Compared to other nonprecious metals, copper is exceptionally soft and easy to work. Humans discovered this trait long ago and began to craft vessels, weapons and building materials from copper. Artists, plumbers and metalworkers use a variety of tools to cut, bend, shape and form copper materials. Whether you're working with copper tubing or sheets, a familiarity with coppersmithing tube prepares you to choose the right tools for your project.
Two of the most common coppersmithing tools are bench shears and the jeweler's saw. Both tools bear resemblance to common, general purpose construction tools: the bench shears look like an oversized set of tin snips and the jeweler's saw resembles a coping saw or hack saw. The bench shears have two stubby, wedge-shaped cutting blades attached to long handles. One of the handles attaches to a workbench and stabilizes the tool as a metalworker manipulates the copper sheet. Like a hack saw, the jeweler's saw consists of a roughly C-shaped frame and a pistol-grip handle. A cutting blade hangs between the open jaw of the jeweler saw's C-shaped frame. While the bench shears' sharpened cutting edge creates a cleaner cut than the jeweler saw's sharp-toothed blade, the jeweler's saw is lightweight and allows the coppersmith to cut freehand.
In general, three types of hammering tools appear in coppersmithing and metalworking shops: mallets, raising hammers and planishing hammers. The mallets used for coppersmithing consist of barrel-shaped leather, wood, plastic or rubber heads and a straight handle. These materials strike and quickly push or bounce away from the copper's surface, a characteristic referred to as "resiliency." Resilient mallets perform soft work and leave few dents. Similar in size to the mallet, the raising hammer's head is rectangular and composed entirely of metal. Metalworkers use a raising hammer to perform rough shaping and quickly deform copper materials. The planishing hammer looks like a ball-peen hammer with two striking faces. With one concave face and one convex face, the planishing hammer performs a variety of fine shaping tasks.
In metalworking, the term "stake" refers to a stationary form, such as an anvil. The metalworker places copper onto the form and pounds the material against the form with a hammer or mallet, forcing the copper to assume the stake's shape. Stakes appear in an endless variety of shapes and forms and many metalworkers craft custom stakes for specific applications. A couple of the most common, commercially available stakes are the mushroom stake and the "T" stake. The mushroom stake looks like an upright trailer tow ball and the T stake is typically shaped like the head of a golfer's putter. Both types usually mount to a work bench by bolt or screw.