Make Money — Silver Bells


A pre-1965 U.S. quarter buys only one 25-cent gumball from a grocery store machine, but because it’s made of 90% silver, its “melt value” is currently closer to $6. So finding a few silver quarters can make digging through desk drawers or old boxes of junk in your attic a profitable exercise. But instead of melting old quarters into $6 silver nuggets, it’s more fun to hammer them into something more interesting and valuable. You can make them into silver bells!

There are many ways to hammer a disk of soft, malleable metal like silver into a hemispherical shape. I used an inexpensive metalworker’s dapping block and punches, as sold by many vendors online, but you can also pound a quarter into a hemisphere using a rounded hardwood dowel and a dimpled block of oak or maple.

Tap carefully, rotating the coin as you go, to keep the edges of the hemisphere even and symmetrical. A nylon mallet or dead blow hammer will help absorb the impact of your tapping and lessen the bounce-back as you tap. But any hammer will do.

After dapping 2 quarters into hemispheres, you can fashion an eyelet for the bell out of a strip of thinner metal clipped from a silver dime.

And you’ll need a clapper for the inside of the bell. I made one by hammering the sides of a steel nail until it had a rectangular cross-section, then sawing off a piece to make a small metal cube.

Once the pieces are roughed out, it’s just a matter of filing the edges smooth, clamping the assembled parts in a vise, and sweating them together with a propane torch and silver solder. As soon as the bell cools, you can saw a thin slot using a hacksaw blade, drill relief holes at each end of the slot, and finish the bell with emery cloth and silver polish.

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Tom Parker

Tom Parker is an author who lives in Ithaca, N.Y., and works for Cornell University. When he is not tinkering with junk, he's a flight instructor and flies a 1956 Cessna 180 bush plane.

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