Alternative Wire Jewelry Making: Hardware-Store Steel Wire Jewelry and Making Steel Wire Tools
I’m always on the lookout for different kinds of wire to try and ways to use it in my wire jewelry making. I’ve recently learned about a few new-to-me kinds of wire that jewelry-making friends are using in their wire jewelry making, and it inspired me to go on a hunt for new wire . . . in a hardware store.
In the roofing section, I found steel rebar wire. I’ve seen enamel artists use it to make wire hoops. It’s an ideal gauge and hardness for making round loopy links for enameling. It’s affordable (you get over 300 feet for about $6) at your local hardware store, and you don’t even have to clean it before enameling on it!
Torch enamel expert Barbara Lewis recommends letting the piece cool gradually, first in the less-hot part of the flame and then in warm vermiculite to prevent the enamel from popping off. Super easy, super affordable. I love the look of links in this dark, bare wire (like blackened silver with less work and much less money) mixed with colorful enameled links for beautiful and modern chains and necklaces.
My trip through the hardware store progressed to the general hardware section, where I found two more wire jewelry-making possibilities: bright steel wire in four different gauges as well as a large bolt of “dark annealed picture-hanging wire.” The latter looked a lot like the steel rebar wire I found in roofing, but the price was higher and it seemed like there was much less of it (no length listed on the packaging). So I skipped that one in favor of the rebar wire already in my basket. But the bright steel wire was an interesting possibility for wire jewelry making, especially the twisted or braided kind rated for heavier weight.
Back in my studio, I created spirals and other designs in both types of the steel wire, placed them on annealed copper sheet on a steel bench block, and hammered on it just like you’d do in metal stamping. Leave a “tail” of wire on the design to use as a “handle” while hammering. The harder steel wire made a nice clear impression on the softer copper sheet.
On another piece of metal, I turned the steel wire design to and fro, just like you might with an allover design stamp or texture hammer. I hammered all around the wire design, on all of it sometimes and on edges or parts of it sometimes, until I created enough little scallop shapes to resemble a rose-like design in the metal.
The curved lines were perfect for making flowery petal designs, but you could also do stripes, zigzags, circles, etc. I love this technique and can’t wait to try it more often. I want to make letters and words in the metal next time. It’s low tech, low cost, low skill–but awesome results!
The wire will eventually flatten; if you like the design, you can enamel it or find another way to use it in a project at that point. But the wire is so affordable, you won’t have to feel bad if you don’t reuse it, and there’s always recycling!
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