It's the Perfect Time to Learn About Wire!
With my son starting preschool in just a couple of weeks, I've suddenly gotten nostalgic for all things back-to-school. Going back to school every September was always exciting for me – I was anxious to learn new things and see my friends after a long summer off from school. This year, I'm taking myself back to school and learning all I can about making my own wire jewelry findings like ear wires and clasps. Now that I've been hooked on making Viking knit chains out of colorful craft wire, I'm finding that I really enjoy being able to make my own wire jewelry findings for all of my beautiful beadwork!
Making your own jewelry findings using wire is a great way to not only save money but also to give your handmade beaded jewelry a unique touch. But if you don't know much about working with wire, trying to pick the right one for your jewelry making supplies can be confusing – and expensive! I've been seeing lots of questions around Beading Daily about which wire to use for what kind of jewelry finding, so I thought I'd write up a quick guide to wires and which ones are right for your wire jewelry making projects.
Investing in a wire gauge is a must for anyone who wants to get started making their own wire jewelry findings.
The first thing you'll need to know is your wire gauge. When determining thickness, a higher number means a thinner wire. So a 22 gauge wire is thinner than a 16 gauge wire. If you're not sure what gauge wire you're using, you can purchase an inexpensive wire gauge.
Hardness refers to the ease with which you can bend your wire into your desired shapes. Wire can be dead soft (easily bent with your fingers), half-hard (easily bent but will maintain its shape under stress) and full-hard (can be bent with pliers and good for holding complex wire-wrapped shapes).
Precious Metal Wire or Craft Wire?
In the past, I was a stickler for using only precious metal wire – that means sterling silver or gold-filled wire. But with the rising cost of precious metals, I've found some great alternatives to the more expensive precious metal wires.
Silver-filled wire is a great alternative to the more expensive sterling silver wire. Silver-filled wire has a much thicker layer of sterling silver over a copper core. Unlike silver plated wire, the top layer of silver won't come off when worked with a pair of pliers. Another benefit of silver-filled wire is that you can solder it the way you can solder sterling silver wire.
Craft wire is great for making handmade wire findings because it adds a splash of color and costs significantly less than precious metal wire. One word of caution when working with harder craft wire: using metal pliers on the wire will cause the top layer of color to come off. You can use nylon-jawed pliers, wrap your metal jaws with masking or cloth tape, or use something like "Tool Magic" to give your pliers a light coating that will prevent nicks and mars on your craft wire.
Which Wire for Which Type of Finding?
Use a 20 or 22 gauge half-hard wire to make your own wire earring findings like these.
Ear Wires: Since ear wires are worn in direct contact with your skin (unlike a necklace or bracelet clasp which might be worn over a shirt) it's usually best to spring for precious metal wire for those who are sensitive to metals like nickel. Use a thicker gauge wire like 20 or 22, and a half-hard or full-hard wire so that the earring finding keeps its shape.
Custom made wire s-clasps like these are a great way to add your own unique touch to your handmade beaded jewelry.
S-Clasps and Hook and Eye Clasps: These clasps need to hold up to heavy use, so use a heavier gauge wire like 18 or 16. And because you'll definitely want them to hold their shape under heavy use, a full-hard or half-hard wire is best. (Remember, you can also work-harden your wire by tumbling it or hammering it lightly on a stainless steel bench block.) You can also fashion your own toggle clasps out of wire using a heavier gauge wire.
So now that you have the basics, it's time to take your interest in wire jewelry making a step further and subscribe to Step by Step Wire Jewelry. You'll find all the information you need about wire basics and projects that will let you practice your wire jewelry making skills. And did you know that now you can get a digital subscription to Step by Step Wire Jewelry? All the same great content of your printed magazine is delivered digitally to your iPad, laptop or desktop computer!
Have you discovered how easy it is to make your own wire jewelry findings yet? Share your stories and experiences here on the blog!