Basic Wire Design Components: 4 Ways to Make and Use Wire Coils for Jewelry Making

Even being an old-fashioned girl, I sometimes forget about the basics that make the world go ’round. So any chance I get to remind and reacquaint myself with the basics–be it cooking, jewelry making, or some other hobby–I appreciate it. I was recently reminded of the value and versatility of basic wire coils when I saw my sparkly friend Stephanie Dixon (aka The Dixon Chick) demonstrate the CobraCoiler wire coiler from ParaWire in Tucson. I was reminded of wire coils again this morning by all the caterpillars on my front porch. (Don’t caterpillars look like wire coils to you? No? Just me?) Anyway, I digress.

If you’re a wire worker, making basic wire coils is probably one of the first skills you learned. You may coil wire by hand on a mandrel, use a jig, or use a cool gizmo like Stephanie did—or some combination of the three—but no matter how you do it, you can end up with interesting and unique coiled wire components in a matter of seconds.

I like how JMD member PrettyWearJewelry repeated the wire coil from the ear wire as a design element on her Swarovski Wild Heart Dangle Earrings.

Back-to-basics wire-coil ideas that can be incorporated in jewelry:

  1. Bulk Up: Probably the most common use of wire coils, coiling or wrapping wire snugly onto a base wire or frame can add dimension, bulk, strength, texture, and style to the original wire, whether it’s a ring band, a bangle bracelet, hoop earring, or a pendant frame for a focal bead or cabochon. I often make rings with a simple 18- or 20-gauge wire and then use 22- or 24-gauge wire to coil over the ring band portion to make it more substantial and finished looking.
  2. Learn how to make and use wire coils the right way with these expert jewelry making tips. This one includes bulking up your wire.
  3. Faux Chain Maille: Some of the multicolor, larger loop, multilayered wire coils remind me of chain maille. Maybe it’s just because I’m chain maille challenged, but making short coiled wire components and then coiling more wire on top of them looks like intricate little chain maille weaves to me … and it’s much faster and easier! No jump rings to open and close, no little pieces to drop, just coil, coil, and coil again–and voila! These little components are also a great way to get a big impact from fine-gauge wire.
  4. Learn how to make and use wire coils the right way with these expert jewelry making tips. This one includes trying out faux chain maille.
  5. Stuff ’em: Inspired by SilverSilk’s cool Capture line (knitted wire chain with bead chain inside) but on a larger scale, I got the idea of filling my own larger wire coils with beads or a long skinny somethingorother, like a twig, a glass rod, ribbon/cord, or a larger gauge piece of wire that I’ve shaped or textured. Basically it’s making a long skinny cage (the wire coil) and filling it with something interesting. You can make the coil and the inserted object about the same size, or allow room for the inserted object to move around, shaker style (but not slip through the coils).
  6. Learn how to make and use wire coils the right way with these expert jewelry making tips. This one includes spacing out your wire coils.
  7. Space Out: A little tension is all that stands between a wire coil and a wire spring. When you’re making a wire coil, change the spacing of the wraps around the mandrel after a half inch or so and wrap a wider coil for awhile, then go back to the snug coiling/spacing. You can also finish the coil snugly and then stretch out a section or two of it to add interest (keep it on the mandrel while you stretch it). In both cases, I recommend using hard wire; soft won’t keep its shape very well in this case. Then you can string these coils on leather or cord as design elements for bracelets or necklaces, or hang a few from ear wires to make earrings that are fun and springy.
  8. Learn how to make and use wire coils the right way with these expert jewelry making tips. This one includes filling your wire coils with various types of materials.
There are all kinds of ways to play with wire coils. You can go beyond these basic ideas to coil with two colors of wire, to build coils on top of coils, or invent some other clever design of your own!

To learn to make perfect wire coils and then to make fun jewelry with all the coiled wire components you make, turn to a pro! In Kerry Bogert’s Wire Coiling Secrets video workshop (available as a DVD or instant digital download), you’ll get expert wire-coiling instruction and then learn ways to use all the fun coils you’ll make in jewelry designs. Whether you use precious metal wire, traditional metal-plated copper-core wire, or colorful craft wire, you’ll be able to learn along with Kerry and make your own perfect wire coil components and designs before the day’s up. Plus you’ll get a bonus free 15-minute video earring project with Kerry!

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