Handmade Wire Findings: Make Your Own Balled Head Pins

Scott’s tornado wire-wrapped earrings

Growing up on a cattle ranch and building barbed-wire fences, Scott David Plumlee developed a love of wire. What an unusual beginning to a career in wire jewelry making! Now Scott has just finished his latest wire jewelry-making DVD, Make Wire Wrapped Jewelry! Precise and Chaotic Styles.

Chaotic? That’s right. In a barn-turned-studio on his family’s ranch in Kansas, Scott says he developed his tornado wire-wrapping design to calm his nerves while 100-mile-per-hour winds swirled outside. He’s sold lots of these tornado earrings since then, and each one is built on his handmade balled head pins. Scott makes all of his own wire findings, including jump rings, head pins, S-clasps, and earring wires. In Make Wire Wrapped Jewelry! , he shares this technique for making balled head pins.

Handmade Balled Headpins: Make Your Own Ear Wires & Other Wire Findings

1. Cut a 4-1/2″ length of wire to make a pair of headpins. Scott uses 19-gauge Argentium sterling silver wire for his head pins.

2. Hold the wire in the middle with an old pair of flat-nose pliers, not your bare hands. Place the wire at about a 30-degree angle over the flame (which should be about 1″ long), with one end of the wire in the pointed tip of the flame. Count to three seconds (one one-thousand, two one-thousand, three one-thousand) and remove the wire from the flame.

3. Wait a few seconds and ball the other end; then wait a few seconds before putting the wire on the Solderite board. Those few seconds of waiting time are essential to allow the teardrop to set.

4. Repeat as desired to make as many balled wires as you wish. Pickle the wires to clean them and then tumble them in steel shot, soap, and water to polish them up to a high shine.

5. Measure and mark the middle of the wire and then cut the wire in half, resulting in two 2″ head pins.

6. To fix the pointed ends, Scott lines up the balled ends evenly and then cuts the other end of both wires at once, resulting in wires that are the same length but with that pointed, pinched, two-sided wire end that we’re all familiar with.

7. Scott uses a jeweler’s saw to file off the sides of that two-sided point, resulting in a more pointed, four-sided end, and then files off that sharp tip while rolling the wire back and forth between his thumb and finger to round it off, creating finished ends for his head pins.

Handmade Balled-End Head Pin Tips:

  • Scott aims for a 2 to 2.5mm balled end, each of which uses about 1/4″ of the wire. So your 4-1/2″ wire will be 4″ when you’ve balled the ends.
  • If you’re making numerous head pins, Scott recommends having another pair of flat-nose pliers on hand to switch out after you’ve made a dozen head pins or so, because the pliers get hot, the grips get loose, and they could easily get too hot to hold.
  • Keep a small fan blowing nearby for ventilation while melting metals. Also keep a Solderite board nearby to place the wires on after you’ve balled the ends. Don’t place the teardrop wire on a cold surface; the thermal reaction that takes place will pop the teardrop right off the wire.
  • If you leave the wire in the flame about five seconds, the teardrop will grow to around 3mm and gravity will pull the liquid metal off the wire. Scott recommends keeping a bowl of water underneath to catch those accidental falling teardrops. They’re hot molten metal, after all! You can recycle them yourself or use them as design elements in your projects.

Voila! Handmade balled head pins, ready to turn into the wire findings of your choice. Scott turns them into tornado wire-wrapped earrings, which you can also learn to do in his DVD, Make Wire Wrapped Jewelry! Precise and Chaotic Styles.

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