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When camping, the cookware many people bring along is made from copper or a related non-ferrous metal. The tradesperson who created the cookware, amongst other things is called a coppersmith. Coppersmiths create trellises, pots and pans, watering jugs, utensils, dishes, pot racks, street lamps and other decorative items from copper. They also design, fabricate, assemble, install and repair the copper products required in a wide variety of industries and settings.

Nowadays, the importance of copperware has shifted from being an object of daily use to being held for its decorative and artistic value. Copper and brass items have also shifted and lowered in regular purchase and use on the market, due to many new materials and technologies in cookware, such as Teflon. Most copper products made today lack the craftsmanship of old, being manufactured in large plants by less-skilled workers. However, copper is still a useful commodity and coppersmiths take pride in creating products with skill and craftsmanship.

Industries such as agriculture, construction, petrochemical and chemical plants, hospitals, and metal signs businesses require the expertise of a coppersmith. Coppersmiths are familiar with the properties of copper and non-ferrous metals and can operate metalworking machines. They either work from verbal instructions, blueprints, or design small jobs themselves.

The first step for the coppersmith is choosing materials for a project. Based on the most suitable options, coppersmiths obviously use copper as their first choice, however they may also work with brass, nickel and tin plate. Once they pick a material, they take the copper metal and pipes to bend and shape them to the proper size, and then fasten them together. They often use welding equipment to join the metal together and must therefore be expert welders, knowing the alloys of each metal. They also carefully grind and polish coppers and use plasma cutters.

Like in all fields that encompass design work, computers are changing the traditional role of the coppersmith. Knowing how to use computer-aided design (CAD) and computerized machinery will give workers a distinct advantage.
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  Interests and Skills  
Successful coppersmiths need the strength and stamina required to work with heavy parts and equipment, along with manual dexterity, good coordination and mechanical aptitude. They enjoy working with tools and machinery and working on precise projects. They also must be able to tolerate noisy and dirty surroundings and heights, working in close quarters with other workers.

  Typical Tasks  
  • Lay out, cut, bend and assemble pipe sections, pipefittings and other parts from copper, brass and other non-ferrous metals
  • Create full-scale floor drawings or make templates following blueprints of pipe assemblies
  • Build framework on bending slabs to use as a guide for bending, shaping and joining assemblies
  • Cut pipes using hand tools or shop machinery, and pack it with sand, rosin or other materials to prevent flattening during bending
  • Heat bend areas with a welding torch to soften metal
  • Bend pipes allowing for them to stretch at an outside radius and compress at an inside radius, using pipe-bending machines
  • Reheat and hammer pipes to eliminate wrinkles resulting from bending
  • Solder or braze flanges on the end of pipes
  • Coat parts of copper by dipping them into a mixture of molten tin and lead to prevent erosion, galvanic and electrolytic action
  • Conduct hydrostatic tests to detect leaks in fabricated pipes
  • A typical day for a coppersmith depends on where they work and what type of work they complete. The hours worked are usually a standard 40-hour week. Coppersmiths either work indoors in factories and studios or outdoors installing light posts and other copper products.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Coppersmiths work for copper and other metal fabrication shops, sheet metal product manufacturing companies, air-conditioning and heating contractors, and other contractors. Few coppersmiths are self-employed, however those more interested in the artistic component of the work may work out of a private studio. The majority of employment for coppersmiths is full-time through an employer or contractor.

  Long Term Career Potential  
Experienced coppersmiths may become specialists in design and layout work or in estimating the cost of installations. They may advance to supervisory positions, or go into business for themselves. With additional training, they can transfer their skills to related occupations such as watchmaker, welder, machinist, sheet metal worker, boilermaker, ironworker and pipefitter.

  Educational Paths  
Coppersmiths receive their training either through informal, on-the-job training or through an apprenticeship program. Trade certification can be obtained either through an apprenticeship program or after several years of work experience. While trade certification is not mandatory to become a coppersmith, it can be a requirement for many employers and can also help secure employment.

Apprenticeship programs involve a combination of on-the-job training with classroom instruction. A pre-apprenticeship course may also be available which takes about five to six months to complete at a community college and is designed to help you get connected with a good company to apprentice with. It is important to apprentice with a reputable company as that is your education. While some apprenticeship programs may not require a high school diploma, it is important to note that employers generally prefer to hire high school graduates.

Apprenticeships can vary from state to state, however a typical apprenticeship lasts four to five years. The apprenticeship is a paid position however wages are about 50% less than what an employer pays the journeyperson, with yearly increases. After successfully completing the apprenticeship requirements, their state industry training and apprenticeship office awards the coppersmith a certificate of completion.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002, http://www.bls.gov/oes/2002/oes_nat.htm

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