Since my epiphany about the versatility of wire jewelry making a few years ago, I’ve become a huge wire fan. Naturally, that led me to a whole new category of jewelry tools: wire jewelry tools! I discovered jigs, coiling tools, fancy pliers just for wire, crinklers and spiral makers. Wire began to give metal sheet a bit of competition in my mind and on my bench–and it’s still neck-and-neck!
Now that I use wire more frequently, I’m always on the watch for new ways to incorporate wire jewelry making with metal. Attaching wire shapes like braids, spirals, or coils to metal designs adds texture and interest–and can even create bails or other components. Wire is also a great addition to enamel jewelry, to create cloisonné or to add interesting shapes in the enamel.
These tips for wire jewelry making are some of my favorites. They’ll make your life easier while saving you time and money in the studio.
Wire Jewelry Tips: Best Gauge for Making Ear Wires
If you decide to make your own ear wires, half-hard 20-gauge wire is best. If you only have dead-soft wire, shape your ear wires and harden by hammering with a plastic or rawhide mallet. Usually, 18-gauge wire is too large to be comfortable; 22-gauge wire can work if you can properly harden it. Sharpie markers are an ideal mandrel for shaping ear wires, and this brilliant Wire Tip of the Year will help you make better ear wires, faster and easier, while keeping them together for safe storage.
Wire Jewelry Tips: Add a Little Magic to Your Tools
Dip the tips of your pliers in Tool Magic to keep them from marring your wire as you work. This protective rubbery coating isn’t so thick that it gets in the way of your work, even in small spaces. But it will smooth over rough edges and sharp corners of pliers that can bite into wire and leave marks. It can improve your pliers’ grip on wire, so you won’t need as much pressure–which also helps prevent marring. You can remove Tool Magic at any time, if you find you no longer need it or want to replace it. It helps to turn all of your tools into nylon-jaw tools.
Wire Jewelry Tips: Never Hammer on Crossed Wires
I make a lot of organic, windy, overlapping wire designs (see ab0ve), so I have to remind myself of this tip often. It doesn’t seem logical to me, but I’ve experienced it first-hand enough times to attest: it’s true! If you have overlapping wires, never hammer where two wires intersect or cross over each other. Somehow, it weakens both wires and makes them more likely to break. If you must hammer on these designs, I recommend the ball side of a ball-peen hammer and carefully placed blows.
Wire Jewelry Tips: Nylon-Jaw Wire Straightening Pliers
When I first learned about nylon-jaw pliers made specifically for straightening wire, I thought I’d never need such a thing. I was so wrong! Though I don’t do much wire weaving or work with tiny wire that kinks easily, these pliers have other uses. No matter which gauge wire I’m working with, I’ve discovered it needs a “refresher” after extended handling. A few firm swipes with these nylon jaws and it’s smoother, straighter, shinier (never hurts!), and easier to work with. I swear it makes the wire feel annealed and more malleable sometimes, though I’m not sure how that could be. Nylon-jaw wire straightening pliers are affordable and can be found at local craft stores. Plus, they can save you money by salvaging crimped or kinked wire.
Wire Jewelry Tips: Wire Storage for Spools
Sarah Thompson, author of Fine Art Wire Weaving and the upcoming Woven in Wire, knows a thing or two about wire storage, as you can imagine. “I had my husband build me a wire rack from a 4-inch PVC pipe. He cut the pipes in half (length wise) then, suspended them from the ceiling so it would not take up room on my desk. It stores my wire spools perfectly and allows me to grab whatever wire I need and easily put it back when I’m done,” Sarah says. Now I want one too! I envision having a double-decker wire storage, one using 4-inch PVC pipe like Sarah’s but with another smaller one for smaller spools of wire.
Get the Way Cool Wire Tools Collection
If you love working with wire–or would like to start wire jewelry making in a fun and unique way–I recommend our Way Cool Wire Tools Collection. With the wire crinkler and spiral maker, you can turn simple wire into design elements useful in various jewelry techniques. Plus, you just might feel like a kid again, creating wire shapes with these fun tools! This collection also includes Sarah’s best-selling wire jewelry-making eBook, Fine Art Wire Weaving, Tammy Honaman’s video download Chunky Multistrand Pearl and Crystal Wire Necklace, Susan Ray’s Wire Jewelry Workshop eBook, and the March 2016 digital issue of Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist, which features 3D wire sculpture. Note to self: Add 3D wire sculpture jewelry to list of techniques to learn!