Ring Box

A ring box has nothing to do with the rings you wear on your fingers, other than the fact they a ring will fit into one. Rather, they are made from a ring formed out of a strip of metal.

Step 1 – Anneal and Pickle

Annealing is just getting the copper really hot, then dunking it in water. Unlike iron and steel, which harder when rapidly quenched, non-ferrous metals like copper and silver soften.

Pickling the metal in warm salt and vinegar cleans off the oxidation, that is rust, that forms when metal is heated. Never put steel tongs in pickle meant for cleaning copper, it will ruin the pickle.

Step 2 – Decorate

After all the pieces are annealed, it’s time to decorate. Unlike most crafts, copper smithing generally requires you to do all the decorations first.

The top was decorated with a punch following a hand drawn pattern.

The sides are made by pressing sand paper between two plates. One plate is annealed, the other left hard. Both are necessary or the sandpaper will ruin the rolling mill used to press it. It is vital that one plate is harder than the other. If it isn’t, you will get two shallow impressions instead of one deep impression.

Step 3 – Solder the ring

First you have to bend the metal strip so the ends meet end to end. They should be filed as needed to ensure a tight fit.

Coat the joint liberally with flux. The flux keeps the metal clean by protecting it from the oxygen in the air.

The solder, also dipped in flux, is cut into very small pieces. Enough solder should be used to cover about 30 to 50% of the joint, too much and the joint will look messy. Hard solder is used as it has the highest melting point.

Heat both sides evenly to boil off the water in the flux. Once the flux is clear, reposition any solder that moved. At this point the flux should be sticky enough to hold the solder in place for the rest of the process.

Continue to heat both sides evenly until the solder melts. As soon as it melts and runs, remove the heat.

Solder is attracted to heat and shuns dirt. So if one side is hotter than the other the solder will not go to the right place. Likewise, if there is too little flux the solder won’t stick to the metal.

Step 4 – Shape the ring

After pickling the ring, manipulate it into its final shape. In this case, an oval.

Step 5 – Solder the bottom plate

Sand the bottom edge of the ring until it is perfectly flat. Test this by placing it on the uncut bottom plate and checking to see if any light shines through.

Solder the bottom plate to the ring. The solder is generally placed on the inside where excess solder won’t be as visible. Medium solder can be used to reduce the risk of remelting the first joint.

There is a high risk that the side ring will heat up faster than the bottom plate. If this happens, the solder will defy gravity and run up the sides.

Step 6 – Finish the bottom plate

Cut the bottom plate until it is nearly to the side wall. Then use a file to remove the rest of the metal. As seen in the 3rd picture, the white ring around the bottom is the only indication that it was originally two pieces of metal.

Step 7 – Make the top-ring.

The top ring is sized to fit inside the bottom ring and then soldered. Once cool, it is shaped to fit inside the bottom ring perfectly.

The top ring is then soldered to a decorated plate, after which it is trimmed to size. In this case, a lip was left to make opening the box easier.


Step 8 – Finishing

Pickle for the last time, then clean with pumice and dish soap.

Use liver of sulfur to darken the metal. Don’t leave it on too long or the oxidation will flake off.

Use sand paper to remove the darkened surface metal and polish to desired level. Any recesses will remain darkened, providing contrast for the decorations.

Use floor wax to protect the metal.

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