Hi All -
I've been asked to teach a non jewelry metalsmithing class this
summer and I've been thinking about spoons. I'm just wondering, with
the price of silver being what it is, are copper spoons able to be
used on a regular basis for eating (soup, cereal, ice cream, etc.)? I
don't think most students are going to want invest as much as the
silver materials will cost. There are a lot of copper pots and pans
out there, so I can't imagine it's bad for you.... Anyone want to
weigh in? Thanks!
A copper spoon is a nice idea, but it has its limitations.
The main one being its rather weak in daily use in the gauge that
most spoons are made.
when made from a single flat piece of metal.
Thats why most base metal spoons are in nickel silver ie nickel
brass or stainless steel.
Both of which would be to difficult for your beginners class to
But as its an easy metal to work with, Id still go along with this
idea and make arrangements for an electroplater to plate them with
silver when your class has made a plating batch.
You may personally!! need to make the handle for the class in a
curved section to give it strength.
That will need a tinmans T stake, the one with half flat and the
other half with different dia cross grooves in the top for shaping
this curved section upon..
The next alternative is pewter, tho you may have problems getting it
in sheet form around 1/8in thick.
You dont mention how many hours the class will have and what tools
are available, ie smithing tools and brazing torches, as you could
make the bowl in copper and the handle in brass and then braze them
But you would have to do the brazing for them.
A last resort would be to make a much smaller spoon say a coffee
spoon or even smaller, a salt or mustard spoon in silver..
I was a stand in for a couple of terms at a local school when their
handicrafts teacher was ill, I made the mistake of letting the class
choose their own item to make in wood.
They ranged from horse jumps to teapot stands to a small dolls
In the class of 12 there was only one child that could saw at all. I
finished up making most of the items for them meself.
The next term I took this class they all had to make the same
thing!!. This was a pair of wooden pot stirrers.
I cut them out on the band saw and they finished them with rasps and
Copper pots and pans are lined so that the copper does not have an
opportunity to react with acids in the food. The only copper bowl I
know of used for cooking that is not lined is a bowl that is used for
hand whipping egg whites.
Barbara on a soggy snowy island
.....are copper spoons able to be used on a regular basis for
Fuzzi shu, most copper pots and pans are lined with tin, because
copper reacts with most food.
I am aware of two exceptions:
An unlined copper pot can be used for caramelizing sugar, because
the copper does a good job of caramelizing the sugar and I am
guessing that the sugar does not react with the copper.
An unlined copper bowl can be used for whipping egg whites because
the peaks will stick to the sides of the bowl which gets them out of
the way and increases the surface area of the un-whipped egg whites,
thus increasing the amount of air that can be whipped into the egg
whites, which is desirable.
When using an unlined copper bowl to whip egg whites, it is ultra
important to clean the inside of the bowl extremely well immediately
before whipping the egg whites or else the peaks will not stick to
the sides of the bowl.
I can imagine a potential liability of sending students home with a
copper spoon. It is poison when copper reacts with food.
Rachel- Good thng you asked here before you taught the class. The
answer is No. It's a really bad idea.
You never want to eat or drink regularly out of a copper vessel,
especially acidic foods. You can get copper poisoning. That's why
copper pots are always tinned.
Have fun and make lots of jewelry.
Copper tastes funny in the mouth. Well, it tastes coppery, and that
changes the flavor of the food. But your students could have their
spoons silver plated.
Also, copper pans are generally lined with tin. The exception are
copper mixing bowls used for whipping meringue. The copper is
supposed to help stabilize the egg whites.
If you've got access to a hydraulic press, I did a spoon project
once where we used the press to die-form the bowls, then soldered
heavier (3ga) square wire handles onto the bowls. I ended up having
to make a steel faced die for the project, but it wasn't hard. We
did our in silver though.
If you're going to do copper, they're not for use. Copper reacts
with all sorts of things. Once upon a time, when I was first
starting out, I did a spoon with a bronze bowl. Yech. You could
really taste the copper, on just about anything. On the other hand,
having them raise/press out a bowl, and then cut some sort of design
into the bowl could be an interesting way to both expand the design
potential of the project, as well as making sure they don't use it.
I've got the PDF handout from the last time I did it with the Santa
Barbara folks available here:
That project relies on a bunch of stakes you probably don't have,
and a custom-modified flex-shaft drill press, so you can't do it
that way, but it should give you some ideas.
Hope that helps,
One project I made in college was an enameled copper spoon. What a
disappointment and waste of time. Even with brazing to build up the
handle, the metal was soft. The spoon was intended as an 'art piece'
and not for food, but it bent so easily that the enamel cracked and
popped off with the least handling.
IOW, don't make this a project for your class. Brass might be an
option for a spoon - it is a stiffer metal than copper.
If you want to use copper, how about doing some copper tooling? The
tooled pieces could also be pierced and rolled into cylinders to
form a candle holder/lantern. Other ideas: house numbers, decorative
box or tray, mobiles, fold-formed wall hangings, garden creatures.
I hope all goes well & let us know what you decide to do.
Judy in Kansas, where it's another single digit night. Brrrrrrr.
Hi Rachel this link may interest flatware makers.
Spoon fed: how cutlery affects your food -
Copper and zinc were bold and assertive, with bitter, metallic
tastes; thecopper spoons even smelt metallic as they gently oxidised
in the air.
A 210 brass with 95% copper or a 220 brass with 90% copper will work
pretty much like sterling. The end product will be more durable with
Personally, I don't like the taste of copper, I don't think I'd
enjoy eating with it. Whichever material you choose, the end products
could be sent out for silver plating. Copper utensils can be pretty,
but are probably best as decoration.
Best of luck!
Copper is used to poison algae and barnacles so they don't foul
vessels bottoms. Pretty much says it fr me!
Jerry in Kodiak
Hi All -
Thanks for the suggestions so far. I've been asked not to use pewter
in the studio as they are worried about contaminating any future
silver work. It is a 15 hr class. The first day would be demos,
practice, and a chance to start designing. I'm not sure we have any
electroplaters in Iowa but I'll certainly check it out. I definitely
don't want to copper poison my students!
it has already been pointed out that copper is not good for a spoon,
for a number of reasons.
I suggest you check on the cost of having the spoons silver plated.
I would also consider using red brass/bronze/nugold for the spoon
project so that they have stronger spoons.
Im reluctant to let this one go just yet.
There ar really 2 issues here.
1. The suitability of copper for a spoon in daily use,
2. Is is practical from the metalurgical point of view to use copper
being much softer then metals usually used for spoon making.
1. has been well and truly covered by all the posts so far, with
silver plating being suggested as a a solution.
But 2. is to me a much more interesting question.
You dont say what size spoon you planned to make, so lets take a
desert spoon as an example.
These are on average 7.25in long overall with a bowl width of 1.5in
and a handle width of.25in at its narrowest point.
Now as someone posted they made a copper spoon and enamelled it. It
didnt work for a no of reasons, mainly that in enamelling it annealed
the copper and most probably the handle was flat so had no strength
So is it possible to use copper to make a desert spoon thats
useable? without it being too unwieldy and heavy? I think it can. But
you need to think how your going to get stiffness into the handle,
being the weakest part.
As I mentioned in my previous post you need to make the handle into
a semicircular shape, id now go further and say it should be an
upside down "U" section with the top of the U being 1/4in and the
sides 5/16ths in.
This U section will taper into the bowl like a rat tail spoon and
also taper into the handle top, this being on average some 3/4in
If you start with 1/16th in annealed copper sheet, it will work
harden somewhat in forming with hammers, the bowl in a depression in
a wooden block and the handle in as mentioned before in a groove of a
If you go down this road, you will need to make up, or get together
all the tooling for your students to use, with you demonstrating each
part of the forming process, so they then can copy you.
Youll need to get your hand and eye in as we say, so when you demo
each section of the spoon making technique you get it right.
Have a go yourself at making several spoons in advance of the
classes so the students can see your skill in doing it. it can be
It will also pay to give each student some scraps of copper to
hammer away at. Before they actually start on their own copper spoon.
Many people cant use a hammer, there painful to watch!!. You may
finish up making lots of spoons for your students.
If your students are to cut out the basic shape you will need to
give them a template to draw around onto the copper sheet.
Making the spoon blank will take almost as long as forming the
Id also print out a proper guide as to what each part of the process
involves and give to each student for them to take away and study.
It will save you a lot of time explaining everything several times,
and be a basis for discussion.
Let us know what you think about the above.
To add to my post about the coffee measuring spoon-- If you use
large-gauge wire for the handle, you could have them flatten the ends
enough to rivet them onto the bowl. Mixed brass and copper would look
Early in my metalsmithing career, I made a 1TBS spoon for measuring
ground coffee, and my husband has used it every day since. The bowl
is a hemisphere, and I bent 12g wire into twists and spirals and
soldered it on.
You could do the same with copper. Using it as a dry measure, there
should be no issue with the metal reacting.
You could do the same with copper. Using it as a dry measure,
there should be no issue with the metal reacting.
You could also make mere decorative spoons: (please forgive my
terrible photography and webpage building "ability")
Joe Spoon has been making measuring spoons for years! I have a set.
The bowl of the spoons are made of brass, the handles copper. You
could make the bowls from 1" brass disks, available at Rio or
Metalliferous. He has a web site; can be googled.