Saturday, June 29, 2013

Cutting down spent shotgun shells

I got a request to make a shotgun shell ring in a smaller size than what was available in my Etsy shop, and the request included the possibility of taking down the height of the setting.  When I read that part of the request, I was on board - I wanted to make the settings lower on the original rings that I made but couldn't get past the material in the base of the spent shotgun shell.  It's a metal casing filled with a thick, solid plastic material and a center metal rivet.  So I set out to try to cut it down again, hoping for better results.



I tried using every type of flexshaft bit I had that I thought might cut through.  I got past the metal, but the plastic in the center just kept gumming up. I was thinking that I probably needed a different tool or set of bits...what I have is for metal and I needed to get through the plastic.  So I did a trillion web searches and found information on saws and rotozips and cut off wheels (cut off wheel: tried it.  Nope).  Then on search one trillion and one I found a mention of melting the plastic out instead of cutting through it...either through boiling or with a torch.

I wasn't about to try to boil those suckers.  I cannot even imagine the horrible mess that would make and I don't cross the line between jewelry workshop and food area.  So I tried heating the base and plastic of the spent shotgun shell and it WORKED!!  I found myself looking around to see if my imaginary audience was as surprised and delighted as I was...all that searching and cutting and general wasted effort and all I had to do was just melt the plastic out.  It literally took 30 seconds.


The other rings I made were fairly tall:


This one ended up being about half as high.


9 comments:

  1. Thanks! Now that I have the method figured out, I can use the rest of the materials I have and make some other items...

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  2. How did you melt it out?! I've been trying to make a gift for a family member and so far am unsuccessful.

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  3. Hi Ariella - I used the torch I use for soldering. Mine is an acetylene air torch but I had to keep the heat really low so I'm pretty sure a butane torch or a propane torch would work fine. Good luck!

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  4. Did yours end up looking burnt and ruined after? If so how did you clean them?

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  5. I tried burning it out and it worked.. But left the metal looking burnt and gray.. How did you keep yours from doing that?

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    1. I focused the heat on the plastic and then pulled it out when it became soft. I didn't have an issue with them getting discolored, but I'm guessing that you could use a wire brush and an abrasive cleaner (like Comet) or steel wool to clean up the tip.

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  6. Did you have to shave down the actual metal or anything? I got the plastic out but I'm still not satisfied be used I believe it still looks to thick and bulky, any advice? I'm feeling pretty stumped. Lol

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    1. Emilie - if I want the shell to be lower profile, I generally cut the edge in about six spots, then fold the metal down toward the center. I've tried cutting it off but this doesn't seem to work well and isn't worth the effort. This works when I'm putting the shell in a setting - like the rings or a pendant - but if you will be able to see the back of the shell it probably wouldn't work too well.

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