Get To Know Your Wire Wrapping Tools
After I had such a blast learning how to solder wire at Bead Fest Philadelphia last month, I arrived home to find a new set of Wubbers pliers waiting for me! More wire wrapping projects? Yes, please! Never in a million years would I ever have
guessed that wire wrapping could be so much fun and so useful for my bead-weaving projects.
Most of you know that I love to create my own handmade wire findings like clasps, jump rings, eye pins, and ear wires. But now that I'm comfortable with a few basic wire wrapping techniques, I'm moving on to things like creating my own wire links and bails for my beaded necklace and bracelet projects.
I also came home from Bead Fest with my first-ever steel bench block and chasing hammer. (Ooooo!) Was I ready to start making my own wire jewelry links? You bet. But first, I had to get to know my new wire wrapping tools a little bit better.
Getting to Know My Chasing Hammer
The first thing I learned about was my chasing hammer. I knew that the flat, rounded side of the head was good for flattening wire, but what I learned from a couple of experiments with my wire wrapping tools was that the rounded side is great for adding texture to a piece of flattened wire or metal. I've always loved that organic look of textured wire, and I was thrilled to see how beautifully that rounded side of the head turned an ordinary piece of wire into something full of shadow and light.
Holding your chasing hammer properly is easy, and the best way to get the desired results when using it to flatten and texture wire. In my class with Kate Richbourg, she showed us how to hold our chasing hammers: just grasp it somewhat loosely in your hand, almost like you're shaking hands with it. The round ball at the end of the hammer should fit comfortably up against the base of your thumb, while your thumb rests on the top of the handle. Give a couple of experimental whacks to your wire to get the hang of it!
Getting to Know My Steel Bench Block
For hammering wire, it's always best to use a good steel bench block. My early experiments that involved hammering wire on my wood workbench in the garage were pitiful. A good-quality steel bench block is worth its weight in gold for work hardening and hammering wire. The hard, smooth surface of the bench block produces consistent results when hammering wire, instead of the soft, wood surface of the workbench.
The edges of a bench block can be sharp, so make sure to put a thin mat between your bench block and any wood surface where you might place it. (Like the dining room table. My apologies to my husband for giving him an extra fix-it project around the house.)
Just for the record, when you are hammering links and small pieces of shaped wire, always make sure to keep your fingers well away from the bench block! I learned the hard way when, in my enthusiasm to transform one of my first wire wrapped links, I smashed that flat part of the chasing hammer down onto the edge of my thumb. If my five-year-old hadn't been sitting nearby watching me, I'm sure I wouldn't have kept my cool so well because that hurt!
A tip I learned from Patti Bullard, the inventor of the Wubbers pliers, is to hold your wire components, links and shapes on the bench block using a pair of bent-nose pliers. Thank you, Patti, for saving the rest of my fingers from injury and accidents when I'm playing with my wire.
Getting to Know My Wire
Last, but definitely not least, I learned a lot about the wire that I've been using for these projects. I started out using some fun colored copper wire from Parawire, but I found that when I hammered the ends of the wire, some of the coloring came off and left little bits of copper exposed. The twisted wire I used was great fun, but hammering it smoothed out all the beautiful little twists. For now, I think I'm going to stick to using pure copper and brass wire without the fancy colors.
The gauge of your wire also matters. The thinnest wire I used for these wire wrapping experiments was an 18 gauge wire, which flattened nicely, but didn't leave me enough room to punch a hole in the end of my flattened pieces. Stay tuned: my next experiments with wire wrapping and hammering will be with 16, 14, and 12 gauge wire!
Want to get to know your wire better?
The best way to get to know your wire and your wire wrapping tools is to practice, practice, practice. Pick a wire wrapping project and go for it! And if you're the kind of person that prefers to see wire wrapping techniques demonstrated instead of learning from books and printed instructions, take a look at the great wire and jewelry-making videos available on Craft Daily. For the price of just one online class somewhere else, you can access dozens of your favorite jewelry-making videos including Metalwork: Wire Essentials with wire expert Denise Peck. Subscribe to Craft Daily and never run out of inspiration for your wire wrapping projects!
Do you have a tip for someone who is just getting to know their wire wrapping tools and supplies? Leave a comment here on the Beading Daily blog and share it with us!