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I love fabricating metal. Donít get me wrong, I love Precious Metal Clay too (in fact, Iím a certified PMC artist), but my practiced skills and therefore comfort zone are in fabrication.

Iíve seen lovely PMC lentil-shaped beads and thought Iíd show you how to make a copper one using fabricating techniques. Making a bead from sheet silver would be exactly the same as from copper.

Use 400 grit polishing paper to sand one side of the copper sheet (this will eventually become the outside of your bead).

Cut two circles from the sheet with your jewelerís saw. Youíll want to be as exact as possible to prevent problems later. The size of the disks should be about an inch or so for this project. I only cut disks if I absolutely have to as itís hard to get them round. A disk cutter is a fairly expensive tool that can save you hours of time. They are available from most jewelry tool suppliers. If youíre using a disk cutter, anneal the copper first (see next step).

Before doming the disks youíll want to make them easier to manipulate. Anneal them by holding each in the torch flame until it glows a dull red. Quench in water, pickle, rinse and dry.

With the sanded side down, dome each disk in the same depression of a dapping block. Choose a depression that is the same size or larger than your disk, but both disks must be the same size and profile.

Look at the two line drawings accompanying this article (figures 1 and 2 at right). In the first you can see that when you hold the disks together in their lentil shape, the edges do not meet flush at the edges. Sand the bottoms of the disks until the rims are flat. Youíve sanded enough when the two halves meet with a sharp edge all the way around the bead, as in the second drawing.

When soldering a hollow form, you must have a hole for the air to escape when soldering the two pieces together. Since a bead isnít a bead unless it has holes in it, weíll take this opportunity to start them.

On one dome only, use a series of needle files to file a groove at one edge. This must be deep enough that you can see a black hole when you put the two halves together. If all you see is copper where youíve been filing, keep working until you see the blackness inside the bead. Youíll finish the holes after the bead is soldered so donít file the other dome yet.

Use the flux brush to flux the rim of each dome and then coat the rims with easy paste solder. Put the two halves together so that they form the classic lentil shape.

Use binding wire to bind the two halves of the bead together in their finished form. Be precise.

Solder the bead, on a soldering tripod, until you see the solder wink at you around the edges (it will kind of glimmer and turn bright silver).

Quench the bead in water and then cut off the binding wire (important) and then pickle the bead. Rinse it thoroughly in water and baking soda to neutralize any pickle that might be inside the bead.

On the half of the dome opposite where you previously started filing, continue opening the holes. Once you can see the interior of the bead and both sides of each hole look the same, use a 1/6Ē drill bit on your flex shaft to drill the holes all the way into the bead. I hold the bead in my hand while drilling. Rig up some kind of vise if this makes you nervous.

If necessary, use files and a sanding stick to clean up the metal around the holes.

Clean the bead thoroughly with your flex shaft and whatever accessories you have. For this job I like rubber radial disks.

Finish off the bead with your favorite color or texture.

These copper lentil beads have their holes going directly through the domes and are dressed up with jump rings around the holes

How to Fabricate a Lentil Bead from Copper

My bead has a scratched texture created with a coarse radial disk on my flex shaft

Tools and Supplies: 

Figure 1: When first domed, the disks will not meet correctly

Figure 2: When sanded correctly, the 2 halves will meet at a point

A disk cutter makes short work of cutting perfect circles

Dome the pieces of copper until they are shaped the same

Use a small wad of masking tape as handles while sanding the domes on sandpaper taped to a flat surface

Hold the dome against your bench pin for stability while filing

The zigzag crimps pull the wire tight and the beads match up perfectly

Note the filed grooves which will be my guides for filing and drilling again later

A soldering tripod lets you solder from underneath as well as from the top

Christine Cox was a regular contributor to ARTitude Zine. This article originally appeared there and is reprinted here with permission. Unfortunately ARTitude is no longer published.

Christine Cox teaches metalsmithing and bookbinding classes in her studio in Volcano, CA.