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Copper cat tails

Posted: Mon Jan 22, 2018 1:03 pm
by juddnelson
I am forming copper cat tails and have a problem forming the tapered ends.
Any thoughts?

Re: Copper cat tails

Posted: Sat Feb 10, 2018 9:21 am
by Martin Pansch
Hi Judd.

Are you trying to forge the tapered ends or just anything to get that shape? What dimensions of copper are you dealing with? If it is thin stuff I would probably just cut and file it to shape. If you are trying to forge it you might have to start with thicker stock, at most 3 times as wide as it is thick, forge the taper, then finish flattening the piece to the desired thickness. The down side is this is more hammer work. The up side is the minute imperfections from the hammering should make the surface more interesting to the touch.

My $0.02 at least


Re: Copper cat tails

Posted: Sun Feb 11, 2018 12:35 pm
by juddnelson
Hi Martin,
I am making cattails out of copper plumbing pipe. mostly 3/4"& 1"dia x 7"long. These will be slid over 1/4" steel rod.
Should a anneal the copper ends first before taper the tube, I will make a few out of a long pipe and be able to use the double sided taper
I have been trying to use a guilotine as well as a spring fuller.
Why do you think a thicker pipe?
Thanks for your help.
Can I email you a pic of what I have so far?

Re: Copper cat tails

Posted: Sun Feb 11, 2018 10:19 pm
by Martin Pansch
Hi Judd.

Sure, send me photos. I think you have my email. If you want I’ll post them here for others to check out too.

I didn’t realize you were doing these out of pipe. The 3 to 1 ratio is the rule of thumb for forging down flat bar on edge. E.g. if you have 1/4” thick stock more than 3/4” wide and it wants to bend and pucker more that Forge into itself. Not that you can’t do it, just takes a lot more time and futzing with it. I don’t think using thicker pipe will be the answer.

Using pipe might actually make it easier to get a point though. When you are cutting it to length cut it on the bias so you have a pointy end. Then when flattening rotate it 90 degrees so the point is on top. It should get you most of the way to your pointy reed. The downsides would be a single thickness of copper at the point and sort of a V on the back side of the reed though this might get mashed in and hidden a bit. If your piece is only going to be viewed from one side this shouldn’t be an issue.

I would certainly give you pipe a good anneal before working them. Can’t hurt anything. When I have assumed copper was already annealed in the past I have usually regretted it.

Re: Copper cat tails

Posted: Mon Feb 12, 2018 9:16 am
by juddnelson
Hi Martin,
What is your email?

Re: Copper cat tails

Posted: Mon Feb 12, 2018 10:37 am
by Dusty
My experience is that you need to anneal copper frequently. It work hardens quickly.
Good luck.

Re: Copper cat tails

Posted: Mon Feb 12, 2018 12:25 pm
by Martin Pansch
Hi Judd. My email address is:

Re: Copper cat tails

Posted: Fri Feb 23, 2018 5:52 pm
by Martin Pansch
Judd and I emailed off-line. I attached a few small images he sent of what he is trying to do but with copper pipe.
Judds birds and cattails1.jpg
Judds birds and cattails1.jpg (31.42 KiB) Viewed 3183 times
Judds birds and cattails2.jpg
Judds birds and cattails2.jpg (34.3 KiB) Viewed 3183 times
This one is a drawing I put together of the two different ways I would think to go about it, with the disclaimer that I have never forged cat tails from pipe before.
Forging pipe to reeds.pdf
(52.16 KiB) Downloaded 197 times
Some narrative I sent along to Judd as well...
First option is certainly faster as it doesn't take any extra tooling. The "V" seam on the back of might disappear a bit when you forge it down as copper masses together nicely. I doubt it would be waterproof on it's own though. If that is needed I suppose one could clean the inside of the pipe there, flux it, and put in a little solder before pounding it flat. Then heat it enough to melt the solder to seal things up without being visible. I would only do that at the end of work on it though as I doubt the solder would take forging well.

The second option is more of an investment as it would take making some tooling. It would take a little playing around to get the die the right shape for what your final desired reed shape is. On the plus side since you are just working copper you could do it all out of mild steel. It would also thicken the copper as you forge it down so should make any forging you have to do on the edge easier. You also wouldn't have a seam on the back to try to hide. I have never made spring swages or a guillotine that long before but I expect there will be some playing around needed to get it to work well.

Anyone have a better suggestion for Judd?