A little lesson on how to make a pendant tree of copper wire and make a patina on copper using ammonia.
About 2 feet (50 cm) of 16 Ga (1,5 mm) copper wire
About 2 feet (50 cm) of 20 Ga (0,8 mm) copper wire
6,5 feet (2 m) of 26 Ga (0,4 mm) copper wire
3 round 5-6 mm beads
7 round 3-4 mm beads (you can use large seed beads)
Round nose pliers
Chain nose pliers
Anvil / Bench block
Let’s start with a sketch of our future pendant. Do you have a special notebook for sketches? Do you carry it everywhere with you? Standing in a dull line can turn into a pleasant surprise, giving you time to fix some ideas, to think about materials and steps of work. A notebook, a pencil and some light – that is all you need.
The pendant is a construction with several base elements. Choose three main branches to make them out of the thickest 16 Ga wire. Use 20 Ga wire for other branches and 26 Ga wire to weave all the branches together.
Cut your wire into pieces and bend them, using your sketch as a template (you can also work from a spool if it is more comfortable for you). Take a piece of wire, bend it slightly, put it to the sketch, correct the bends – and repeat until all the branches look similar to the sketch. Do not leave a millimeter of wire untouched by your tools, work in small steps, do not hurry. It is more difficult to correct the wrong part of a curve, than to shape wire properly in several steps.
You can see how I bend wire with round nose pliers on my Youtube channel (look for “wire wrap hammer” video).
Now we have all the branches bent. Don’t worry if they do not look quite as on the sketch. Each piece will change its shape a little while hammering and you’ll have to bend it again.
Hammer your pieces at the back side to keep the front side smooth and shiny. Strike the wire lightly and repeatedly to avoid deep dents. Copper is a very soft and attentive material, it will notice and keep each touch of your hammer even if you pretend not to notice it yourself.
After hammering file the ends of each piece with a needle file, making them round and smooth in order not to scratch the skin or catch at the clothes. Correct the branches’ curves with your round nose pliers if needed.
Time to assemble the tree. It can be difficult for the first time so don’t get frustrated. Start with adding three largest beads to the main branches. Then weave the main branches together. Use your common sense and fantasy to choose a weaving pattern. Then add other branches, they will connect the thick branches into the more rigid construction. Work slowly and attentively (wire is not a thread; it can be difficult to correct mistakes). Watch each coil to place it properly, use your chain nose pliers to pull the wire and tighten the coil if needed.
You don’t need to weave the whole tree with one piece of weaving wire. Select which part of your pendant would be comfortable to weave at a time. The small beads are used for decoration only and can be added in the very end.
Cut each end of the weaving wire, press to the base wire from the back side with your chain nose pliers and file it so it doesn’t prick in any direction.
Are all the branches tightly woven together? Is there no sharp wire ends? Does your pendant please your eyes with graceful curves and tight coils? Great! Time to rest! Or – if your prefer the antique look of your jewelry – time for patination.
For this project I choose ammonia 10% solution because of a special shade of green brown patina it creates on copper. I take a 1 l glass jar with a tight lid, pour some ammonia solution into the bottom on the jar, and hang the pendant on the thread over the liquid. Then I close the lid tightly and wrap it with cling film to prevent the smell of ammonia from spreading around. It usually takes about an hour or two to get dark patina. You can watch the process through the glass and speed it up if you put the jar in a warm place.
Polish your pendant to add some shine and depth. Concentrate on the parts you want to “move out” from shadows to light. If you have a suitable rotary tool, like Dremel, it can make the process of polishing much faster.
Add a chain or a cord to your pendant. Admire it, feel proud of yourself, take a picture and
post it to the student gallery. And choose an occasion to wear it and show off :)