Making a Hand Riveted Copper Urn

By Irina Jordan

Directly from the source: in this post John describes what it takes to make his hand-riveted copper urn.

Each hand crafted urn starts out by cutting down a sheet of copper into smaller pieces and then laying a template on top which is then scribed onto each piece. These pieces are then hand cut, rolled and broken (bent) to specific angles. For the body of the urn, "panels" are placed on a form and hammered over the edge to create tabs for the other pieces to be riveted to. Each rivet hole is drilled out and a rivet is hand hammered on an anvil connecting the two pieces. This is repeated until six panels form a vessel. The process is much like cutting out and assembling a pattern for a dress, only out of metal.


Once the body is completed, a top is made using a similar method and fitted to the top of the vessel. Brass banding is often used to add a contrast in materials and compliment other brass accents on the piece. A base is then made and soldered to the body of the urn with a maker's mark stamped into the bottom of the urn.


Once the urn is fabricated it is oxidized in a solution to give it a final finish. This finish accelerates the natural oxidation process of copper giving it a uniform, antique appearance. A light coat of wax is then applied to protect the copper from finger prints and further oxidation.


If a request for an inscription or any type of decorative imagery is to be placed on the urn, a photo etching process is used. Once the design and a resist have been applied to the copper, the pieces are submerged in an acid bath and the design is etched into the copper. All of this must be done before the individual copper pieces are assembled and the pieces must be flat. When any type of etching is involved, it is the first step in the creative process.