Cuff bracelets are great projects for budding metalsmiths. Cuff making allows you to use basic skills in several areas such as forming, annealing, stamping, texturing and finishing. Cuffs do not have to be sized too precisely so this is a great beginner project.
- Sheet prep – Cuffs need to stand up to a fair amount of wear and tear on the wrist while holding their distinctive c-shape. They should be made of 22 gauge metal or heavier. Most cuffs are either 20ga or 18ga. You can buy sheet and cut it to size or purchase pre-cut cuff blanks to avoid a lot of sawing or purchasing an expensive guillotine shear. Most cuffs are made from metal of varying widths that are about 6 inches long. Women with small wrists may want to shorten the 6 inches down to 5.5 or so. Copper is a great starter metal if you are new to metalsmithing. Brass will be quite a bit harder to work with.
- Filing & sanding – You will want to cut or saw the corners of your long, flat rectangular cuff blank so they are rounded instead of pointed. Use shears or a saw to create a rounded edge that will be comfortable on the wrist. Then use files and sandpaper to smooth the edges and remove burrs. Also sand out any surface scratches on your metal at this time.
- Add texture or stamping – You should use your texture hammers or design stamps while your cuff blank is still flat.
- Anneal – After texturing and stamping your blank may be work hardened so it will be too stiff to form. Anneal your piece to soften the metal but be careful not to over-heat. Quench and pickle after.
- Form your metal – You are now ready to bend your cuff into a bracelet shape. It is easiest to use a bracelet mandrel with a rawhide or nylon hammer. With thinner gauge metals you may be able to bend the blank by hand or with a pair of bending pliers. If forming hardens your metal you may need to anneal again during this stage.
- Polish – Use polishing compound or treated cloth to shine up your metal and your new cuff is ready to wear. Enjoy!
Once you have experimented with cuff designs you will be ready to explore soldered bangles and more complex design elements such as bezel cup settings and sawed cut-outs. Have fun with all the possibilities of this versatile jewelry piece and enjoy the bracelet trend to its fullest. Happy hammering!
Update! One of our favorite jewelry tools in the Halstead Employee Studio is our bending block. Watch the video below to see why…