Merry Christmas! | Copper Tannenbaum Ornaments

December 26, 2014

I write this curled up on the couch, sipping hot holiday spice tea (compliments of Santa), with the Christmas tree lighting the room. Gathering Blue by Lois Lowry is on the couch beside me, and the rest of my family is asleep. This Christmas was beautiful; while we officially began our celebration with Mass on Christmas Eve, we really began Christmas break a few days ago when both my brother and I returned from college and my dad took off work.

A tornado of little children tore through our living room on a mission to create messes. The remainders of a long day are strewn every which way. Instrumental Christmas music is playing and there is the promise of a day of unwinding and cleaning before more family events.

I hope that all of you have had beautiful Christmases, full of family and friends and crazy weird traditions!

My Christmas gift, both to myself and from my parents, is a TORCH!

That's right-- I now have a propane/oxygen little torch that can heat up to, you know, just a couple thousand degrees. I also now have a crockpot labeled "poison" (for heating up pickle, a substance which cleans metal when it is discolored from heat and flux). I can now solder!!!!!

My little sister and I test-ran the torch, my metal stamping set, and my miniature hacksaw to create  these Christmas gifts! These Christmas tree ornaments are handmade from copper and brass.

My eleven-year-old sister cut out the brass banners and stamped the numbers on them. (Can you believe it?!) She requested to be my apprentice over Christmas break, and while she sometimes makes things take forever, on the whole she's actually been very helpful and is becoming quite skilled.

The trees are hand-cut from copper which I etched and then drilled.

Normally I would etch copper with ferric chloride, but I recently ran out and discovered that buying more would be quite expensive. I was using etchant from my grandpa's old PCB etchant kit before. So, I did some research, and my dad and I mixed up an acid bath that is essentially a cupric chloride --> cuprous chloride etchant. So now I also have an apple juice container with bright yellow duct tape that shouts "DANGER: Poison" in thick Sharpie!

Unfortunately I had already etched quite a few pieces of copper by the time I got around to etching the trees and didn't properly reconstitute the solution, so the etch was not very deep. That or my resist came off. I'm not 100% sure what went wrong.

I think that the idea of little handdrawn ornaments comes through nonetheless.

I then soldered the stamped brass banner onto the tree (THAT was a process because I had a difficult time getting the whole copper tree up to temperature).

As you can see, my sister and I had a lot of stamping to do. Each letter is hammered in by hand.

At the very end of the process, we submerged the ornaments in a Liver of Sulfur solution, sanded it down, and sealed the pieces with a spray expoy resin.

Then, we strung glass pearls onto headpins, and made a pearled tree hook from an eye pin!

I am so fascinated by all of these new metalwork processes that I am discovering. :)

My grandparents gifted me a dip pen for calligraphy (and for my upcoming illustration class) so I'll be experimenting with that, too! I've been using a worn-out fountain pen with three nibs since I was eleven or twelve.

But that is not now. Now is time for bed, and visions of sugar plum fairies-- it's almost surreally peaceful tonight.

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