Embossed Copper Tile

Making raised designs on thin sheets of metal has been a popular art form all over the world for thousands of years. In French it’s called repoussé, in Spanish it’s called repujado, and in English it’s called embossing or tooling.

Famous examples include the burial mask of King Tut and the Statue of Liberty!

Materials:

copper square (WARNING: Sharp edges!)
cardboard square
plain paper
felt square
push stick
pencil
tape

Video Link:

A square of copper foil embossed with a Mapuche textile design from Chile

Directions:

  1. Draw your picture in pencil on a square of plain paper.

  2. If you want to make a symmetrical design – a picture that is the same on the left and right (or top and bottom) – fold your paper in half first like a birthday card. Then open the “card,” and only draw half the picture. When you’re done, close the “card” and rub the paper. The pencil lines will transfer and copy the other half of your drawing! (The lines will be faint, so you’ll want to trace them again.)

  3. Put the copper square on top of the felt square. (Be careful: The metal edges can be sharp!) Put your drawing on top of the copper square.

  4. Use the pointy end of the push stick to trace your design. Push hard enough to dent the metal, but not so hard that you poke all the way through.

  5. Take the paper off the copper. If the lines are still hard to see, gently trace them again.

  6. Decide which parts of your design you want to pop up, which parts you want to go down, and which parts you want to stay flat.

  7. Use the round end of the push stick to rub all the areas you want to pop up. The pressure will make the metal stretch and change shape. (Make sure you’re on top of the squishy felt! If you try to do this on a hard surface like a table, the metal won’t move and it’s frustrating.)

  8. Flip the copper square over. All the areas you just worked on should now be bumps on the metal! This technique is called embossing.

  9. Those bumps are probably a bit messy, though. Put the copper back on the felt, with the bumps facing up, and use the point of the push stick to rub around the bumps like you’re outlining them. (Always rub! And gently!) Do this for all the areas you want to go down.
    This technique is called chasing.

  10. Repeat steps 6-8 until your whole design looks the way you want.

  11. If you make a mistake, just rub gently on both sides of the metal with the round end of the push stick or the back of a spoon. That will smooth and flatten the metal.

  12. When you’re done, put the copper bumpy-side-up on top of the cardboard square. Rip off a piece of black tape about 6 inches long. (This tape is very sticky, so you might need to ask an adult for help.)

  13. Stick the tape to one side of the copper square so that half the tape is on the metal and half isn’t stuck to anything. Fold the tape back so that it sticks to the cardboard. Do this 3 more times so that the copper has a black “frame” and is firmly taped to the cardboard. (This will keep the metal from bending and keep the corners from scratching people.)

  14. Enjoy your embossed metal tile!