10 Lessons in Wire Jewelry Making Plus a Quiz: Are You a Wire Wizard or a Wire Wimp?


No matter how often I use wire or how many wire videos, books, and magazines I see, I learn something new about wire all the time. How about you? Do you know all there is to know about wire jewelry making?

Doodles wire bracelets by Abbi Berta  
Doodles wire bracelets by Abbi Berta

Answer these 10 wirework questions and compare your responses with the answers at the end to find out your wire jewelry IQ. Then count up your correct answers and see if you're a wire wimp or a wire wizard!

1. You have an 8' to 10' piece of wire that needs to be straightened. How do you do it?

2. You have a short piece of wire that you want to straighten but not harden. How would you go about it?

3. You want to soften (anneal) your work-hardened sterling silver wire. What do you do?

4. You have 3' of 20-gauge dead-soft wire that you would like to use for ear wires. How do you make the wire half hard (a better choice for ear wires)?

  Julie Stratton's Captured Infinity bracelet
Julie Stratton's Captured Infinity bracelet

5. A wire jewelry tutorial tells you to use #2 16-gauge wire. What does this mean?

6. You want to make a flat, sterling silver spiral. What type of wire do you use, dead soft or half hard?

7. You need a lot of jump rings for a chain project. What alternatives are available to you?

Swirly Pearl Drops by 2015 Featured Artist Stacie Florer  
Swirly Pearl Drops by 2015 Featured Artist Stacie Florer

8. If you want to make crisp angles with your wire, what is a better choice, dead-soft or half-hard wire?

9. How would you keep very fine wire on a spool from tangling or unraveling when crocheting/knitting?

10. You have added a patina of liver-of-sulfur to your wire followed by a rub with #0000 steel wool, but it is still much too dark. What do you do?


So, how do you think you did? Are you feeling more wimp-y or wizard-y? Here are the answers:

1. Secure one end in a bench vise and the other end in draw tongs, a vise grip, or in pliers. Gently pull on the taut wire until straight.

  Melinda Orr's Mystic leather and wire earrings
Melinda Orr's Mystic leather and wire earrings

2. Use a nylon mallet on a flat wood surface. Using a steel anvil will tend to harden the wire.

3. Thin wire should be annealed (softened) in a kiln. Wrap the wire into a compact coil. If necessary, secure the coil with pieces of the same type of wire. Place the coil in a 1200° kiln for 3 to 5 minutes. For heavy-gauge wire, form a compact coil, place it in an annealing pan, and use a large, soft flame to evenly heat the coil. The ends will turn red (in a darkened room) when annealing is complete. In both cases, quench the hot coil in water and then pickle.

4. Run the wire through the jaws of nylon flat-nose pliers. The wire will evenly harden in no time at all.

5. Wire hardness is designated as #0 (dead soft), #2 (half hard), and #4 (hard).

Getting to the Point by Kimberly Creviston  
Getting to the Point by Kimberly Creviston

6. Spiral curves will conform more easily if you use dead-soft wire.

7. a. Make your own using flush cutters. Advantage: rings can be made with just a couple of hand tools. Disadvantage: the slice is not perfectly clean and may be visible.
b. Jump-ring-making systems. Advantage: a lot of rings with a clean slice can be made in very little time. Disadvantage: the systems can be pricey.
c. Use a cut-off wheel (make sure you wear safety glasses). Advantage: not very expensive but a flex-shaft motor or a Dremel is required. Disadvantage: breaks easily and only one ring at a time can be made.
d. Use a jeweler's saw. Advantage: clean slice. Disadvantage: one ring at a time, plus watch out for your fingers!
e. Purchase the jump rings. Advantage: beautiful rings are readily available from reputable suppliers. Disadvantage: higher cost than making them yourself.

8. Half-hard wire will make a clean, crisp turn without the slight curve you get with dead-soft wire.

9. Place the spool in a Ziploc bag. Leave 1" unlocked where the wire can exit.

  Heart to Heart to Heart by 2015 Featured Artist Brenda Schweder
Heart to Heart to Heart by 2015 Featured Artist Brenda Schweder

10. Prevent the problem from occurring in the future by using just a pea-sized (or smaller) piece of liver of sulfur in a couple of cups of warm to hot tap water. Dip the jewelry in and quickly remove, followed by a dip in clean water. Use gloves and don't inhale fumes. Repeat until you get the color you desire. The patina is affected by the heat of the water, the amount of liver of sulfur, and the type of metal. Sterling silver and copper patina easily; fine silver patinas much less, if at all. For a piece that is too dark, you can remove the liver of sulfur with a torch. Be careful though, if you have used fine wire, the torch could melt the wire. Dips that remove oxidation are often harsh on the metal. Chemicals designed for oxidation removal in an ultrasonic cleaner may be helpful.

OK friend, how did you do?

Wire Wizard: 8-10 correct
Wire Wit 5-7 correct
Wire Worker: 1-4 correct
Wire Wimp (but we still love you) = 0 correct answers

Let us know your results in the comments below!

If you didn't do as well as you'd hoped–or if you did really well and you're craving great new wire-jewelry designs to show off your fabulousness–subscribe to Step-by-Step Wire Jewelry magazine. Whether you're a wire wizard or a wire wimp, you can work wire magic with the tips, techniques, projects, and new supplies and tools you'll get with your subscription!

 By Connie Fox. Republished from the June/July 2010 issue of Step by Step Wire Jewelry.

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