a dull red glow in there. Do guys see that? I know it's really tough to see. But that's what I'm looking for. It's just starting to get a little bit redder. So, you can kind of see it. Let me point with my tweezers instead of my finger. So, you see in there, where we're just starting to see a little bit redness coming in. So, that's what you're looking for, is you want to see that have happened across the entire surface, without letting it get red hot. And do you generally only need to do one side, Megan? The whole metal is getting up to temperature with that color. So, it's not like a side thing, it's like the whole metal. So, you don't have to flip it, because the temperature's telling us what the whole metal is. Now, I'm gonna go ahead and quench this. If you're annealing silver, so, quenching is literally just sticking it in water. We're gonna talk about pickle, which is the acid that cleans the metal, in another segment. But just FYI, never quench in pickle, 'cause it's an acid, and the last thing we want to do is put hot metal into acid. And as soon as you quench it you can immediately take it out of water. I just left it in there, because I was talking. We can bring the lights back up too. So, if you're working with silver, just something to know, is that you want to make sure all the redness goes out before you quench. If its still got a little bit of redness in it, in silver, you can actually crack your silver. Brass, bronze, and copper, they're a little bit more forgiving. But if we did this right, now you see how I can bend this? So much softer and easier to work with. So, it feels like this end, which I think was the first end while I was talking and getting impatient, my ends still feel a little bit hard to bend. So, what I could also do is bend this, put it back in here, anneal it again, and make it a little bit easier. So, if you want to make really kind of thick gauge sheet cuff bracelets, you're probably gonna need to anneal them in order to bend. The other thing with annealing, is that the only way to make your metal unannealed, is to actually do something that work hardens it. So, if I were to anneal this, left it flat, set it in my studio and come back three years later, it would still actually be soft. It's not something that wears off overtime. The only thing that makes your metal unannealed, is literally by working with it, which is why it's work hardening. So, like, eventually, at some point, as I bend this, it's gonna become difficult to bend again, and then the only way is to come back in here and anneal it. Does that make sense? So, I know that's a torch thing, and I don't want you guys to be scared of the torch. But that's definitely a process that you can use to work with bigger gauge metal. So, do we have other questions about forming cuff bracelets? Can you talk about the mandrels a little more? I just saw you just tossing on there, and it looks like they're cone-shaped a little bit, and, so, I'm one of those kind of precision people who would worry that I'm doing it wrong or putting it on the wrong place. Does that make sense? Yeah. So, that's a good question. So, they are cone-shaped, and the reason is because, A, your wrist is cone-shaped, and, B, bracelets come in different sizes, right? So, if I'm working on a smaller bracelet, I'm probably gonna work on the smaller end, if I'm working on a bigger bracelet, I'm gonna work on the bigger end. But then, also, when you're working with sheet, you want to remember like which direction is top, because you don't want to flip it, you're gonna lose that nice angle that you've got. And, honestly, if you're like, "I'm never gonna remember that." I would come in the back side and just draw a little arrow in sharpy that tells you up, because you can always, you know, just sand that out later. So, that's one way that I would keep track of that. If you are a person who likes precision and wants to make very specific sizes, they also make stepped bracelet mandrels, that actually like, they come in, so that way you know like, "Oh, this is the size small section. "This is the size medium section. "This is the large section." So if you know you like that precision, I'm definitely like, "Eh, it fits on there, "let's just hammer it." kind of person. But yeah, so that's the reason that they're tapered like that. Generally, if you really want to be specific, what you can actually do in terms of like your initial bend, is if you know, oh, okay, I've got a, you know, I've got a six inch wrist, and a five inch thing, I can measure around here, find the spot that's the right size, and work on there. That said, metal is always gonna want to open up a little bit after you've bent it. So, it's actually better to work a little bit smaller than a little bigger. 'Cause if you work a little bit bigger, it's gonna end up even bigger. If you work a little bit smaller, it'll flex back out. One of our users would like to know, "Is there are a way to anneal without the torch?" There is not. But that said, one of the things you can do when you're buying metal, is look for the phrase dead soft, because dead soft means it's going to come to you in an easier state to bend than something that's half hard, or something like that. So, to be perfectly honest, this crazy brass strip, I bought from an industrial supply house, not a jewelry design company, so it's designed for like machinability rather than, "Oh, look how easy it is to bend around "a bracelet mandrel." So, if you don't have a torch, I would stay away from things like that, and just look for things that should say, like dead soft, or easy to bend, but dead soft is the industry word. So, if you look for metal that says that, even at a thicker gauge sheet, you should be okay.

Whether you’re just getting started in metalsmithing or have been experimenting for years, Foundations in Metalsmithing: Bracelets will help you deepen your skills while exploring the exciting world of bracelets. From torchless techniques (like forming and riveting) to more advanced concepts (like hinges), you’ll walk out of this class with a heap of new metalsmithing skills! (And a pile of new bracelets).

In this class, jewelry designer and metalsmith Megan Auman will help you build your metalsmithing skills in a way that’s completely approachable - no matter what level you’re currently at.

You will learn how to:

  • Create unique cuff bracelets by forming wire and sheet.
  • Join metal without a torch by riveting.
  • Solder wire and sheet into different shapes.
  • Make hinges (with or without a torch) to take your bracelet designs to the next level.
  • Finish your designs and experiment with color on metal through patinas.

Whether you’re looking to grow your existing jewelry making knowledge or for a new creative outlet that you can proudly wear (and show off!), you’ll leave Foundations in Metalsmithing: Bracelets with a series of bracelets you can call your own - and a new set of metalsmithing skills you can expand into even more jewelry ideas!



  • This is a great addition to Megan's metalsmithing series. She makes the topic really approachable. Bonus that metal patinas were added in to the class. I loved the class!
  • I really enjoyed this class! It was very informative and gave me a lot of ideas for expanding a jewelry line to include a variety of bracelets and finishes.