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Making copper grapes

I know, it sounds silly. I recently participated in the building of
an outdoor fountain that is designed to resemble a grapevine. I’d
never closely studied a grape leaf before and found it quite helpful
to photocopy,in color for better detail, two sizes of grape leaves
fresh from a vine for patterns. This worked very well and 67.5 hours
later I had some very convincing copper grape leaves for the vine
fountain. But what is more convincing for a grape vine than actual
grapes? Well this is where I/we ran into problems. One of my
partners (three of us in all) in the venture decided that our best
course of action was to go buy some cheapo plastic grapes and hang
them from the vine. They look like grapes alright but, being an
outdoor fountain, they will eventually discolor and rot in our high
altitude desert New Mexico sunshine. That thin air, High UV light
doesn’t mix well with cheapo plastic and especially reddish purple
pigments. Those colors bleach out amazingly well in sunlight. I want
to make realistic looking copper grapes that I can oxidize for
color. Here’s my own problem… I’ve thought of dapping out a bunch
of half spheres, soldering like a madman, and winding up with round
grapes. In reality grapes are rarely spherical and this won’t look
real enough. I thought about using glass grapes but those that I
found were basically round marbles that didn’t look real enough to
me. My leaves look very much like the real thing and I’d like for
the graspes to look fairly real too. I need to find a way to shape
these things into the oblong wonders that real grapes are, and I
need to be able to do so in volume with repeatable accuracy in 2-3
different sizes. I had considered casting some grapes but the end
result will be far too heavy for the vines to support. I would
really appreciate any ideas you fine people might be able to give
me. So far everything has been produced at the life sized scale. I
have yet to figure out how to actually fix them into a cluster too
but, first, I need the grapes. There isn’t a major time constraint
here but, if we ever want to sell this thing, it needs to be right.
Maybe my perfection oriented artist is showing here but I think that
a serious attempt at realism shouldn’t be diluted with second rate
fixes ( like plastic grapes). If you can help please do so. I trust
you folks more than most because you know the reality of trying to
make metal behave and obey.

Thanks in advance.

Depending on how many of each size and shape you’ll be needing you
may want to make or have made a set of stamping dies.

Steve Guyot
Guyot Brothers Co Inc
Decorative jewelry findings & ornamental stampings since 1904

Perhaps you could take the cheap plastic grapes that your partner
bought, dip them in conductive paint and electroform copper over

That would allow you to use existing materials and would give you a
realistic grape shape with a light weight.

Lee Einer
Dos Manos Jewelry


I can think of several ways that might work.

  1. Make up a set of oval/oblong shaped dapping punches and solder
    the stamped halves together. Use a wood or lead block for the
    matching half of the punch set. There is a material call "kirksite"
    that was good for this technique. This would be a lot of hard work.

  2. Take the plastic grapes and use them as the cores for an
    electroformed surface.

  3. Again, use the plastic grapes as a core for a hollow casting in
    silver, bronze, or pewter then electroplate on the copper for the
    patina. I do not think trying to cast in copper would work well. (see
    past copper casting discussions in the archives). Also burning out
    the plastic may be very difficult as well as toxic. Why not use the
    plastic grapes as a form to make a wax shell pattern say 20 Ga thick,
    cast the halves, solder together, then plate?

My own inclination would be to make up the punch set and make the
individual “grapes”. I would then electroplate to cover the solder
seam. The “grapes” could also be put into old pickle with some iron
wire. This will effectively plate the surface too. Then patina as

Sounds like fun!

Making metal behave is easy, my rolling mill is another story.

Bill Churlik


Trying to make grapes is so much fun. I have made a couple of
bundles and very time consuming and takes a lot of patients. You
are on the right track by using something as a dapper and block to
make halves. I have tried a couple of methods and using a piece of
hardwood with an oval type shape cut into it and using a dapping
punch to shape the copper worked the best. Once you make the halves
you have to file and fit together. Now instead of using solder I
brazed mine. The reason I brazed is because the next step is
installing the stem. Using solder the halves will come apart some.
You have to grind/sand off the excess brazing rod at the seam. I
made my stem system from copper wire, attaching a short stem to the
grape first. Then made up the main stem from heavier copper wire,
hammered and bent some. Brazed small branches off of the main stem
and then attached the grape stem to the branches. The brass from the
brazing patinas about the same as the copper so not very noticeable.
The real secret is using thicker copper (.030 in)instead of the thin
roofing copper. It is easier to braze and you have a little room to
grind off the brazing rod at the seam without grinding through the

Warren Townsend

Trenton, MI 48183

Since you’re using copper, I don’t understand why you couldn’t cast
them. The mold could be very hollow (alleviating weight), and where
you attach them either singly to make a cluster, or as a cluster unit
to the vine, copper wire could be used wound around and around to
simulate vines. How many clusters are you wanting to create?

In keeping with the overall look of the piece, I agree that you
should not use the plastic grapes. I mean, the leaves are copper -
why should you all of a sudden have “real” grapes?

Very interesting project. Please let us know what you decide to do.


Hello- Just a quick thought, what about electroforming. This would
give you a realistic and lighter weight pieces. I’m not an expert on
the subject, but it seems like a good solution?


Just a thought: you could carve one grape out of ANY material, make a
rubber mold, shoot a quantity of waxes, and ELECTROFORM metal over
the wax. I cannot tell you how to do the electroforming, but I am sure
there is someone on Orchid who can.

David Barzilay
Lord of the Rings
607 S Hill St Ste 850
Los Angeles, CA 90014-1718

G’day; My suggestion for making grape shapes in copper is to make
your own grape shaped dapping dies. You can get a variety of
two-part plastic resins which set really hard from auto supply
shops. Select a small shallow vessel for the mould. Grease a
firm ripe grape - or a plastic one - and set it to half it’s
diameter in the hard setting plastic, and there’s your female die.
Coat the inside of this die with a layer of wax of the thickness of
the copper sheet you will use and pour the setting plastic into it,
remembering to place something in it to act as a handle - a short
screw or some such. Now you have the two halves of a dapping die,
which if well treated will last for a good number of thin sheet
copper dappings. These could be made in a number of sizes.
Hammering will destroy the dies. Press the well annealed copper
into the mould using a bench vice.

Take two mating dappings, clean the edges so they match and solder
them together, leaving a small hole for air to escape. A short
length of suitable copper wire could be easy-soldered to the
’grape’. Seal the escape hole with plastic resin and copper dust.
Sounds easy? well, it ain’t! But practice will perfect, (as they
say) Other folk in Orchid will give you suggestions on patination;
I have very little experience there.

See; I just can’t resist offering an answer to a question to which I
think I have a suggestion!

Cheers for now,
JohnB of Mapua, Nelson NZ

Michael I have collaborated with some blacksmith friends of mine on a
project very similar to yours. They needed convincing grapes to hang
from their gorgeous wrought chandeliers. These fixtures were to hang
in the reception room of a very posh wine cellar. Anyway I torched
about 400 or so very realistic glass grapes that were subsequently
glued to grape cluster armatures on the chandeliers. If you know a
glass lampworker in your area I’m sure they could accommodate your
request. I found that a matted surface on the glass grapes gave them
a more realistic appeal.

Hope this helps.


I need to find a way to shape these things into the oblong wonders
that real grapes are, Native American grapes (Concords and
Niagaras) are mostly spherical.  The oblong ones are European

Having said that - can’t you dap them into shaped depressions in
hard, dense wood like rosewood? You could gouge out the basic
shapes, then smooth with a flex shaft grinding wheel. If you anneal
frequently, the copper should remain soft enough.


You need a hydraulic press for this. I recently designed a “bunch
of grapes” as a holiday ornament for a client. I used Delrin to
carve out a realistic looking grouping of grapes, in reverse,
complete with stem. This delrin slab became the mold for my
ornament. I then used a form box and my hydraulic press, placed a
26ga. sheet of copper cut to size in the box, pressed to 6500 lbs.
and voila, a bunch of grapes. For this project, I only pressed
once. For your project, you will probably want to press a few times
to get the depth of the grapes right, annealing between pressings.
If you want realistic 3-d grapes with two sides, you will need to
create a reverse mold, press the back, and then solder.

As for color, I found that cleaning with Simple green, lightly
sanding with scotchbrite green, and placement in a standard oven at
around 350 degrees for 20-30 minutes gives a wonderful, hearty
patination. Variations on the temperature give wonderful results.

regards, Donna Blow, dzines by donna

Mike, How about electroplating real grapes? They would be realistic,
and multi-sized, and light, as well. You’ll need some conductive
paint, and a plating set up. There are instructions around for
home-made setups using a car battery for power. Another idea would
be to do matrix dies in a hydraulic press of several sizes and
shapes of grapes. (Go to for information
about matrix dies and presses) For the quantity you need to make,
though, I think the plating would be more time efficient, since it
would also take care of a lot of connections problems as well as the
realism problem. It sure sounds like a beautiful project. We’d love
to see photos! Give us progress reports, please.

Best of luck!


You could take those plastic grapes, paint them with conductive
paint, and electroform copper over them. If you start with a smooth
surface and are patient (use a slow deposition rate) you can get a
nice smooth copper surface…like a grape! If you want some texture,
you can play with the process to get some amazing effects.

There are many refs on the web on how to home brew a copper
electroforming setup. I believe the Orchid archives also contain some

Best of luck with your grapes!

Tom Colson
Renaissance Gecko Designs


What a great project!

How about freezing some real grapes in dry ice so they’re rock hard

  • then use them to make an impression/2- part mold/die out of
    something like Jett-Sett. Hammer away, then solder the pieces
    together. Use a selection of grapes so not all grape sizes are
    totally uniform. Remember the grape name to pass on to your future
    buyer! Just a simplified idea for a possible start.

JoAnn, Solvang - in the Santa Ynez Valley where apparently not all
grapes are created equal.

Hi Mike – Do you have access to a Bonny Doon press? (Without a
press, you could use a vise to press the copper in the pattern die,
but it would take forever!) Most colleges that have metalsmithing
have at least one hydrolic press.

There is a book by Susan Kingsley called “Hydrolic Die Forming For
Jewelers & Metalsmiths” which shows different ways of making
cost-effective dies, which you would then use to form your copper,
then cut and solder the halves together. It would still take kind
of a long time, but the grapes could look “realistic” in form.

Otherwise, have you considered having a glassworker make the grapes
out of glass?


The electroforming idea is intriguing. I found a link relevant to
this end.

Electroforming on Beads 
by Kate Fowle


A hydraulic press with a male and female die would enable you to
make multiples quickly and easily. Check out

It will give you an over view. You can build your own press instead
of buying one. They use 12 or 20 ton bottle jacks to power them.

Help others make informed buying decisions with Bonny Doon
Engineering, Inc. . We welcome your opinions and experiences with
ordering, customer service and and over all satisfaction.

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marilyn smith

Mike and Terri,

In the " Metalsmith Papers of the Society of North American
Goldsmiths" 1977 - 1980 was an article written by Marc David Paisin
titled Practical, Inexpensive Hydraulic Pressing and Die Forming for
the Artist - Metalsmith that may be worth reading.

A press was made using a car jack.

Good Luck
Greg DeMark
Custom Jewelry - Handmade Jewelry - Antique Jewelry

Mike and JoAnn,

I don’t know if they are still available but a number of years ago
they made wax fruit to be displayed on a table.

If you can still find them they may work for this project. Slice
the grapes in half, hollow them out to the thickness you want, add a
wax wire to one of the halves to be used as the stem, cast in two
halves and then solder them together.

Good Luck
Greg DeMark
Custom Jewelry - Handmade Jewelry - Antique Jewelry