cheapo engravable blanks--squish pennies?

riverview111December 14, 2005

This year I was recruited to help breathe new life into my kid's school carnival. I am a professional artist (sculptor) with a good assortment of tools and skills.

One of the things I did was to run the Engraving Booth--we had some leftover cheesey (really, really cheesey) blank bracelets for engraving with a hand electric engraver. Everyone I talk to in this area remembers engraving from their school carnival; these blanks we are using may be leftovers from 20 years ago.

We brought these things out from storage for this year's carnival, and they were a HUGE hit, and we actually made some money for the school doing this. (At times I was doing 3/minute and at the end of the 2 hours my hand was in real pain.)

Anyway, we have run out of blank bracelets, and I have searched the internet high and low for something usable for this purpose (doesn't have to be bracelets). No luck. Anything I use must be very, very cheap (cost pennies) or it won't be feasible. I have thought of getting scrap sheet copper cut up (maybe a heating and air shop would do it for free since it's for the school) and then smoothing the edges in my vibratory tumbler, but this seems too complicated.

So I was looking at a souvenir smashed penny my kid got at Rainforest Cafe Restaurant. There is a machine there (like the ones at boardwalks and other tourist traps) where you feed the penny in and turn the crank. The machine squashes your penny into an oval shape and puts a new design on it. I got to thinking that if I could squish pennies (I'm thinking NOT on the railroad track because these are for children and that's not a good example) into plain flat ovals, they would be perfect. And cheap.

OK I'm finally getting around to my questions:

1)Any advice on squishing pennies? (See below for annealing questions)

2)Any other ideas for making or buying blanks for this purpose?

I have been shopping for jeweler's rolling mills for this purpose (a little expensive--several years to pay back), but if it works really well I might do this). Also, WRT squishing pennies, can anyone tell me what the difference would be between rolling old (pure copper) pennies and squishing newer copper-plated ones? (other than having the inside of the penny peek through--this is a minor cosmetic issue that wouldn't bother me.) A rolling mill vendor tells me for the old pennies I would need to anneal them once every three passes through the mill. It might be different for the newer pennies. Could I get away without annealing them???? I know at Rainforest Cafe and other commercial rolling machines, they manage to squish pennies without annealing. Must be one awesome amount of pressure, like a train.

Sorry this is so long. When I don't know where to turn for an answer, I always end up at Gardenweb forums.

Thanks in advance!!!!

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Pooh Bear

First of all squishing pennies is illegal.
The machines you see at fairs and canivals don't actually squish pennies.
You may be putting a penny in the machine,
but what you get out was not made from a penny.
It was made from a blank that was already in the machine.

How about using those knock outs that are in electrical boxes.
I have seen square and round ones.
The round ones are about the size of a quarter.

If you had a small drill press you could make your own.
Get a carbide tipped hole saw and drill slowly.
You would need to remove the pilot bit for this.
And maybe set up a guide so the cutter doesn't move around.

I'm suprised you couldn't find these anywhere.
I would think they would be a common item.

Pooh Bear

    Bookmark   December 15, 2005 at 9:34PM
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Here's what I found when I did a search for Squished Pennies. No tricks there Pooh, You put in a penny in a squishing machine, and you get the same coin back, no foolin!! My In-laws got some when they visited the Chicago Worlds Fair way back in the 30's. I found them last year. Thought they were pretty neat.

From the Squished Penny Museum website, their comments:

"Wait a minute, is squishing currency really legal?

Absolutely! It's all in your intentions. The United States law Section 331, Title 18 prohibits altering coins or other forms of money for fraudulent uses. On the other hand, it does permit the altering of coins, such as pennies, without such intentions. For example, when squishing coins, you make a copper souvenir of your visit to a far away place. But although your squished treasures may have infinite value to you, they are no longer currency. So, squish away, unless you intend to stuff your local vending machine with 'em the next time your soda fund gets low".

Electrical box KOs would be useless for any jewelry use since they rust easily, and impossible to run through one of these rolling machines with the same results as a penny.

Riverview, search with Google for more info on squished pennies for more info.


Here is a link that might be useful: Squished Penny Museum

    Bookmark   December 15, 2005 at 11:14PM
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Pooh Bear

Well, I stand corrected.
I thought there was a law about defacing money.

Hadn't thought about the electrical blanks rusting. Yes they will.

I am certain you won't be able to buy something as cheap as a penny.
Even if you got the raw material and made your own blanks
it would still have a considerable cost.

You can get 1/32" thick brass in rolls 6" x 100"
If you had a way to stamp blanks out of it
then your cost would be less than 5cents each.
I provided a link below but you can probably find it cheaper.

Pooh Bear

Here is a link that might be useful: Online Metal store - brass rolls

    Bookmark   December 16, 2005 at 2:10AM
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Thanks folks. I did a lot of research online. There are no less than 11 pages of "elongated pennies" (that's the collectors' term, or "elongated coins", for sale on Ebay. Some people collect these things and carry rolls of coins for squishing wherever they might happen to run into a squishing machine. There are published lists of the locations!

I think you're right, pooh, nothing's going to be cheaper than a penny. I'm thinking I can get a local machine shop or heating and air place to donate the squishing in their rolling machine. Then I can drill and add a cord, and voila. Kids' jewelry.

    Bookmark   December 23, 2005 at 3:09PM
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Pooh Bear

If you had a hard surface such as an anvil
you could heat the pennies up to bright red
and let the kids use big hammers to pound them thinner.

You really need a punch press to punch out blanks from rolls of material.
Finding a machine shop that has a punch press is easy.
But getting the punching die would be the hard part.

Pooh Bear

    Bookmark   December 23, 2005 at 5:43PM
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If it were me, and I had limited access to machine tools/punch presses, I'd have some copper sheeting cut into strips of the desired width, and then use some hand metal shears to cut each one into a rectangle, and then cut the oval contour by hand. Then I'd use a hand file to debur and spiff up the edges.

You can find sheet copper at Orchard Supply Hardware.

You could also try sheet aluminum. Easier to cut and finish.

If you go the penny crushing route, I wouldn't recommend using new pennies - I think they are harder and much less attractive after being crushed/rolled that older, copper pennies.

Another possibility is to enquire at local sheet metal/fabrication shops with punch presses. They might have had a project that generated scrap in the material, thickness, and shape you are looking for. It's a fairly remote possibility, but you never know what might occur. Plus, if you mention it's for educational/non-profit/benefit purposes, the shops may be more interested in helping you out.

If you decide to hand cut or machine cut sheet metal, the blanks will require deburring. This can be done more quickly with a small stationary belt sander, but can also be done with a hand file.

    Bookmark   December 24, 2005 at 2:34AM
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The new pennies are a zinc core with a thin copper covering.
You will likely be through the copper very quickly with engraving.
You can purchase brass or copper strips or sheets pretty cheaply.
Copper roof flashing in the heavier weights would be fine.
Each oz per square foot is about 1.4 mils, so 16 oz copper would be ~0.022. Probably still a little light, but heavier weights are available.

    Bookmark   March 5, 2006 at 5:03PM
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Here is something you might be able to use instead (although I really like the pennies more)

Here is a link that might be useful: Engravable dog tags

    Bookmark   April 3, 2006 at 4:52PM
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This is also a good option....go to Oriental Trading and search for "engrave" to see a couple more.

Here is a link that might be useful: Charm Bracelet

    Bookmark   April 3, 2006 at 4:56PM
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