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4/18/2017 9:12 PM  #1

Spent Shell Casing Accents for Your Auto

Ok, some of us Mustang lovers also have other hobbies that we like to advertise.  In fact most automotive enthusiast do.  One of my other loves (and apparently other individuals too) is firearms.  We have all seen spent shell casings used for all types of accents for autos, probably the most common is the valve stem cap.  But there are a ton of other places you can use spent shell casings as an accents on you auto.  To make high quality accents, you only need a few common tools, some high quality adhesive, some shell casings, and an imagination!
Now you can buy a lot of shell casing accents, but if you have access to the before mentioned items you can do it yourself for less, make higher quality items, make many that are not offered on the market, and customize them to fit your own theme.  Here is a list of just a few ideas I had to use spent shell casings as accents:
•     Tire valve stem covers
•     Door lock knobs
•     Automatic transmission buttons
•     Cigarette lighter knob
•     Turn signal indicator (endcap)
•     Climate control knobs
•     Glove box latch
•     Power seat controls
•     Manual seat knob
•     Lug nut covers
•     Hazard light switch knob
•     Bolt head covers (license plate cover bolts)
I have constructed a few of these shell casing accents for my 1969 Mustang Coupe and thought I would share with the group.  I will address a few things that you might need and then walk you through one of my projects.
Materials and Tools
Now let’s start with the spent shell cases themselves.  First, I suggest only using brass or nickel plated brass only.  Steel and aluminum can be used, but I don’t care for either of these two.  Second, clean the brass inside and out!  You can leave the spent primers in if you want, or replace them with new ones (don’t worry, with a little shot of oil you can render the primer inert).  Third, polish the cases to a nice shine.
Which size of case to use depends on what you plan to make from them.  All I can say about this is get yourself a large selection of cases to choose from and play around until you find one that will fit your project idea.  I have found that smaller pistol cases (9mm, .380 auto, etc.) work well for valve stem covers, and a .32 auto works well for a slim and trim door lock pull.  So get yourself a selection to work with; event shotgun shell bases have uses!
Another question is where to find a variety of different sized cases.  Some of us re-load, and have family that re-load, and friends that re-load, and coworkers that re-load; re-loaders pick up brass.  So I have a large selection to choose from.  If you don’t re-load, you probably know someone who does; so ask them to help you.  You could also just go to the range and pick up spent casings.  At a popular range you can find a large variety of different sized cases to work with.  If you are really desperate, you can buy them, but this will increase the cost of your project(s).

Here is a selection of various sizes of spent shell casings.  Ok, the shotgun shells are not spent, but I will change that in the near future!
Now that we have a variety of clean and polished cases, we are ready to make some projects.  As I mentioned earlier, you will need a few common tools and a good adhesive.
For the adhesive, I utilize a two part epoxy.  JB Weld is my favorite for these and many other projects.  It comes in a variety of versions, you mix only what you need, it cures quickly, and holds well.
The tools I have utilized for the few projects so far are as follows:

  • Drill and bits
  • Metal files
  • Mixing sticks (for the JB Weld)
  • Something to mix the JB Weld on/in (I use a pad of Post-It-Notes)
  • Various grades of steel wool
  • Some form of metal polish (I use Mother’s Metal Polish)
  • Rags
  • Clamps
  • Moto Tool with various bits and such (This is optional, but can be used in place of some of the other tools listed)
  • Safety equipment (eye protection, hearing protection, gloves, etc.)

So now I will walk you through (with pictures) the basics of the process I utilized to make valve stem covers for my project.  WARNING:  Always you tools as recommended by their manufactures and wear proper personal protective equipment (PPE).
Valve Stem Covers Project

I found these at the local hardware store for $1.99 (plus tax).  I am sure you could use plastic ones, but I prefer metal when possible.

I placed the valve stem in the chuck of my horizontal drill motor (you can clamp a regular drill to the bench and do this or use a drill press).

With the motor turning, I utilized a file to take down the grooves on the valve stem cover and make the entire cover the same diameter (so it would fit snugly into the shell casing).  Next, I utilized a bench grinder to reduce the overall length of the stem cover enough to allow it to fit just inside the shell casing (you can use a file or a cut-off wheel on a Moto tool to accomplish this).

From right to left: an unmolested cover, a cover after grinding to proper diameter, a cover after shortening to proper height, and a 9mm shell case.
At this point I polished the shell case.  You can do this by hand with a little steel wool and some elbow grease followed by some metal polish and some more elbow grease.  I utilized a commercial brass polisher for reloading.

Mixing JB Weld.  From here I utilized the stirring sticks seen here to apply the JB weld into the midsection of the shell casing.  Take care not to get any near the opening.

After pressing the slimmed and cut valve stem covers into to epoxied 9mm shell casings, I utilized another valve stem cover (unmolested) to seat the cut down valve stem cover into the shell casing and clamped them into place for a few minutes (you can use anything that will fit into the shell casing to press, and hold, the slimmed and cut valve stem cover into the shell casing while the epoxy cures).
Next, I placed a drop of oil on the inside of the primer to render it inert and then utilized my priming tool to seat a new primer for that “un-fired” look.  If you don’t have any reloading tools, or just like the “fire” look, then just leave the spent primer in (it will just have a little dent in it from where the firing pin struck it).

Here are two of the new 9mm shell casing valve stem covers.
In Conclusion
I am sure that if you decide to make a few of these shell casing accents for your auto, you will find better ways to do things and a need for different tools.  But with the info I have provided I am sure you will have a good start and be able to turn out some nice accents. 
The more of these kinds of projects I do, I am sure I will discover new and different techniques.  And I am sure that if you are a metal worker and have the proper metal working tools, you can do more and different projects with even better results.  So if you have any experience, do any of these type of projects, or have anything to share that may help any of us make some of these spent shell casing projects; please comment on this post and share with us!
Have fun and stay safe!
Just for fun………….

Here is an original turn signal switch lever next to my spent shell casing version (made from a 7mm casing).

Last edited by hydrantwrench (4/23/2017 2:32 PM)

"It's better to burnout, then fade away."

5/11/2017 2:12 PM  #2

Re: Spent Shell Casing Accents for Your Auto

Very cool. Thanks for sharing the info. 


10/12/2017 10:50 PM  #3

Re: Spent Shell Casing Accents for Your Auto

Nice info!


Board footera

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