Wednesday, March 03, 2010


Ok, not professing to be an expert by any means, just passing along information that has served me well in my years of making jewelry.  There are several levels of wirework, from simply needing to link beads together to the more intricate coiling or knitting and crochet work.  Understanding the terms used for gauges of wires and tempers is the first step and creates the foundation on which to build to whatever level you wish to attain.

Gauges:  AWG is the American standard of measuring wire, it uses numbers such as 22ga, 20ga etc.  SWG is the actual measurement of the wire diameter using the decimal system and commonly used in Europe.  There are plenty of places you can Google for conversion tables so I won't go into specifics, but for the sake of what I am comfortable using, I will be using the AWG standard.

In AWG the higher the number, the smaller the diameter of wire.  For example, 22ga is smaller (thinner) than 16 ga wire.

Temper:  Wire comes in 3 basic degrees of hardness; dead soft, half hard and full hard.  IN my experience, dead soft is good to use when you will be manipulating the wire a lot, as in wire sculpture.  Half hard is good for making wrapped loops, findings such as headpins or clasps.  I have never used full hard wire, although if you were making something such as a pin (broach) it would well because it would hold it's shape and has a strong 'spring back'.  Think of a safety pin and how securely it's held closed because of the force of the sharp end tries to 'spring back' against the part that holds it closed.   Also, try and manipulate a safety pin, it's not easy to bed is it?  It's not really a wire for a novice and in my experience even for an advanced wire worker, it really has very limited and specific uses.

Dead soft wire will harden somewhat as you continue to manipulate it, this is called 'work hardening', so the finished product will hold it's shape.  I personally do not recommend using dead soft for simple projects such as wrapped bead links, I find the links easily bend out of shape and tend to look sloppy.  There is something you can do to harden dead soft wire if that is all you have to work with.  My method requires a pair of pliers and a hand drill.  I cut a length of wire and close one end in the chuck of the drill, hold the other end of the wire in my pliers, hold it taut and twist the wire until it breaks (usually at one end) or  just before it breaks.  You get pretty good at guestimating after you've done it a few times.  I probably wouldn't use this method on wire thinner than 22ga because it can become brittle.

You can also harden it for things like hook clasps or earring hooks by hammering it with a rubber mallet.  The rubber mallet will harden without flattening the wire, but you can also use a chasing hammer (or hardware store regular old hammer) which will flatten the wire as well as harden it.

Wire shapes:  round, square and 1/2 round.  Round is probably the most commonly used wire, I normally carry round wire in 26, 24, 22, 20, 18 and 16ga.  It is ideal for making wrapped links, findings, coiling.  I use square wire when sculpting because it usually requires two or more wires together and square wire allows the wires to lay flush side by side and are much easier to bind together with the 1/2 round wire.  You can also twist square wire to get that lovely twisted/faceted effect.  Half round is exactly what it sounds like, domed on one side and flat on the other, and is most commonly used to bind other wires together

Although you can Google wrapped loop tutorials and find tons of them, Here is one for you to begin with:  I would like to add after viewing this video one more tip.  Chances are the loop will be off to one side, so just slide your round nosed pliers into the loop and gently straighten the loop so it sits more evenly above the wrapped part.

1 comment:

PussDaddy said...

That was one of the better make a loop videos I have seen. Some good info here so I will save this blog post. Thanks.