If you enjoy making jewelry, sculptures or other trinkets, you may find yourself wondering if it's possible to melt copper yourself at home. You can melt copper on a stove, but you must do so properly and take the necessary safety precautions. A haphazard approach to copper melting can cause nasty burns and even lung disease. When preparing for this task, always make sure any children or pets won't be underfoot while you work and remember to put safety first.
Melting Point of Copper
Before melting copper at home, check your stove's user manual or consult the manufacturer to confirm that your stove is up to the task. The melting point of copper is an incredibly hot 1,981 degrees Fahrenheit. This makes copper more difficult to melt than other metals you may have worked with in the past. The melting point of aluminum, for instance, is only 1,218 degrees Fahrenheit, while that of silver is 1,761 degrees Fahrenheit.
If your stove can get hot enough to melt copper, you'll next need to find the right pan. Choose the wrong one and your pan will melt before the copper does – and you may find yourself in the market for a new stove. As such, always melt copper in a cast-iron pan. Cast iron won't melt until it reaches 2,200 degrees Fahrenheit.
The Copper-Melting Process
To melt copper, place a cast-iron pan on your stove and drop the copper into it. Make sure the copper fits into the pan and doesn't stick out the sides. Copper is an excellent heat conductor, so any stray wires hanging over the pan's edge could easily burn you. Once the copper is properly arranged in the pan, cover the pan with a lid and turn your stove burner to its highest setting.
Never leave melting copper unattended. Stay close to the stove and check the copper's progress every few minutes by lifting the lid and taking a peek.
Unfortunately, there's no magic formula for calculating how long it will take to melt copper. It melts faster when it's in smaller pieces, but the time it takes to melt will also depend on the purity of the metal. The length of time it takes your stove to grow hot will also affect melting times.
Important Safety Considerations
Always wear gloves and safety goggles when melting copper and other metals. This will help prevent burns as copper can sometimes spit as it heats up. Work in a well-ventilated area when melting copper and avoid breathing in the fumes when checking its status and pouring it into a mold. Copper fumes can cause serious lung diseases, so exercise extreme caution.
If the copper you're melting is scrap electrical wire or conduit, strip any coating off the wires completely before you melt it. These plastic coatings may contain chemicals that are toxic when heated. When you've completed your project, move the melting pan somewhere apart from your everyday cookware and don't use it for preparing food again.
When you find yourself in a melting mood, remember that you shouldn't melt pennies. Pennies made after 1982 are 97.5 percent zinc and only 2.5 percent copper, so melting them isn't worth the effort. Pennies made before 1982 were made from 95 percent copper and are now worth about double their face value. These coins are still legal tender, however, and destroying them is against the law.
Writing professionally since 2008, Michelle Miley specializes in home and garden topics but frequently pens career, style and marketing pieces. Her essays have been used on college entrance exams and she has more than 4,000 publishing credits. She holds an Associate of Applied Science in accounting, having graduated summa cum laude.