More, More, More: Our 11 Best Wire Jewelry-Making Tips
Whether it’s jewelry making, beading, quilting, knitting, or some other hobby–or even housekeeping–one good tip is enough to make your day and change your world. In honor of Jewelry Making Daily’s third birthday (whee!), and here are the 11 most memorable and helpful wire jewelry making tips that we’ve shared in our fabulous three years (with a few new ones thrown in for fun).
|Linda Larsen’s wire organizer|
1. A common wire jewelry making tip is to store different gauges and types of wire in separate, labeled plastic sandwich bags in an accordion style folder to keep them neat and organized. Here’s the bonus: Add a piece of plain chalk to each bag to further prevent tarnish.
2. File wire ends easily: Did you know that those little emery boards can help file and smooth the ends of wires if you don’t have a metal file handy? Or if you don’t have a file small enough to fit in tight spaces? Plus you can get them practically free in the little cotton ball/cotton swab/nail file packets in some hotels. Remember to file the ends of ear wires for comfortable wear.
3. Just like custom dress and gown designers make a “muslin” version of a dress before they actually work with the fine fabrics, it’s wise to use craft wire for practicing new wire jewelry making techniques. It’s less expensive than other wire, so if you make a mistake, it will only cost pennies, not dollars.
4. Argentium silver wire makes the best balled head pins: no fire scale, no wonky balls, no pointy ends. It draws up the wire beautifully in a flame and is extremely tarnish resistant.
|Custom-Shank Earrings by Denise Peck|
5. Turn any short length of wire into a paddle-shaped finding or design element just by hammering the ends. Hammer one end flat to create a “stopper” effect, slide on a dreamy lampwork glass or gemstone bead, and hammer the other end flat too (careful not to hit the bead). Then pierce, punch, or drill a hole in the top end of the wire and hang it on an ear wire. Voila! Quick and easy handmade one-of-a-kind earrings, all from a simple piece of wire. See more examples here.
6. Mark the jaw of your pliers with a permanent marker so you’ll remember where to wrap the wire each time for consistently sized wrapped loops.
7. Silver alloys that contain copper are more prone to tarnishing. The more pure the silver you’re working with, the less it will tarnish. For example, fine silver and Argentium silver keep their pretty white tarnish-free shine, making them ideal for intricate wirework like filigree, chain maille, and wire weaving where polishing to remove tarnish down the road could be next to impossible. Similarly, sterling wire will turn black when held in a flame (as a result of developing fire scale), but fine silver and Argentium silver will not. (From Denise Peck and Jane Dickerson’s new book Wireworker’s Companion)
|Abby’s Earrings by Jodi Bombardier
from Weave, Wrap, Coil
8. This one is so logical, but if I hadn’t read it, I would have struggled with this: When you’re weaving wire on an angled or tapered wire frame (thicker/wider on one end than on the other), start at the narrowest end or point of the frame and weave toward the widest point of the frame. If you weave from the widest to the narrowest point, the wire will slip down the frame. As my friend would say, well duh! But it wouldn’t have occurred to me until I was pretty flustered from struggling with keeping the wire from slipping down the frame.
9. Memory wire is made of tough steel and requires heavy-duty memory-wire cutters to cut it. Beware, because it will ruin your regular wire cutters. Be sure to keep memory wire labeled and separate from your other wire jewelry making stash. I put a little piece of red electrical tape on mine to alert me.
10. Have you ever wondered why larger wires have smaller gauge numbers, and vice versa? The number refers to the number of times the wire is pulled through gradually smaller holes in steel plates, making it smaller with each pass. So if a wire is 20 gauge, it was pulled through 20 times, but a smaller wire, say 28 gauge, was pulled through 8 more times, making it even smaller each time. Visualizing it that way helps me remember that smaller numbers means fewer pulls through the plate, not smaller wire.
11. And don’t forget the wire jewelry making tip of the year! When you’re making ear wires, double the amount of wire you need to make one and bend it in half. Think of that bent end as the loop end. Then work that doubled wire into an earring wire just like you would any other wire–shape it around a mandrel like a marker, bend up the ends . . . but then stop. Instead of cutting apart the loop end, leave the ear wires as they are until you’re ready to use them. Then just snip the wire in half at the loop end and finish off the loops. Voila! Perfectly matched ear wires.
You’re ready to take on the world–the world of wire jewelry making, at least! So here’s one BIG tip: You can get over 100 wire jewelry-making projects (including 12 eBooks and two videos) in our Wire Project Bonanza–with well over 50% savings!