Lately I’ve been getting a lot of questions about using wire in jewelry making. So this episode of ECT TV is all about wire.
This is an overview of using wire, so if you still have questions, please feel free to contact me.
#1 Safety Glasses
Your eyes are a very valuable asset and you don’t want to loose them when it’s so simple to protect them. Wear glasses, safety glass or jewelry making gear with protective eye wear built in. That way when you cut a piece of wire and it goes flying it won’t end up in your eyes.
#2 Anti-fatigue gloves
These are great when you’re doing small repetitive movements like jewelry making or really making anything and of course typing. Wear these and you can save yourself a lot of pain later.
I use knitting gloves. You probably won’t find these in the jewelry making section, but in the knitting/crochet section of a craft store.
#3 Flying wire
Wire is springy and goes where it wants to. Try to cover the top of wire when you cut it to minimize how far it flies. Take the time to pick up wire when it flies because it could end up in someone’s barefoot later (I know too well.)
Wire can also break when you pull on it. For example, when I make rings I pull very hard. The wire could break and then you could even end up with a tool in your eye. So be very aware and careful.
Wire Temper (Hardness)
Temper is the hardness of wire and is described in terms of dead soft, half hard or hard (or full hard).
#1 Dead Soft
Is very malleable and is very easy to bend. On the other hand, it does not hold it’s shape well and cannot be used to make anything structural.
#2 Hard or Full Hard
Is not very malleable, but it holds its shape well. It’s brittle and can break.
#3 Half Hard
This is the middle and can be used for wrapping and structural work. It’s a great place to start if you’re a beginner. You can use different gauges of half hard wire for different things.
Wire comes in gauges from 10 to 28. The lower the number, the thicker the wire. So that gauge 10 is very thick and 28 is thin.
Choose the wire gauge based on the project and what it’s use will be. I use 20 gauge wire for many things, such as making earring wires and for most of my wire wrapping and to make wire wrapped rings. I use 18 or 16 gauge for more structural things like the necklace above. For adding beads to a wire structure you would use 24 gauge wire.
Something to note, gauge is not standard worldwide, but it’s really not so different that you’ll notice too much of a difference.
There are 3 basic shapes: round, half round and square.
Round is the most versatile and most useful. You can use it for basically anything. I use round mostly all the time.
Square wire can be used for basically anything you use round wire for plus it’s really great for bundling wires.
#3 Half Round
Half round wire is great for ring shanks and for binding bundles.
Tools to Use to Make Wire Jewelry
I have my three basic favorite tools. If you’re just starting and have a limited budget.
Those three tools are:
- Wire Cutters
- Round Nose Pliers; and
- Chain Nose Pliers.
And you’ll really need a second pair of pliers as well for wrapping, which I suggest Bent Nose Pliers.
Read more about the 3 basic tools you need to start wire wrapping here. Plus some basic wire wrapping techniques.
My additional 2 favorite tools are: Bent Nose Pliers and Nylon Jawed Pliers. Read more about 2 more tools you need for wire wrapping here.
Plus, you might want to add a few more pliers like Square nose pliers and long needle nose pliers.
In addition to the 3 tools I noted above, I would also add a rawhide, nylon or plastic hammer and steel block in order to harden your wire. (See more about hardening below).
There are lots of different hammers, but I’ll show you 2.
The chasing hammer has 2 sides. The bigger, wider end and the smaller ball end. You can use this hammer to put marks in your wire. You can use the larger side to carefully harden your wire designs with minimal marks (although I would suggest you use a nylon hammer instead). The round side is great for making cool marks in your jewelry like I did for these Hammered Wire Earrings.
When creating a hammered look in your designs, you can actually use any hammer you have around.
You can also shape and bend sheet metal with this hammer.
Nylon, Plastic or Rawhide Hammers
These hammers are used to harden wire and wire worked designs without marring the wire.
I use this when making earring wires or any other wire creations that I want the shape to stay sturdy.
You’ll also need a steel block or an anvil to hammer on. You can find these where jewelry supplies are sold and in different sizes. I got a tiny one with one of my hammers which would be okay to start with.
Hardening Your Wire
There are four basic ways to harden your wire.
#1 Work Hardening
As you work with wire it will harden just by you working with it. Usually you’ll need to harden it more, but it does harden up as you work it.
#2 Nylon Jawed Pliers
Pulling wire through nylon jawed pliers will harden it (and straighten it!) You don’t want to do this to the point that you cannot work with it, though.
Hammering your wire will harden it. You can use nylon or rawhide hammers to harden wire without changing it’s shape or use a chasing hammer to flatten the wire.
You can put your finished pieces in a tumbler. Be careful not to put any stones or beads that could be scratched or damaged in the tumbler.
Just a quick little note about memory wire. I don’t use it and I don’t know much about it, but it is not for wire wrapping. It’s very hard and it’s great for making those fun wrap bracelets, but don’t use your expensive wire cutters to cut it because it will ding them and mar them.
Note: I mentioned in my video that I’m working on a new free eCourse for my newsletter subscribers. It’s not quite ready yet, but hopefully in the next week it will be!
I hope you learned something from this wire overview. If you’re ready to get started with some simple wraps and make some jewelry from wire, I recommend checking out Wire Wrapping for Beginners