cutting copper

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Old 04-17-03, 06:04 AM
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Question cutting copper

Hey folks. First off let me say that I am an artist/craftsman and not interested in producing anything that has to withstand any kind of pressure (except perhaps a growing plant .) I <i>am</i> interested in learning what is involved in soldering copper for the construction of garden art, including copper trellises and arbors and suchlike. I have seen in my browsing on the web a couple of sites where the artisan has joined the copper pieces <i>without</i> the use of copper fittings, but rather with the use of precise joints and bends. I have a fairly complete woodworking shop, including a bandsaw and a floor drillpress. Is there a metal cutting blade available for a "regular" bandsaw? (I've never really looked) Would that work or is the speed just totally wrong for cutting metal? The only metal I would ever be cutting on it would be copper. Also would anyone know how the technique used to make such joints might differ from "regular" plumbing soldering? Thanks for any help y'all might give.
 
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Old 04-17-03, 02:26 PM
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My Aunt was a metal artist and partners in a studio on West Broadway in NYC not too far from Washington Square Park.

They made and sold many different functional and craft items fashioned from copper, but were kinda famous for their peened copper kitchen stove hoods and pot racks. Their copper lamp shades sold well.

Whatever wasn't soldered, was riveted - but very many of their items (usually wall art) were assembled with tabs and slots. They would design the pieces so that one end would have a tab and the matching piece would have a slot. The tab would fit into the slot and then be bent over to hold.

They cut pieces from large sheet stock with a bench mounted electric shear, and then used either electric uni-shears, hand snips, aviation shears, and even chisels to cut the shapes. They bent the pieces with a sheet metal brake, but often took them to anvil and hammer.

I do not recall them having a bandsaw, but I have seen copper sheet cut on a bandsaw fitted with a bi-metal blade.

I recall them sketching and laying out their work on the back of wallpaper. Then they'd cut the wallpaper and use it as a pattern. Sometimes they would put white contact paper onto the copper sheet and draw on that with felt tips.

Some of their art required making precise duplicate parts. Four, five, or six pieces had to be identical; so they would use 2 sided tape, stick several sheets together in a stack, and then make one cut - which produced perfect matching pieces.
 
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Old 04-23-03, 02:12 PM
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diylady:

I tried cutting some copper tubing on my 10" woodworking bandsaw and it cuts ok. My blade is 6 teeth per inch but a 10 -12 would work better. You may be able to get a metal cutting blade for yours.
Keep in mind that most wood band saws use a rubber sleeve on the wheels and you would have to be carefull to minimize the chips getting in there.
 
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Old 04-23-03, 08:07 PM
insainity
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If you use any plumbing pipe,in you works of art.The tool that plumbers sometimes use is kinda like a c-clamp with a round cuting wheel that scores right though the pipe,with a few turns.It leaves a very nice smooth edge.And cost around 8 bucks for a cheap small one.

I have used a Saws All (for quick cuts)with a bie metal blade but it will leave a bure when it cuts threw the other side.

Copper art sounds cool!
 
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Old 04-24-03, 05:36 AM
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Thumbs up My bandsaw test

I found some .040 (20 gage?) and .125 (10 gage - 1/8") copper sheets and tried them on my bandsaw. The bi-metal blades that I suggested above (14-18) worked very well. My bandsaw has an air pump to blow chips away, so I didn't experience any problems with them, but GregH is right, watch those chips! Naturally I found out was that the stock has to be fed at just the right speed, and that the speed required mostly depends on the thickness being cut - too fast and the stock burns and rips rather than cuts cleanly. I also tried a scroll saw, a sawzall, and some handsaws, but a cable saw, the type often used by jewelery makers, was very easy to use and made nice smooth cuts along some tight patterns. Mine looks like a hacksaw on steroids and uses a cable instead of a blade. It is only limited by the depth of the bow.
 
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Old 04-24-03, 06:31 AM
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Thanks for all the replies, guys. This does help! Yup, I don't think flying chips of copper would be a good thing and I don't want to be continuously changing the tires on my bandsaw either! Glad y'all pointed that out, as it didn't even occur to me (although I'm sure I would've found out when the blade decided not to ride true . )
 
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Old 04-24-03, 10:19 AM
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diylady:

My suggestion to keep an eye on the wheel tires was only something to watch out for and not a reason not to cut copper on your woodworking band saw.
I firmly believe a tool should be used to it's full potential.
Before I was able to accumulate a decent collection of tools I would often use a tool in an out of character manner. An example is to clean out the sawdust and put a metal cutting blade in my Delta 10" contractor saw........ I could finally cut a square piece of steel.
I later graduated to a homemade metal chop saw with some junk I had and then later bought a cheap no-name 14" chop saw which still works great.
I recently customized my 16' Tracker, plain old fishing boat by installing a live well, casting deck, rod locker, storage compartments, built-in gas tank, full electrics(running lights, pump controls, courtesy lighting, depth finder, GPS,etc).
All the sheet aluminum and angle was cut on my table saw and woodworking cut-off saw and fastened with rivets and ss bolts. The only thing I farmed out was the TIG welding of the livewell.

I'm sure with a little caution you can work with copper with what you have.

Tip: If you try cutting copper with a spinning saw blade use one with a lot of teeth or a non-ferous blade, feed slowly and get a firm grip on the tool as it can grab if you feed to quickly.

Let us know how you make out.
 
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Old 04-24-03, 12:28 PM
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I have used a sawzall to cut a lot of delicate patterns in sheet metal. It takes some practice at first but you will be surprised at what it will do after you get the hang of it. Plus you can use it to modify stuff that has already been put together.
 
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Old 04-25-03, 04:05 PM
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Smile Copper Garden Art

diylady:

I stopped off at my Sister's house this afternoon and took a look in her backyard at some of the metal and copper garden art that she acquired from our aforementioned Aunt June.

One of the items that really caught my eye was a windmill that must be about 35 or 40 years old. It's base is wrought iron and the vanes are all copper. There's no solder anywhere, the copper pieces making up the vanes are held together, on the back, out of sight, by small copper rods. Each vane is made up of eight pieces. They get wider as they move away from the hub. Each piece was bent, in a brake, with 90 degree returns, which makes each piece look like a short squat letter 'U'. Those returns have two holes punched in them that the rods fit through. Small acorn nuts hold the rod tight. The copper now has a nice green patina to it, and serves as a nice backdrop to the ivy covering the base.

There were also dozens of copper and wrought iron flower pot racks. On some, the legs were wrought iron and the holders were rolled and peened copper, held together with tiny rivets, which because of age and the green patina are now invisible; but most were put together with the "tab and slot" method I described above.

I was surprised that so much of our Aunt's work has survived this long, and enjoyed how pretty it looks with the green patina finish and plantlife.
 
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