Magnetic and Copper Bracelets

copper bracelets

Copper and Arthritis

Wearing  copper bracelets as a remedy for arthritis has been popular in folklore for thousands of years. So the question is do they work?  Lots of people have bought my copper bracelets on the understanding that they help alleviate painful joints caused by arthritis but I was never certain that this is how I should promote them. So now here is some research that ought to bust a modern myth, but does it?

Copper bracelet study results

A 2013 University of York study looked at the effects of copper bracelets and magnetic wrist straps on rheumatoid arthritis. The research published in the journal PLOS ONE, found that both the standard magnetic wrist strap and the copper bracelet provided no meaningful therapeutic effects beyond those of a placebo. The research team suggested two main reasons why wearers sometimes report benefit: firstly, devices such as these provide a placebo effect for users who believe in them; secondly, people normally begin wearing them during a flare up period and then as their symptoms subside naturally over time they confuse this with a therapeutic effect. Pain varies greatly over time in conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, and the way we perceive pain can be altered significantly by the power of the mind. Arthritis Research UK agrees that “there’s no scientific or medical evidence that copper bracelets offer any benefit.” The charity says copper in the bracelet can’t be absorbed into your joint in any way, and even if it did get absorbed, there’s no evidence a shortage of copper in the body is linked to arthritis. However, if people do decide to wear copper bracelets, they do appear to be safe to use.

Okay cards on table, I kind of suspected this, but that’s not the end of the story.

“It’s possible that some people who wear copper and feel positive health effects are experiencing a placebo effect”

This is where it gets interesting, the placebo effect has been demonstrated many times by experiment, like this one

“In 1996, scientists assembled a group of students and told them that they were going to take part in a study of a new painkiller, called “trivaricaine”.
Trivaricaine was a brown lotion to be painted on the skin, and that smelled like a medicine. But the students were not told that, in fact, trivaricaine contained only water, iodine and thyme oil – none of which are painkilling medicines. It was a fake – or placebo – painkiller.
With each student, the trivaricaine was painted on one index finger, and the other left untreated. In turn, each index finger was squeezed in a vice. The students reported significantly less pain in the treated finger, even though trivaricaine was a fake.
In this example, expectation and belief produced real results. The students expected the “medicine” to kill pain; and, sure enough, they experienced less pain. This is the placebo effect.”

What a marvellously fiendish experiment….

“Placebo medicine has even been shown to cause stomach ulcers to heal faster than they otherwise would. These amazing results show that the placebo effect is real, and powerful.  They mean that fake or placebo treatments can cause real improvements in health conditions.”

and from Harvard Medical School  “Putting the placebo effect to work  Published: April, 2012.   Rather than dismiss it, we should try to understand the placebo effect and harness it when we can. For a long time, the placebo effect was held in low regard. If people responded to a suspect treatment, we said it was “just the placebo effect.”
The suggestion was that they had been fooled in some way, and their response was inauthentic. But attitudes are shifting, even in conventional medical circles. Randomized trials, some of them led by researchers at the Harvard-wide Program in Placebo Studies and the Therapeutic Encounter, have deepened the understanding of the placebo effect and its various components. Researchers have also used brain scans and other technologies to show that there may be a physiological explanation for the placebo effect in many cases. There is some danger that uncritical acceptance of the placebo effect could be used to justify useless treatments. But more important is the growing recognition that what we call the placebo effect may involve changes in brain chemistry — and that the placebo effect may be an integral part of good medical care and an ally that should be embraced by doctors and patients alike.”

“Expectations appear to have a lot to do with the effect. If an intervention is believed to help a condition, a certain percentage of people who receive it will experience some benefit. How large a percentage varies tremendously and depends on the condition, the strength of belief, the subjectivity of the response, and many other factors. The placebo effect may also have an element of psychological conditioning: once someone benefits from an intervention, the person starts to associate that intervention with a benefit. The association, and therefore the benefit, may get stronger with additional exposures to the intervention.”

“There’s also evidence that some of the placebo effect is a favorable reaction to care and attention from people who patients believe can help ease their suffering and distress. Researchers associated with Harvard’s placebo studies program published a study in 2008 that illustrates this aspect of the response very nicely. The volunteers for the study were people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), a condition that causes abdominal pain and changes in bowel movements in the absence of any discernible changes to the bowel. The placebo treatment was sham acupuncture, which involves the use of needles that, unbeknownst to the patient, retract into their handles instead of penetrating the skin. The placebo effect of the sham acupuncture needles was impressive: 44% of those treated with just the sham needles reported relief from their IBS problems. When sham acupuncture was combined with attentive, empathetic interaction with the acupuncturist, the placebo effect got even larger, with 62% reporting relief from their IBS woes.”

I like the cunning retractable needles

“Research is showing that the placebo effect often seems to be associated with objective changes in brain chemistry. A number of studies have shown, for example, that the brain releases natural pain-relieving substances, called endorphins, when people enrolled in pain studies are given placebos. Research results indicate that measurable changes in brain chemistry may explain the large placebo effect seen in depression treatment. Parkinson’s disease is associated with a shortage of a brain chemical called dopamine, and in studies of the disease, placebos have increased the production of dopamine.
We’re a long way from fully understanding the placebo effect. But here are some things you can do (and think), based on what researchers have discovered so far:
Find treatments you can believe in… Expectations that an intervention will have some benefit increase the chances that it will.”

So there’s the rub. However they work, and It’s important to me that I’m not selling you snake oil, copper bracelets and bangles have their place in modern pain management. On the other hand you could wear them because they are beautifully hand crafted pieces of jewellery that may make you seem cool, beautiful and alluring. nuff said. Steve





Copper Bangle and Ring made using Rolling Mill

It’s a Durston SK261A

In this post I’ll be talking about my rolling mill and a couple of pieces I made using it, a copper bangle and a copper ring after this viking one

copper bangle

I’ve got my beautiful rolling mill up and running (thanks cousin Julie)
If anyone knows anything about this particular model I would love to hear from you.

copper bangle, rolling millcopper bangle, durston rolling mill

It’s built like a tank, weighs 40 odd kilos and needs bolting down to my workbench.

First things first

Figure out how turning the top wheel relates to the gap between rollers.
There’s a calibrated disc that has no pointer so I need to make one.
It’s a piece of thick copper wire with a point soldered onto it and held in place by the spring in the wire. Now I can read the calibrations on the disc. So one full turn is 0.060” or sixty thou which is 1.5mm so a quarter turn is a bit under 0.4mm. I like to work in millimetres, seems easy and intuitive to me. I once had a vernier caliper thad read in increments of 1/128” needless to say I didn’t keep it for long. The disc reads zero where the rollers meet so now I have an idea of where I’m up to when I’m working with it. Just need to remember which way to turn it.

What to make

I thought I would draw some different wire sections and make a ring, bangle and earring. .

copper bangle, using rolling millcopper bangle, wirecopper bangle, twisting wire

The copper wire is hard when it comes through the mill. One of the challenges of jewellery making is to ensure that your work has the right amount of hardness. Rolling, stretching and forming impart hardness, you need to anneal then to continue working. Annealling is heating to a dull red then quenching in water. The wire is easily twisted by chucking in a hand drill and turning with the other end held in a vice.

copper bangle, annealed wirecopper bangle, prototype ringcopper bangle, ring

Annealed and pickled wire, a prototype ring and beginning the viking ring, made from square wire. I have to anneal often because the square wire work hardens quickly.

copper bangle, ring on mandrelcopper bangle, finished

Sizing the ring on a mandrel; this is really easy, as long as the ring is made under size it can be opened up a couple of sizes because of it’s sliding design. The finished pieces… two ring prototypes, the finished ring and a copper bangle and hoop earring made from the flattened and twisted wire. After it’s final twist the bangle is quite hard.

The source of happiness = Flow

If misery, ennui and depression are at one end of the spectrum of human happiness then flow is at the other.
Flow is focus and engagement, mind and body coordination, self actualisation call it what you will. When time passes and we don’t notice. We are “on it”, “in the zone”.
Whether it’s baking a cake, building a wall or tending sheep the task in hand is a wholehearted one, not necessarily an easy one but engrossing and ultimately satisfying.
It’s not grudging or overthought. It’s job satisfaction; non alienated work.
We all recognise it, it’s easy on the mind, we know it’s good and we feel productive.
There’s more on the science of flow here and a good reading list on the website.

flow, happiness

Update on LastPass Password Manager

So here’s the lowdown having used Lastpass for a week. It’s quite buggy. When you try to edit your entries things don’t work as they should. Specifically when you delete duplicated websites from your list they reappear. The whole package looks slick and professional but it isn’t ready. Also, which is worse in my view, many users have complained about poor customer support. We live in a world of mendacious corporates, dodgy rail networks, crummy internet providers and the rest. I can think of a handful of really good and considerate companies that are “on it” where customer service is concerned and when I find one I rejoice (in private in a very quiet way).  I would have thought that software like this was easy enough to fix; how a company can take peoples money yet have no pride in their product is baffling.
I’ve replaced LastPass with Dashlane and that is working out well.

Fold forming

Charles Lewton-Brainfoldformed lines




I thought I would give you a couple of really fruitful links to explore if you are interested in metalwork and jewellery making.

Fold Forming
A technique devised by Charles Lewton-Brain in the 1980’s which involves folding and unfolding hammered copper shapes to produce forms that have a beautiful organic quality.
This process has become established in the world of jewellery making, do a search in pinterest and you’ll find dozens of examples. I like it as a process because it has surprise as an ingredient. You can really get creative just by changing a few simple parameters as Lewton-Brain explains. He says something that I think many craftspeople will be aware of which is .. any time something interesting happens while you’re working on a piece, record it.. take a photograph, make a drawing, write it down, whatever it takes.
Click the photos to learn more.


A massive collection of jewellery making articles from professionals in the industry as well as individual artisans. The video section is particularly interesting.

Finding a Password Manager

password manager, lastpasspassword manager, keepass

It’s overwhelming, so many new sites to use; Pinterest, Scoop it, Reddit, Flipbook…the list goes on. It was getting to the point where I was forgetting logins and passwords. I also found myself using the same login details on different sites which is a no no in terms of security. I also discovered that someone or somebot had tried to hack my new wordpress site so I decided to beef up my passwords and gain some control over logins. I found Last Pass password manager which I really like. You open an account (free of course) with an email address and a password which should be a strong one and it’s the only one you will need to remember. It’s easy to use and there are addons for different browsers as well as a mobile version. One very slightly annoying feature of the software is that if you log on to a new computer it uses two stage verification to check it’s you ie a phone text with a verification code. This is great if you only use the same computer for internet but can be a pita if you use public computers, which I do. Still it’s a small price to pay for security.

Second favourite is keepass, not as sophisticated as LastPass but a trusty tool for storing your passwords. You can integrate it into Firefox apparently but I never worked out how to do it. Open Source and free.


Old and New Rings

For this series of posts I’m trying to make connections to historical work.  Given some wire and tools to work it we seem to come up with designs that, although we may not know it at the time, are rooted in the past. As we smugly admire our own creative genius there is the niggling notion that it’s already been done and it usually has. The examples here are a case in point. A single piece of precious or non precious wire is formed into a circle and the ends twisted around resulting in a kind of slip knot. Rings of this style have been commonly found in Viking graves and hoards of the 9th and 10th centuries.

old and new, viking ringold and new, medeival_ringold and new, sliding_knot_ring

There is common humanity in these forms, old and new. The pleasure from manipulating materials through folding and twisting produces this simple aesthetic which pleases us.

This is my take on this design.

old and new, my copper_rings

Have a look on my Pinterest board for more.

Thanks to Fae for the photographs which are released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic licence.

New Rolling Mill

durston rolling millFeeling pretty pleased with myself. I bit the bullet and bought a piece of kit I’ve wanted for a long time. It’s an old Durston rolling mill, probably one of the first ones, ie 1960s. These machines are really solid pieces of old style engineering. They weigh a ton, are very simple in design and give you tremendous possibilities for forming and texturing wire and sheet. I haven’t got it yet, it’s 76 miles away. I’m looking for a courier to fetch it; fingers crossed I’ll have it next week so expect some tutorials about using it.

Copper Wire for Jewellery Making


coil of silver wireA new batch of silver through the post. There's something a bit daunting about having it in front of me on the bench. I don't know if others experience this but I have a strong urge to not use it. I'm intimidated by it just like when I have really good quality watercolour paper, somehow it never gets used. If I'm designing something in silver wire I make prototypes in copper until I've worked out how to make it.
Sources of copper wire.
Since I’ve been making jewellery I haven’t bought copper wire. All my copper is upcycled.
Electric cable ie twin & earth, cooker cable, three phase and the like is a great source of cheap or free material if you’re prepared to invest a bit of time stripping off the plastic.
copper wire
There are a lot of wire thicknesses available in domestic electric cable. Three phase wire is 2.8mm, twin and earth 1.8mm the lighting cable pictured is 1.8mm and 1.5mm while the green and yellow earth cable has seven strands of 0.8mm diameter copper wire.
Right is a simple tool for stripping the plastic outer covering from domestic cable. It's a scalpel clamped between two pieces of hardwood with a hole in it. Draw the wire through to reveal lovely elemental copper.

pliersPliers collected over several years. Fortunately there is a market stall where I can buy used tools which is where I got most of these. I’ve modified some of them; the Maun parallel jaw pliers (bottom right) have new smooth brass jaw linings that I’ve epoxied in place. One of the most useful mods is on the nail cutters which i’ve turned into flush cutters by grinding the bevel off the front face, they work beautifully. The Lindstrom pliers are really comfortable to use and the flat/round nose plier (Rio Grande) the most useful of the lot because I can form loops without marking the wire.

Software I Use


I use a lot of free software for photo editing, image manipulation and the like.
Amongst my favourites are
Gimp and Faststone Image Resizer
The Faststone software, which is free, allows you to batch edit a lot of images together so you can resize, rename and, my favourite feature, add watermark. It isn’t the slickest interface to work with and the icon is pretty awful as you can see but it gets the job done. Recommended