Tuesday, April 19, 2011

It's All About the Process: Making Simple Buttons

Button Collection above my bench
I love Buttons! My grandma had a huge box that I would spend hours sifting through as a child. When she passed many of those buttons became part of my collection and several years later my mom and I spent an evening during one of her visits sorting them by color or material so I could display them in my collection of bottles.  A while back I decided to make some simple buttons of my own using some 20 gauge brass that had been sitting around for a while. The process is perfect for someone just beginning to manipulate metal and can be modified for much more complex buttons if desired.

Tools and Supplies:
Goggles and Face Shield (Safety first!)
Metal (I usually go with 20 gauge or heavier)
    A 1" x 3" piece will yield 12, 1/2" square buttons or  6, 1" X 1/2" buttons
Texturing tools: hammers, stamps, etch bath (whatever you use to mark up the metal)
Bench Block or anvil 
Pencil or Sharpie
Center Punch
Drill press or Flex shaft (whatever you use to drill holes)
Jewelers Saw or a Shear if you have one
Patina (optional)

Step One: Create some texture on the sheet metal using hammers, stamps and a bench block
   *Annealing first is helpful but not necessary 
   For these buttons I used a variety of hammers and stamps. This would be the time to etch!
   For a great tutorial on Green Electro Etching check out this tutorial by Inbar Baraket.

Step Two: Using a ruler and pencil map out the desired shapes including hole placement.
   I went with squares, rectangles, and triangles with varying numbers of holes.

Step Three: Using a center punch and chasing hammer create a starting point for each hole.

Steps 1- 3

Step Four: Drill out the Holes using a drill press or flex shaft (Face Shield!).
Drill Holes

Step Five: Cut out the shapes using a jewelers saw or shear (wear goggles or other eye protection).

Step Six: Filing and Sanding: Round out the edges and corners using files and sand paper.
  When sanding I usually start with 350 grit and work down to 600 (using a flex shaft and a split mandrel
  really speeds this up, sanding sticks are also great).

Row 1: Cut out, Row 2: Filed, Row 3: Sanded

Step Seven: patina and wax!
   I went with Midas Black for this group (Please make sure to read the directions and wear eye protection!)
   A cloth, Sand paper, or scotch bright can be used to relieve the patina (I went with 1200 grit sand paper)
   *If you are going for super shiny buttons you would probably want to buff the little guys before waxing.

Row 1: dark patina, Row 2: patina relieved, Row 3: Waxed

This collection of buttons is going into the goodie bags for the I Heart Indie (fashion) event at Origin Design Studios of Eureka, CA from 6-9 on May 5th. If you are in town be one of the first 30 people to arrive and one of these little guys will be all yours!

No comments:

Post a Comment