Have you ever wondered if you could cut a penny in half? Many people are curious about whether this is possible and what would happen if they tried. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll provide you with a clear answer and explain the science behind it.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: It is possible to cut a penny in half, but it takes a tremendous amount of force and is very difficult to accomplish with typical household tools. The penny is made mostly of zinc with a thin copper plating, making it hard and durable.

The Composition and Strength of a Penny

Mostly zinc with a copper coating

Did you know that the composition of a modern penny is mostly zinc with a copper coating? That’s right, the United States Mint switched from using solid copper pennies to a zinc core with a thin layer of copper on the outside in 1982.

This change was made because copper prices were rising and it became more cost-effective to use zinc. Today, a penny is composed of 97.5% zinc and only 2.5% copper.

This composition gives the penny its distinct color and appearance. The copper coating gives the penny its familiar reddish-brown color, while the zinc core provides the structural strength.

If you’re curious about the specific amounts of zinc and copper used in a penny, the United States Mint states that each penny contains 2.5 grams of copper and 0.5 grams of zinc. So, the next time you hold a penny, remember that it’s mostly made of zinc with just a thin layer of copper.

Pennies are quite strong and durable

Despite their small size and thin composition, pennies are surprisingly strong and durable. This is due to the combination of zinc and copper, which provides both structural strength and corrosion resistance.

While you might think that a penny would be easily bent or damaged, they can actually withstand a fair amount of force. In fact, if you were to try cutting a penny in half, you would find it quite challenging. The strength of the zinc core makes it difficult to cut through, even with sharp tools.

It’s worth noting that altering or defacing currency is illegal, so attempting to cut a penny in half is not recommended. However, it’s interesting to understand the strength and durability of this small coin.

For more information on the composition and strength of a penny, you can visit the United States Mint’s website.

What Kind of Tool Can Cut a Penny?

When it comes to cutting a penny in half, ordinary household tools simply won’t cut it – quite literally! The composition of pennies, which are primarily made of copper, makes them quite difficult to cut through without specialized equipment.

Therefore, if you’re looking to successfully cut a penny in half, you’ll need to turn to high-powered cutting tools that are capable of handling the task.

Household tools won’t cut it

While it may be tempting to reach for your trusty pair of scissors or a simple hand saw, these household tools are not designed to cut through metal as tough as a penny. Attempting to use such tools could damage the tool itself, resulting in a frustrating and unsuccessful endeavor.

It’s important to remember that pennies are made to be durable and long-lasting, so cutting through them requires more than just your average tool.

Require high-powered cutting tools

To successfully cut a penny, you’ll need to invest in high-powered cutting tools that are specifically designed for metal cutting. These tools include electric or pneumatic metal shears, angle grinders with cutting discs, or even laser cutters.

These tools provide the necessary power and precision to make a clean cut through the penny without causing any damage to the tool or compromising the integrity of the coin.

It’s important to note that altering or defacing currency is illegal in many countries, including the United States. Before attempting to cut a penny or any other form of currency, be sure to check the laws in your jurisdiction to avoid any legal consequences.For more information on the different types of cutting tools available and how they can be used to cut through various materials, you can visit websites such as Makita Tools or DeWalt. These websites offer a wide range of high-quality cutting tools that can help you with your cutting projects.

Techniques for Cutting a Penny

When it comes to cutting a penny in half, there are several techniques you can use depending on your resources and level of expertise. Here are three popular methods:

Using a jeweler’s saw

One method for cutting a penny in half is by using a jeweler’s saw. This tool is commonly used by jewelers and metalworkers to make intricate cuts in metal. To cut a penny with a jeweler’s saw, you would first secure the penny in a vice grip or clamp to hold it steady.

Then, using a fine-toothed blade, carefully saw through the penny along the desired cutting line. This method requires patience and precision, but can yield clean and precise cuts.

Cutting with laser or waterjet cutter

Another technique for cutting a penny is by using a laser or waterjet cutter. These high-powered machines are capable of cutting through various materials with extreme precision. To cut a penny with a laser or waterjet cutter, you would simply input the desired cutting pattern into the machine’s software and let it do the work.

This method is ideal for those with access to these types of machines, as it can produce clean and accurate cuts without much effort.

Fracturing with a hammer and chisel

If you’re looking for a more hands-on approach, you can try fracturing the penny with a hammer and chisel. This method involves striking the penny with a chisel to create a small crack, and then using the hammer to carefully split the penny along the crack.

While this technique may not yield the cleanest cut, it can be a fun and satisfying way to split a penny in half.

It’s important to note that altering currency, including cutting or defacing coins, is illegal in many countries. Before attempting any of these techniques, be sure to familiarize yourself with the laws and regulations regarding currency alteration in your area.

What Happens When a Penny is Cut in Half?

When a penny is cut in half, several interesting things happen. Let’s explore them one by one.

Exposes the zinc core

One of the first things you’ll notice when you cut a penny in half is that it exposes the zinc core inside. Pennies made after 1982 are mostly composed of zinc with a thin copper plating. By cutting the penny, you can see the distinct layers of copper and zinc, giving you a glimpse into the inner workings of this iconic coin.

Edges can be sharp

Another important aspect to consider when cutting a penny in half is the sharpness of the edges. When a penny is cut, the two halves may have sharp edges that can easily cut through paper or even skin. It’s important to handle the cut halves with care to avoid any accidents or injuries.

May damage the coin

While cutting a penny in half can provide a unique experience and a closer look at its composition, it’s essential to note that altering coins is generally not recommended. In fact, defacing currency is illegal in many countries.

Cutting a penny in half permanently damages the coin, making it unusable for its intended purpose. It’s always best to respect the value and integrity of currency.

Fun Experiments and Projects with Cut Pennies

Making jewelry and art

Did you know that cut pennies can be transformed into unique and stylish pieces of jewelry? By cutting a penny in half, you can create stunning pendants, earrings, and even bracelets. The copper color of the penny adds a touch of rustic charm to your accessories.

Simply drill a small hole in the cut penny and attach it to a chain or earring hooks.

If you’re feeling more adventurous, you can use cut pennies as a canvas for your artistic creations. With a little paint, you can turn a simple coin into a miniature work of art. Let your creativity run wild and design intricate patterns or portraits on the surface of the penny.

These can make for great conversation starters or personalized gifts.

Using cut pennies as science teaching tools

Teachers and parents alike can utilize cut pennies as educational tools to teach children about science and physics. By cutting pennies in different ways and comparing the results, children can learn about the concepts of mass, density, and balance.

For example, you can cut pennies into different shapes and sizes and conduct experiments to see how they balance on their edges or float in water. This hands-on approach helps children understand scientific principles in a fun and engaging way.

Plus, it sparks their curiosity and encourages them to explore further.

If you’re looking for more resources and ideas for science experiments with cut pennies, websites like Science Buddies and Steve Spangler Science offer a wide range of experiments and projects that you can try at home or in the classroom.


Cutting a penny in half takes quite a bit of effort, specialized tools, and finesse. But with the right technique, you can split a penny to expose the zinc core inside and create an interesting science experiment or art project.

We’ve covered everything you need to know about how to cut a penny, what’s required to chop it in half, and what happens when you divide this iconic coin. Hopefully this provides a comprehensive overview to satisfy your curiosity about slicing pennies!

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