Highland News Leader

Highland man turns salvaged copper into eye-popping bracelets

Tony Hundsdorfer remembers going to work when he was just 12 years old at his dad’s sheet metal shop, Modern Sheet Metal Works at 820 6th St. in Highland, where McKay Napa Autoparts is now.

“My hands still have calluses from using No. 18 Weiss shear scissors to cut galvanized sheets to form gutters,” he said. “...You couldn’t afford a gutter today the way we made them.”

Hundsdorfer learned how to cut sheet metal by watching his dad, Cletus, who was a gifted craftsman, whether he was working with metal or wood. A spice cabinet made of walnut with dovetail-cut drawers, a decorative wall hanging with flowers and a hand-carved face, among other things, that his father made still adorn Hundsdorfer’s home.

“My dad always told me there were two ways to do things: his way or your way. His way, however, was always the right way,” Hundsdorfer said.

Hundsdorfer graduated from Highland High School, and attended Southern Illinois University Carbondale, where he majored in machine tool technology. After college, he went to work at Emerson Electric in St. Louis. He later worked at Unidynamics, before the company moved to Texas in 1990. He retired from Solutia in 2002.

Hundsdorfer, 77, is now retired after working about 42 years as a machinist and as a manufacturing engineer. He now enjoys spending as much time as he can working in his basement studio, turning salvaged copper into bracelets. He also makes cross necklaces with horseshoe nails.

“It is kind of relaxing and gives me something to do,” he said. “I could spend hours down here.”

Hundsdorfer estimates he has made about 40 bracelets since he started about five or six years ago. Most become gifts.

“I could probably make more, but I do not want to start a business,” he said.

He still uses some of his dad’s tools, including his belt sander, as well as specialty tools he made himself.

He estimates it now takes him about 3 1/2 hours to finish a bracelet, with each one being unique. His bracelets come in two styles: a brass and copper combination and a copper-only model.

“They are basically a man’s bracelet. But women enjoy them, too. I can’t repeat how I make them. They are basically a compilation of a hobby. They are a product of enjoyment.”

Some believe the copper’s conductivity can help ease aches and pains of arthritis, but Hundsdorfer won’t try and sell you on that.

“I’m no expert,” he said.

But they do look good.

“You can’t them find in the store,” he said and laughed. “They look homemade.”