How to Make a Classic Metal Cuff Bracelet

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The cuff is a classy and sassy piece of jewelry that can stand alone or be stacked with other pieces. And learning the basics of how to make this wardrobe staple will help progress your other jewelry-making endeavors too. Master the plain cuff first, then let your imagination take over — there are endless ways to customize here.

How to make a cuff

Tools you'll need:

  • Nylon hammer
  • A mandrel, weight, baseball bat or other solid round object for forming
  • Metal shears
  • Sheet metal (20-18 gauge is ideal; you’ll want around 5.5"-6″ lengths depending on the size of your wrist. If possible, use dead soft sheet metal.)
  • File
  • Ruler
  • For next-level designs: Texturing hammers, stamping sets, drill bits of varying sizes for holes

Notes on tools

  • Shears — For a simple cuff, guillotine shears will give you a nice, straight edge. Metal shears will work here too... just double check that they're able to cut through the metal you select. Eventually you'll want a jeweler's saw to get more curves in your designs, but if you use that for this project, you'll need to do more finishing work and filing so it's best to hold off.
  • Sheet metal — There are plenty of supply houses out there who will be happy to sell you something called bracelet blanks, which are pre-cut and ready to go. This option rules if you want to maximize your cuff creating time, since you won't have to bother cutting and filing them yourself.

Step 1: Draw your shape

If you bought sheet metal that's NOT pre-cut, make note if you have a straight edge on your sheet metal. Then, using a graphing ruler, draw lines that are either parallel or perpendicular to the straight edge so you end up with a piece that has squared edges. I use a Sharpie for this... it helps me figure out what the overall shape and size of the cuffs will be.

Step 2: Make the cut

Now's the time to bring out the shears, guillotine or saw and cut along the lines you drew until you have an elongated rectangle. I like to stop about three-quarters of the way before a full cut. Sometimes, as the blades of the scissors come together, you’ll get a funky little crimp at that spot in your metal. It'll mess up your straight line and is a massive pain to remove. If you just continue the length of your cut using the three-quarters technique, you’ll have fewer problems to fix later.

Step 3: Round the corners

Now round the sharp corners of your metal with a file. The whole point of this is so that the cuff is comfortable to put on and take off, so get rid of any sharp edges that could snag clothing or cut skin. If you're feeling fancy, you can also bevel all the edges for a more finished look. Once you're satisfied, run over the beveled/filed edges with a cushy nail file to make sure everything is super smooth.

Step 4: Add detail

I'm keeping this cuff simple, but if you're wanting to add more detail, now's the time. Go ahead and drill holes, texture the metal, or just ignore those ideas and skip to step 5. If you are adding flair here, know that hammering and stamping too much can "work harden” your piece. If your cuff is hard to bend during the next few steps, that's probably what happened. You'll need to heat with a torch to re-soften the metal, so keep a light hand your first few times cuff-making.

Step 5: Pick your tool

Time to get curvy! Go ahead and choose your tool — my first choice is a step cuff mandrel since it gives you lots of size options, but a hand weight, baseball bat, piece of pipe or cuff-making tool will all work great.

Step 6: Bend it like Beckham

Use your fingers to bend the metal blank around your mandrel (or other preferred curved surface), or start with one side and follow the curve around to bend the other side too. Using your nylon hammer, start making hammer blows on the ends and around the whole piece so that your metal forms to the mandrel. This is the part where you'll notice some resistance if you over-textured or over-stamped earlier.

Step 7: Finishing touches

Using different types of sand paper will create a polished look, or you can try using Scotch-Brite for a more satin finish. If you're using the Scotch-Brite method, applying a clear coat or renaissance wax on the exterior will keep fingerprints at bay.

Step 8: Customize it

Now's the time to wrap wire, add leather or string accents and play with files to create different textures. The sky's truly the limit here, so do your crafty thing and then go show off your new creations.

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