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How to make your own Copper Foil Luminaries

by Chris Granger

Want the perfect homemade decoration to line your sidewalk for a party, or to accompany you outside on the porch for a gorgeous spring evening? Then this simple copper luminary is the project for you. It is great for any age and the final outcome is guaranteed to earn compliments with its unique yet classy look. All you need is a few materials, a bit of a creative eye, some basic tools and you are set!

 

Materials

  • 6" X 12" sheet of .010" copper foil
  • Scissors
  • Hole punch
  • Wire or clasp (to secure closed)
  • Candle (If you are using it on a porch citronella candles are great to put insde because they keep away the bugs!)
  • Permanent marker

Optional Decorating Materials-

  • Stamps and permanent ink stamp pad
  • Embossing tools (these can either be purchased at any craft store or you can use and empty ballpoint pen)
  • Metal or glass paints
  • Stencil
  • X-Acto knife or a common utility cutter
  • Permanent airbrush paint

 

Copper Luminary

Begin by taking the copper foil and curling it into a cylinder that is 6 inches tall with the sides overlap approximately a quarter of an inch. With the permanent marker place three dots on both of the overlapping sides, where you will secure the copper together. Now, unroll the copper and use the hole punch on each of the six dots that were marked for hole locations.

Next, lay out the copper foil and smooth out any wrinkles, this can be done by hand or using a ruler or credit card. Now for the fun part - planning your design. This can be done any number of ways. I will describe some of the most common methods used, but feel free to do something else or combine different techniques together. This is your project and the sky is the limit when it comes to design work! So let the creative juices flow!


Embossing
  1. Find a design either on a simple stamp or as a picture image printed off the computer and apply it to the back of the copper. This can be done by stamping it with permanent ink or if it is a printout by securing it with masking tape.
  2. Next while leaning on something that is firm but has a slight amount of give (A stack of newspaper or a magazine works perfectly) take the embossing tool and follow the lines of the design so that it indents the copper but does NOT break through. It is best to go over the design lightly multiple times to avoid puncturing the copper.
  3. If your image is small this procedure can be repeated multiple times around the copper or if it is bigger you may choose to do it only once.
  4. Then with your ballpoint pen, poke decorative holes around the image for the light to stream through. It is best to poke from the outside face of the copper so that the rough edges are on the inside.
  5. If you would like to decorate your luminary further, you can take metal or glass paints and add color inside the shapes that were embossed upon the copper.


Cut Outs

If you would rather have the light shine through your design, this is the step for you! Choose an image and secure it to the front of the copper. Once again, either a stamp or printout image will work perfectly. However, the image will need to be very simple, with relatively thick spaces between the different sections so the copper stays strong. Now, while leaning the copper on a piece of wood or a cutting pad take the X-Acto knife and cut out your design.

If you would like to add a nicer finish to the copper lay it flat on a table with the front side up and use a hairdryer to lightly apply heat to the outside of the copper. Be very careful when using the dryer. If the heat is applied on one spot too long it will turn the copper's surface silver! My recommendation is to keep the hairdryer moving and to only apply the heat for 10-12 seconds. This finish technique will also remove any finger prints that may have been placed on the copper while you were decorating. Also, if you are going to use the heat technique, make sure you do it prior to applying paint to the copper, as most paints are flammable! Once your decorative process is through, reform the cylinder and join the edges by aligning the six holes and securing the edges with rivets or wire. If you like, a small circle can be attached to the top to reduce the impact of wind on your candle's flame. Last but not least, place the completed luminary on a non-flammable plate with a candle inside and let your creation shine!

   
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Selecting the right type of copper for any application requires an understanding of some rather technical terms like: alloy, temper, hardness, gauge and finish. Don’t be put off by the number of terms. When taken one at a time they’re not that difficult to understand. This brief article will give you a greater understanding of copper and have the confidence to purchase for any application.
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