My Favorite Jewelry-Making Tips for Wire, Metal, Polymer Clay, and More

I love a great time- and money-saving tip. I mentally collect them like Heloise must, and when I learn a new one, it's like a new word–I use it and share it as often as possible. If only there was some way to truly measure the value of a great jewelry-making tip, the amount of time and money that a truly great tip can save. How fun it would be to tell a jewelry-making friend, "Did you know a Sharpie marker is the perfect size 'mandrel' for making ear wires? And so far I've saved $32.19 and 11 hours of time with that tip!" Ha!

Since there's no way to measure the value of a great tip, I'll just be overly dramatic about it and say these tips (taken from some of my favorite jewelry-making books) will save you endless hours and tons of money. How's that for value? Enjoy! 


From Totally Twisted by Kerry Bogert, wire- (which means money!) and time-saving tips for wire jewelry making:

1. Scraps add up quickly when you work with wire: There's no way to tell exactly how much wire you'll need for any given link, because each person's wrapping style is a little different. Keep a box handy to collect the wire bits and bobs left over from your wire projects. Short lengths of wire coil can be reused for projects. Many companies also offer refunds or store credit for raw materials such as sterling silver scraps, and that, my friend, is beads in the bank! 

2. To get consistent wire-jewelry results, repeat each step of a link for the number of links you're making all at once. For example, if you need seven links, first cut seven wire lengths, then wrap seven loops. Don't cut one, wrap one, cut one, wrap one.


From Ancient Modern Polymer Clay by Ronna Sarvas Weltman, two tips for creating polymer-clay beads with the right base-bead materials:

3. Use a dried cork clay or aluminum foil base bead when you want round polymer clay beads. After you have covered the base bead with polymer clay, poke a hole where you will be completing the bead hole after the bead is cured to release any trapped air. 

4. Use cornstarch packing peanuts when you want a very organic, irregular shape and also want hollow polymer clay beads. You can press several cornstarch peanuts together if you wish to form a larger base bead. Use a tiny drop of water to get them to stick together and molded into a circle shape, but be aware that too much water will dissolve them.

After the beads are cured, you can leave the cornstarch peanuts in if you wish, but sometimes the material makes it difficult to thread beading cord through the bead. If that's the case, just immerse the bead in water to saturate the core, which will dissolve. Then put your mouth over one hole and blow the cornstarch out (like blowing an egg). You may need to immerse it again and blow more to get all the material out.


From Enchanted Adornments by Cynthia Thornton, how to fix a crack or other mistake in your metal clay masterpiece after firing: 

5. Repairing Sintered Metal Clay: Fix them with slip or patch them with clay. If you are going to make repairs, don't polish the piece. Leave it rough so the slip can bond properly. If it looks thin, or if the crack is still visible, apply another layer. Allow the slip to dry and fire fully again. Or use a small butane torch and a heatproof surface (such as a firebrick or soldering plate) to heat the piece if it's a minute repair or a very thin, small piece.

At first a little smoke will come off the piece; this is the organic binder burning off. Continue to heat in a circular motion until it's cherry red. Hold for about a minute, then remove the torch and let it cool. This works for pieces that aren't designed for lots of wear and tear, such as decorative embellishments. It is not recommended for hinges or a toggle bar.


From The Encyclopedia of Contemporary Jewelry-Making Techniques by Vannetta Seecharran, keeping track of solder chips and what to do when soldering goes wrong:

6. Keep small chips of solder handy, fluxed, and ready to use after you've cut them by keeping them in a flux dish on your bench.

7. Solder flows to the heat. If your solder flows away from the joint, the piece was not heated evenly and the solder flowed to the hottest part of the metal. Pickle the piece to remove all oxidation, file away the old solder, and start again. 

8. If your silver piece turns green and black and the solder didn't flow, a weak flame and prolonged heat have caused the flux to burn away before the job was done. Pickle to remove all oxidation and start again.

I hope these tips are as helpful to you as they are to me! All of the Interweave jewelry-making books and eBooks are packed with more great tips such as these. Grab your favorites now  in the Jewelry Making Daily Shop!

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