Changing your change
November 23, 2009 7:52 AM   Subscribe

Turn a silver coin into a ring with a hammer, an anvil (or something similar), and a drill.
posted by quin (40 comments total) 30 users marked this as a favorite
I did this for some friend's engagement rings a while back. It takes longer than 45 minutes of hammering... seriously. I carried a tiny peen hammer around with me for a week and whenever I had free time I whacked away at it. Also the rings turn out feeling a bit insubstantial at the end. But they're pretty and look fantastic if you don't shine them up too much. Let the hammermarks show.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 7:55 AM on November 23, 2009

Metafilter: whenever I had free time I whacked away at it.
posted by The Ultimate Olympian at 7:59 AM on November 23, 2009 [12 favorites]

A cool activity to try, no doubt, (I had a friend back home with jewelrymaking skills who showed me how to make rings one day) but that looks like an incredibly uncomfortable ring to wear, with the thin sliver of silver jutting out on the inside.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 8:01 AM on November 23, 2009

It takes longer than 45 minutes of hammering... seriously.

Not too sure about this but that could've been the case if you dealt with a post-1964 coin, when the Mint changed the composition from mostly silver (90%, I believe) to copper/nickel blends all around. I know this because I tried hammering it out with a recent quarter a few years back and got incredibly frustrated (and then consulted Google, and then figured it out).

That said it is pretty neat no matter what sorta coin you use, just that it should take a far more effort with a non-coin-silver coin. (Which, if you see one of the components love as higher degrees of effort for someone, makes it all pretty cool.)
posted by zer0render at 8:02 AM on November 23, 2009

My little trouser friend: whenever I had free time I whacked away at it.
posted by Turtles all the way down at 8:03 AM on November 23, 2009

Nah I was sure to get a pre-1960s quarter. I got a few of them actually... I might do it again. Is it actually more difficult with a new coin? I thought some of the new alloys were softer than silver.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 8:11 AM on November 23, 2009

Aww. My dad made my mom a ring from a 1964 quarter. That was the year they met. It was beautifully smooth and shiny and on the inside you could still see the face from the quarter. It was stolen unfortunately.

I have a 1964 quarter that I would love to be made into a ring but I don't have the confidence to attempt to do it myself and I don't know anyone personally that could do it either. Anyone got any ideas how I could find someone trustworthy to do it?
posted by shmurley at 8:17 AM on November 23, 2009

My grandfather taught me how to do this once upon a time only his tool of choice was an ordinary steel spoon.

Aparently the Pacific was a pretty dull place in 1943, even if there was this other navy out there who wanted to sink your ship.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 8:18 AM on November 23, 2009 [3 favorites]

Back in the 60's, while in the USN, I made several of these rings by holding a quarter in my fingers and tapping it with the bottom of a spoon. To get the size you wanted took a lot more than 45 minutes. The center was drilled out with a fairly small diameter drill and finished to size by filing with a rat-tail file and emery paper.
posted by Jumpin Jack Flash at 8:19 AM on November 23, 2009 [2 favorites]

Kid C... you weren't there on preview.
posted by Jumpin Jack Flash at 8:21 AM on November 23, 2009

Shmurley, having done most of this as I child, I've got to tell you, a child could do it. Get a silver half-dollar and beat on its edge rotating a little bit each time. The hard part is to embrace the little tap tap tap noise rather than let it drive you insane.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 8:23 AM on November 23, 2009

Kid Charlemagne, that does make me feel a little better. I'm afraid to screw up because I only have the one quarter and it's not so easy to just find a pre 1965 quarter anymore. But I guess it's hard to screw up slowly beating on a quarter. And I do think I have a silver half dollar so maybe I should practice on that first.
posted by shmurley at 8:31 AM on November 23, 2009

The "mark the center" part intrigues me. How is that done using that angle tool?
posted by Laotic at 8:32 AM on November 23, 2009

I think my grandfather would be happy to know the tradition continued.

Now I'm wondering how old and widespread this is.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 8:34 AM on November 23, 2009

Let's just get this out of the way:

18 USC 331

Whoever fraudulently alters, defaces, mutilates, impairs, diminishes, falsifies, scales, or lightens any of the coins coined at the mints of the United States, or any foreign coins which are by law made current or are in actual use or circulation as money within the United States; or

Whoever fraudulently possesses, passes, utters, publishes, or sells, or attempts to pass, utter, publish, or sell, or brings into the United States, any such coin, knowing the same to be altered, defaced, mutilated, impaired, diminished, falsified, scaled, or lightened -

Shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than five
years, or both

posted by Pollomacho at 8:39 AM on November 23, 2009 [2 favorites]

Can it be done with a modern coin? For some reason I feel more guilty destroying the older ones
posted by Think_Long at 8:41 AM on November 23, 2009

I spent most of a day in in-school suspension folding dime in quarters (in half and then in half again) using the hinge and leverage of one of those convertable chair desks. It was really neat - just a mooshed little lump of metal.

Not as cool as a ring, though.
posted by dirtdirt at 8:42 AM on November 23, 2009

And a bit of clarification on Pollomacho from the previous Quarter Shrinkers:

The official position of the US Mint is that although they "frown on the despicable practice" of altering coins, they also agree that it is indeed legal to shrink coins.

I hope that it's safe to suppose that this extends to "make coins into rings".
posted by zer0render at 8:46 AM on November 23, 2009

I made one of these about a month ago to replace a lost ring and I was so pleased with the result that I thought it might make for a neat post. I didn't think to look on the web before I started making mine and as a result, my finished ring looks quite a bit different from the ones linked, despite the fact that used almost identical tools; I spent a lot of time hammering from the side as well, so I ended up with a ring that almost looks pipe cut. Unfortunately, doing it this way obliterated any coin marks, which is a shame because I think that's the neatest part.

I'm afraid to screw up because I only have the one quarter and it's not so easy to just find a pre 1965 quarter anymore.

I lucked out and got my quarter in with a bunch of change from a restaurant, but I became curious as to the availability so I checked a local coin shop. The guy had a ton of non-mint condition quarters and $.50 pieces sold at weight, so it worked out to about $3 for a quarter and $6 for a half dollar.

All told, mine took be about 10 hours from beginning to end to make, but I had never done it before and had no real instruction to follow other than a "Hmm, this should work..." idea in my head. I suspect the one I'm making for my wife will take a bit less time now that I better understand how it works.
posted by quin at 8:51 AM on November 23, 2009 [1 favorite]

18 USC 331: Whoever fraudulently ...; or Whoever fraudulently ...

Fraud requires intent to deceive.
posted by exogenous at 8:54 AM on November 23, 2009 [2 favorites]

The "mark the center" part intrigues me. How is that done using that angle tool?

One way of finding the center of a piece of round stock is to use the center head on a combination square. The round stock is held inside the vee of the center head and a line is scratched onto the round stock with a scribe along the blade of the square. The round stock is then rotated about 90 degrees and another line is scratched. The center is the intersection of the two scratched lines. I suspect this is the method used, although the picture is not that clear.
posted by digsrus at 9:44 AM on November 23, 2009

I am surprised that nowhere on that site did they mention annealing the metal.
Pretty much all the non ferrous (not made of iron) metals will work-harden over time due to vibration. This compacts the crystal structure of the metal and makes it MUCH harder to move. To loosen the structure, you just heat it with a torch till it turns a dull red, this is best done on a charcoal block to minimize the oxidization.
Once softened, the metal will be a lot easier to hammer, and will show a greatly reduced tendency to crack and split.
This annealing process will need to be repeated whenever the metal starts to stiffen, after a bit of practice you will be able to hear the difference in sound when the metal is struck (it starts to ring).
Incidentally, one of the classic goldsmithing exercises for apprentices was to turn a silver washer into a ring, and then bring it back again. If you ever want to give it a go, its talked about in this book.

Oh, and having a ring with a ridge in the middle is a very bad idea, if you really want to know why, google "degloving" but uhh, its kinda gross.
posted by Pink Fuzzy Bunny at 10:17 AM on November 23, 2009

I would love to do this for my partner, but alas, I don't have any of the tools, except for the hammer -- I had an old drill that got destroyed and since I'm not Mr. Handyman, it hasn't been worth it to spend the money. Maybe I'll start with the coin hammering and then borrow the tools from other people.
posted by Saxon Kane at 10:23 AM on November 23, 2009

Pink Fuzzy Bunny, I don't need to google it as the term itself is descriptive enough. Ugh.
posted by lyam at 10:26 AM on November 23, 2009

This was a major activity in the aircrew ready room of an aircraft carrier in the 1950s. The principal tools were a spoon or knife (handle) borrowed from the galley and the arm of a chair.
posted by RichardS at 10:58 AM on November 23, 2009

That doesn't really look like the most comfortable ring ever.
posted by shownomercy at 10:58 AM on November 23, 2009

Oh, and having a ring with a ridge in the middle is a very bad idea

So, are you saying "don't do this" or are you saying you know a better way of doing it (but just didn't feel like sharing)?
posted by StarmanDXE at 11:00 AM on November 23, 2009

I've done this with Canadian loonies ($1 coins) just by tapping them on a hard surface. Takes a while. Just keep tapping and rotating the coin on a piece of metal or whatever. Taptaptaptaptaptaptaptaptaptaptapataptaptaptaptpatpatpatpatpaptapta
posted by fimbulvetr at 11:01 AM on November 23, 2009

Yeah, annealing the metal will make it move much more easily. I keep meaning to try this trick, but I haven't found a suitable coin yet.

Fun fact: A sharpie is the perfect tool for properly annealing metal.
Step one: Put a sharpie mark on the face of your metal.
Step two: Heat the metal. When the sharpie ink burns off, your metal is properly annealed.
posted by 1f2frfbf at 11:10 AM on November 23, 2009 [4 favorites]

So, are you saying "don't do this" or are you saying you know a better way of doing it (but just didn't feel like sharing)?
Sorry I thought the alternative was implied.
Rings are safer when the inside is flat and the edges are rounded upward away from the finger so they don't catch on the skin as the ring is pulled off. A file and some sandpaper should do it.
posted by Pink Fuzzy Bunny at 11:12 AM on November 23, 2009 [1 favorite]

I'm actually building a coin shrinker, it's a background project, I hope to have it installed in a small panel truck, with a fold out tent and hand painted canvas signage. I'll travel from one state fair to another, giving my Electrical Wonders show on the carney midway, culminating of course with the shrinking coin.

I'll be the old guy sitting at the entrance in my comfortable folding chair, barking come-ons in my squawky PA system. I will have hair growing from my ears, and my nose will have become bulbous and decorated with spider veins.

I'm thinking about developing some other retirement plans, too, as a back up.
posted by StickyCarpet at 11:40 AM on November 23, 2009

fixed coin shrinker link
posted by StickyCarpet at 11:42 AM on November 23, 2009

zer0render, silver gets harder as it is hammered, bent, &c. If you have the tools, it's possible to heat the silver up red hot then, let it cool naturally which will help make it easier to work with again.
posted by squeak at 11:56 AM on November 23, 2009

Kid Charlemagne, my grandpa also suggested using a spoon. I have 2 rings, and have one half done somewhere.
posted by Max Power at 1:09 PM on November 23, 2009

It's an interesting re-use / low-tech sort of project, but given that you can easily buy sterling silver sheet in various gauges, I'd suggest that people who want to make silver rings learn how to silver-solder. A hardware-store torch with MAPP gas should do the trick (though a nicer plumber's torch or oxy-acetylene rig will be easier in the long run). I've made several rings, faniced-up by pierced designs. A fairly large men's ring shouldn't cost more than about $15 worth of silver. It is helpful to have a few tools (a mandrel is nice for sizing, and also for hammering the flat strip into a u-shape and then closing the band into to a loop that can be soldered). I see there are some decent online refs, for example this one is fairly close to how I learned it in school.
posted by blacksmithtb at 1:34 PM on November 23, 2009

I inherited and have worn for years one of these rings made by my great grandfather circa 1916 (date on the coin still visible). The ridge on the inside isn't a bother at all.
posted by blaneyphoto at 4:02 PM on November 23, 2009

I have also inherited one of these, made by my grandfather from a silver half-dollar while he was imprisoned during WW2. The ridge inside is no problem at all, although I don't remove the ring very often. I have never been "degloved." I don't know if he made it with a spoon though. You can still read the date and the "Liberty" and all that along the inside edges.
posted by donkeymon at 7:22 AM on November 24, 2009

I happily spent the day after Thanksgiving making a ring out of a quarter (and polishing up a chunk of steel railroad rail to use as an anvil, but that's a different story). I have a bit of jewelry making experience, but was pleasantly surprised at how easy it was, so for keeping me occupied over a holiday weekend, you get a hearty thanks for this post!
posted by 1f2frfbf at 7:32 AM on November 30, 2009

I just proposed to my girlfriend over thanksgiving, and while she got the very nice family heirloom ring, seeing this post just a few days before I left home I decided that it would be a good project for an engagement ring of my own.

The work went fast, and the majority of the time was sent filing and sizing. I used a 1964 Kennedy Half Dollar I picked up at a coin store for 7 dollars.

My father and I are both into blacksmithing, so we had all the necessary tools and then some. Along with the pics from the link, my fiancé had a ring made by her grandfather from an Austrailian Florin from WWII that I used as a model. I'm used to working with larger pieces of metal, and the 'small work' was a nice change of pace.

It turned out very well for my first try. She just loves it, and we've been considering that I make our wedding bands when the time comes. That's going to take much more practice and research, but I'm fairly confident I should be able to create a set of simple bands.
posted by chambers at 12:46 PM on December 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

Congrats chambers, that's fantastic
posted by Think_Long at 4:32 PM on December 1, 2009

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