I've been making coin rings as a business since 2016 and have acquired a lot of specialized tools over the years. When I started out making rings, long before I set up Celtic Coin Craft, I used much simpler tools that were easy to get and many of which I already had. In this blog, I'm going to show you a relatively basic way of making coin rings.
Tools used: Butane/propane torch, rawhide mallet, sandpaper, sharpie, half-round file, ring mandrel, drill with step-bit, 4-sided nail buffer block, small bits of wood, paper towel, metal polish. Not pictured: vice, a jar of water & tongs. I guess the ring mandrel is the only tool that is special to ring-making.
The coin I'm making into a ring is a 1939 Irish Florin (2-shillings). This coin is 75% silver 25% copper and is 28.5mm in diameter. This one is of much poorer quality than I usually use for rings.
The first step is to mark out a hole in the center of the coin. I rest the sharpie on several cards and then rotate the coin while holding the sharpie still against it. This makes a rough circle in the middle of the coin.
I put the coin in the vice between two pieces of soft wood. The wood I used here is actually two pieces of a wooden puzzle I had laying around. Any softish wood will do, it is just to hold the coin tightly without damaging it.
I start drilling the hole using the stepped drill bit. I turn the coin around the other way and drill from the other side too. The coin gets very hot during drilling. I need to drill the hole big enough that the coin will fit onto the ring mandrel.
I use the half-round file to smooth & even out the inside of the hole. I tear off a piece of sandpaper (this one is 100 grit) and use that to smooth the hole after filing.
Next up the coin has to be heated (annealed). This softens the metal and keeps it workable. I turn off the lights so I can see the coin changing to a faint orange, that's how I know it is heated sufficiently. If I overheat the coin the surface can bubble. If I don't heat it enough the coin won't be workable.
I repeat this process several times during the ring-shaping process.
I quench the coin in water to cool it. I have added a few tablespoons of salt and vinegar to the water which prevents fire scale.
I start hitting the coin with the rawhide mallet. With each blow, I rotate the mandrel slightly so as to evenly work the coin
I take the coin off the mandrel occasionally, anneal it again and then file the edge with the nail block. Often the coin sticks to the mandrel and I have to hit it from the other side to release it.
Back on the mandrel, I hit it from above and the side to get rid of the conical shape.
I file down the inner lip. Have to be careful here to only remove the lip and not scratch the details on the inside of the band. I follow the file with sandpaper again.
Back on the mandrel again. With the inner lip removed I can hammer the ring again bringing it closer to the mandrel and getting rid of most of the remaining cone shape.
I rub the bottom edge of the ring on the 100-grit sandpaper and then use the buffer block. The block has different sides with varying degrees of coarseness. I use them in succession on each face of the coin. I also peel off one of the strips and use that on the inside of the ring.
I rub metal polish onto the ring and then use the paper towel to remove the polish and shine up the ring.
The finished ring. It's a size 9.5 US (UK T, EU 61). It came out quite well but it still has a slightly conical shape. The band is more narrow than I would usually make - that is because I had to make the hole in the coin big enough to fit on the mandrel. Using this method it is very hard to size the ring, if you make it too big there's no way to make it smaller using these tools. This method is also very time-consuming.
This is what the Éire Florin coin rings look like when I make them using my regular tools. They have also had a patina to help the details stand out. These are available for sale here
If you have any questions about making coin rings or would like something special made get in touch.