After creating many projects for the site, I’ve noticed a DIY spectrum emerging. Some projects can be instructed down to the last inch, every material sized and sourced. Others are much looser, with a large element of chance and personal touch involved, and entirely dependent on what you can find and how the materials mold themselves in your hands. If you all have a favorite, I would love to know. Sometimes I feel a bit guilty creating tutorials that cannot be re-created exactly, but in the case of these copper coil vases, I think their beauty stems from that kind of unpredictability.
Grace, Amy and I have been experimenting with all kinds of copper, brass and aluminum products lately, and we all agree: soft, malleable metals are delightful. They won’t always bend precisely or do exactly what you want, but that’s part of their charm. So if you find this project a bit frustrating at first, the key is to let go and allow the coil to do what it will. In the end, you’ll wind up with something far more organically beautiful than anything I could draw a template for, and much more fun!—
The how-to continues after the jump . . .
- 1/4″ x 20′ copper coil (you can find this in the plumbing section of hardware stores)
- needle nose pliers
- glass test tubes or some other cylindrical glass vessels
- quick set epoxy
- painter’s tape (optional)
1. Cut a 24″ length of wire from the coil with your pliers. If your pliers don’t go all the way through the coil, you can just pinch the wire with the pliers, then push the coil back and forth on the pinched seam; this should cause the coil to break easily.
2. Begin bending your coil into a shape. There is no wrong way to do this. The coil bends very easily in your hands. Periodically place the shape down on a surface to see if it’s balancing, and if not, simply bend parts until it does. It doesn’t really matter what the bottom end does, but one end of the coil should be up high so that you can bend it to hold the vase.
3. Once you have your basic shape, use your pliers to pinch and bend the top end of the coil into a tighter circle. The coil won’t become a perfect circle — it will be more of an elliptical shape, but it needs to be small enough to slide your glass tube inside for a snug fit. Again, the coil won’t perfectly surround the shape of the tube, but as long as the elliptical shape pinches the mouth of the tube to hold it in place, and some part of the copper touches the tube on both sides, you’re fine.
4. Slide the glass tube into the copper ring you made to check the shape. If it’s too tight, loosen the ring a bit; if it’s too loose, pinch it shut a little. The tube should be able to slide in and out gingerly, and the sides of the tube should touch the copper coil ring at two points around its circumference.
5. Remove the tube again and mix up a small batch of epoxy (follow the epoxy’s instructions for mi) onto a jar lid or paper plate. You can use a popsicle stick, pencil or small paintbrush to mix and apply epoxy. Place a small ring of epoxy around the spot where you want the tube to hit the coil ring. I varied the height of my tubes: the shortest sticks up 1″ above the copper ring, and the longest sticks up 3″ above.
6. Slide the tube back into the copper ring until the epoxy hits the inside of the copper ring, then stop. Straighten the tube so it’s perfectly vertical, and put it aside for the epoxy to set. If your vase wants to slide out or wiggle during this process, you can use a piece of painter’s tape to hold the vase in place while the epoxy sets.
7. Once the epoxy has set, you can remove the tape. You can clean off any excess epoxy by scraping it gently with a utility knife or paint-scraping blade. You can also make final adjustments to the copper shape if desired.