I want a fancy pants fireplace.
September 27, 2007 10:16 AM   Subscribe

I need to find a giant metal sheet, yet I am not rich, help?

I want to wrap my historic fireplace in metal. I like the look of copper, but I am flexible. I want one big sheet that is pretty easily molded so I can use a press to make the corners, attach it to a basic armature and just slide it over the fire place without any additional attachment. It probably also needs to be a place that would custom cut it. It needs to be 8 feet by 4 feet 1 inch if that helps.

I really want a nice clean look, so I don't want to try and fit several pieces together or anything.

Does anyone have any experience in this or know of some trick I could use that I wouldn't know about?

I found a place that could get it for me for in copper for about $550, but if we make any mistakes we are so screwed.

I am in Atlanta and have a pickup, so I can drive to get it.
posted by stormygrey to Home & Garden (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
That sounds pretty steep. Copper is expensive, but not like that. The problem may be the size of the sheet you'd need to make something like this with no seams. I just did some casual Googling, and found 36" widths were the widest I could find.

If you could bear to make this in three sections—left/center/right—you could use a coil of 36" copper foil to do this. I'd suggest building the whole box out of plywood, and then cladding it in copper. Fold over all the edges and screw them down on the back sides. Copper foil is easy to work with using hand tools.

Note, of course, that either you'll need to apply some kind of finish to the copper (lacquer? wax maybe?) or be happy with a patinated appearance. Proximity to heat will increase discoloration, so you may wind up with a variegated appearance no matter what.
posted by adamrice at 10:36 AM on September 27, 2007

One inch thick? That's plate, not sheet. You can get a free trial account on www.steelboss.com. Try posting your requirements there (maybe on scrapboss.com, too) and see if you get any bites. Ryerson also sells individual sheets of steel and copper, but I have no idea of their current prices.
posted by Oriole Adams at 10:48 AM on September 27, 2007

One inch thick would be absurd in price, I am looking at 5mm thick right now, just enough so that it wouldn't just scar up immediately.
posted by stormygrey at 10:55 AM on September 27, 2007

i think rivetting smaller pieces of copper sheet would be way cheaper, way easier and would keep your fireplace from looking like a shiny spaceship

wouldn't a smooth, one piece plain copper sheet look really weird over a fireplace?

this is how it was done in the olden days, right?

even this one is hammed and uses separate pieces, and it looks pretty clean to me (maybe forget the hearts)

this one appears to use some wood framing on top and sides. If you can swing something like this, it'd be way simpler and you could end up with a nice architectural look, and a nice flat copper face
posted by Salvatorparadise at 11:23 AM on September 27, 2007

Agreeing with adamrice here, I'd use copper foil over a wood form. A piece one inch thick plate of copper would be crazy-expensive. I'd imagine you want the thickness for structural reasons and for that, just use wood. Easier to work with and cheaper.
posted by Tacodog at 11:23 AM on September 27, 2007

I think the one inch refers to the "four feet one inch" dimension.

Other than that, copper is expensive. 5mm is pretty thick, too.
posted by rhizome at 11:27 AM on September 27, 2007

Copper is, in general, crazy-expensive now. The market went completely nuts.

...would you consider another material?

I'd be careful with using wood as a superstructure, as your local codes may require a minimum distance between the edge of the fireplace and the first wooden object. They may or may not care if you wrap it in copper -- so look into that.
posted by aramaic at 11:33 AM on September 27, 2007

1-inch thick copper would not only be absurd in price but also absurd in weight. 1500 lbs is no picnic to move around. A 5mm thick panel at almost 300 lbs isn't going to be easy either.
posted by JJ86 at 11:39 AM on September 27, 2007

We don't use the fireplace, its primarily decorative and I would be very open to using other metals.
posted by stormygrey at 11:40 AM on September 27, 2007

For a less expensive option:
If it's a simple shape, go to a HVAC contractor and ask them to bend up the shape out of ductwork material. They can bend back the edges to prevent a sharp edge and add a bit of stability to it. Then use a copper paint. Some copper paints have actual copper flecks in them... Course, you have to realize that the metal will "oil can" or have slight waves in it unless you use something heavier than duct material.
They probably have some left over material that you could take and test paint to see if it's a look you like before embarking on the whole project.
posted by mightshould at 12:47 PM on September 27, 2007

I want to wrap my historic fireplace in metal

This part, I do not understand. To protect it? To conceal it? To make the marble (or whatever) look like metal? To have a custom modern-looking historic fireplace?

Most fireplaces will have so many nooks and crannies that a one-piece cover will be topologically ... challenging. And that's not even assuming it will follow every decorative indentation or protrusion.

Is this something you saw somewhere and want to duplicate?
posted by dhartung at 2:16 PM on September 27, 2007

5mm seems pretty thick too, though maybe if it's freestanding without any support it needs to be that thick.

Have you looked at brass, etc.? Plain copper is not just soft and expensive, it also tarnishes really easily; fingerprint oils will turn into a black smudge, heat will accelerate the process, and so on.
posted by hattifattener at 3:11 PM on September 27, 2007

I saw a program on the New Yankee Workshop where Norm did some gilding with gold leaf. The basic process as I remember involved first getting the wood as smooth as possible and then covering it with something that looked in between whitewash and plaster to get the surface even smoother. Then the leaf was applied. It was very labor intensive but it came out nicely.

Copper leaf is available, along with gold, silver, and aluminum. I think this would be a good way to achieve what you want, though, as noted above, there may be code issues regarding how close the wood can be to the fireplace. Plus you aren't constrained to something flat like you are with sheet so you could experiment with designs and such. It'd be a great project for the winter, too!
posted by 6550 at 3:55 PM on September 27, 2007

Most welding shops can get (it) whatever you decide on in less than 3 days. Any gauge.
posted by greenskpr at 1:21 PM on October 1, 2007

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