Wire Gauge Guide: Make Your Own Wire Findings and Finish Them Properly
Whether you run out of store-bought findings, need something unique that you can’t find on the market, or want your jewelry to be completely handmade, making your own wire findings is an easy task that can save you money and add some extra pizzazz to your designs. And if you keep wire on hand, you’ll never know the frustration of running out of findings mid way through a project.
Here’s a short and sweet guide to the wire gauges recommended to make each finding as well as finishing tips to make them their best.
|Make Your Own Ear Wires
Recommended Wire Gauge: For earring wires, 20-gauge, half-hard wire is best (or soft wire, if you can harden it yourself); 18-gauge wire can be too large and uncomfortable to wear; 22-gauge wire could work in a pinch if properly hardened.
Finishing Tips: Be sure to file and round the ends of ear wires so there are no sharp edges going into the ear. If you hammer ear wires to harden and/or texture/flatten them, focus on the front third to half of the wire. Don’t hammer the part that goes through the ear, because flattening wire can create sharp edges.
|Make Your Own Hook Clasps
Recommended Wire Gauge: To make S clasps and hook-and-loop (or hook-and-eye) clasps, use 14- to 18-gauge wire. Finer-gauge wires are generally too soft to create strong/secure clasps. If you like the look of finer-gauge wire on clasps, wrap the small wire around a heavier-gauge wire frame.
Finishing Tips: File wire ends to be sure there aren’t any sharp ends or sticky-outtie parts to scrape a neck/wrist or snag clothing. Also, we know a chain is only as strong as its weakest link, and it stands to reason that a necklace is only as strong as its clasp. So harden wire hook clasps by hammering them with a nylon or rawhide hammer on a steel block or by giving them some timeout in a tumbler. If you’re up for the heavier handwork, you can start with hard or half-hard wire.
|Make Your Own Wire Bead Caps
Recommended Wire Gauge: This one is a trick question, because you can make wire bead caps in so many ways, and since they’re mostly decorative, they don’t require a particular gauge for extra strength or durability. But typically, you’ll create the frame using 16-, 18-, or 20-gauge wire and then you can embellish it or wire-weave it using 24- to 30-gauge wire.
Finishing Tips: Always file away sharp wire ends, no matter what kind of wire jewelry you’re making. Bead caps will likely lie against the skin in necklaces or bracelets, so you don’t want any sharp points.
|Make Your Own Jump Rings
Recommended Wire Gauge: Use 16- to 22-gauge half-hard wire for jump rings. Softer or finer-gauge wire will make less secure closures or will have to be hardened for security.
Finishing Tips: It’s essential that jump rings have perfectly straight, flush-cut ends so that they’ll close perfectly, well, flush. Jump rings with openings can slip off or lose whatever they’re attached to or snag on fabric, making them weaker in general.
|Make Your Own Head Pins and Eye Pins
Recommended Wire Gauge: This depends on the size of hole in your beads and how the pin will be used (if it is a crucial connector or just a decorative dangle, for example). In general, head pins and eye pins are made using 18- to 22-gauge wire, typically soft or half hard, depending on how hard you want to work and how they’ll be used. If you’re wrapping with the pins, soft is better, but if you’re making single loops, half-hard wire provides some added strength and security.
Finishing Tips: As with all wire ends, you’ll want to file away any sharp edges. If you’re wrapping these pins into wire-wrapped loops, remember that many wire jewelry artists recommend wrapping and then cutting the wire close when you’re done, as opposed to cutting the wire, wrapping it, and then trying to get that little wire end tucked in close. If you make head pins and eye pins to later form into ear wires, be sure to round the end for comfortable wire.
So there are the basics, now what? Go beyond basic and make your own handcrafted wire findings with the help of the jewelry artists from Step-by-Step Wire Jewelry magazine in the new eBook, 10 Ingenious Wire Findings: Clasps, Cord Ends & Ear Wires. In it you’ll find tutorials for findings like some of these as well as more specialized findings like a button clasp, an Egyptian clasp, earring jackets, and more–10 in all!
“You’ve heard it before . . . if you’re going to put your heart and soul into making a beautiful piece of jewelry, don’t finish it with a commercial clasp,” says Denise Peck, Step-by-Step Wire Jewelry editor in chief. “Some findings, like jump rings, crimps, and spacers may be easier to buy. But it’s so easy to make a custom hook, toggle, or ear wire. Check out the collection [in this eBook] to see just how simply you can fashion a handmade finding that complements your piece. Some handcrafted findings can be so beautiful they become a focal themselves. And then you can honestly say, ‘Yes, I made all of it myself!'”