How to Make Metal Plaques

Written by susan dorling Google
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How to Make Metal Plaques
Metal plaques and wall scultpures add interest to contemporary decor. (plaque or image by Unclesam from

Unleash your inner artist and create a metal wall plaque. Capture the beauty of the natural world by tracing a photo or drawing of an animal, a flower or a star onto sheet metal; cut, paint or patina and mount on a substrate of wood or metal. Transform your digital art into a multilayered, three-dimensional work of art. You can use any sheet metal, but copper is particularly stunning when treated with patinas or coloured by flame; it's also soft and malleable enough to shape with your hands into a 3D metal wall plaque.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Pen or coloured pencils
  • Copper sheet metal
  • Chalk
  • Plastic pre-cut patterns or transparency film
  • Scissors
  • Tin snips, metal shears or wiss snips with non-serrated edges
  • Paper towel
  • Ball peen hammer
  • Wire brush
  • Pliers with long handles
  • Flame source such as oxyacetylene torch set-up
  • Wood or aluminium substrate
  • Silicone adhesive
  • Mounting screws
  • Picture wire

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  1. 1

    Design the metal wall plaque on paper first to determine how much copper sheet metal you will need. Coloured pencils are useful to determine where to place different patterns or features of the template. Lay the copper sheet metal on a flat work surface. Place a pre-cut plastic template on top. If using transparency film and a paper template, trace the paper template onto the transparency film. Cut it out with scissors to make a transparent template, then place on top of the sheet metal.

  2. 2

    Trace the outline of the template with chalk. Cut carefully along the chalk outline. Handle the cut sides of the sheet metal template with care. Wipe off excess chalk from the edges with a paper towel.

  3. 3

    Texturise the copper template with a ball peen hammer, leave it smooth or use a combination of hammered and smooth patterns. Grip the edge of the copper template with pliers. Apply a flame to the copper using a lightly sweeping action, continuously moving over the surface of the piece; do not hold the flame in one place or you will burn a hole in the copper. Wire brush any areas where you don't like the colour, and put that area under the flame once more. Refer to video tutorials online so you can see exactly how to achieve a variety of results using a torch.

  4. 4

    Preserve the colours by spraying a gloss sealer on the copper template; colours will gradually fade if not sealed and may fade up to 50 per cent even when sealed. When the copper template is dry, apply a second coat of sealer and let dry thoroughly.

  5. 5

    Coat the back of the copper template with silicone or other adhesive. Mount the copper template onto a wood or aluminium backing. Mount two screws and picture hanging wire on the back and hang on the wall.

Tips and warnings

  • Collect unusual shapes and pieces of scrap metal from junk stores and scrap yards to make a collage wall plaque.
  • Experiment with different patinas to achieve completely different looks with the same templates.
  • For a dramatic copper sculpture that looks like it's growing out of the wall, patina or paint a sheet of copper sheet metal, cut a series of wide and narrow strips in a radial pattern along all the edges and leave them attached to the centre of the main sheet. Roll and curl the wider strips toward the centre of the sheet to make a flower. Roll and curl the narrow strips for tendrils.
  • Prepare colour patinas and treat several different shapes of copper sheet metal. Layer the shapes, using silicone adhesive, onto a background of wood or aluminium. You can make large individual plaques for a focal point in a living room or group smaller plaques in complementary colours and patterns in dining rooms, kitchens and bathrooms.
  • Place sheet metal over objects and hammer to create impressions in the metal, then burnish to a high shine.
  • Explore your creativity with metal stamps to texture the copper before assembling into a wall plaque.
  • Tin snips and metal shears are sharp. Handle the cut sheet metal with care. Protect your hands and eyes. Wear gloves and safety glasses when working with metal.
  • Carefully follow instructions and observe safety precautions for using a torch.
  • Ensure your workspace is adequately ventilated.

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