Jewelry Wirework Questions

I noticed in another thread that Scarlett67 said she does jewelry wirework.
I just started working with wire in my jewelry and I’m having a little bit of trouble with a few things and can’t seem to find answers in any of the books or magazines I have found. I very much want to start working with sterling wire, but until I am reasonably sure I won’t screw it up badly, I’m working with copper. If anyone knows the answers to these questions, please help?

  1. When you do wrapped loops, how the heck do you judge where to make the eye? I can do the bottom of the component OK, but once I put beads on it, I end up with the top eye too far up and have to do a LOT of wrapping (and I hate it when things are onbviously uneven) or I end up too close to the bead and leave myself very little room to wrap the remaining wire. Is it just a matter of experience, or is there a trick to measuring?

  2. How do you hide the cut end of a wrapped loop? I try to cut really close to the bead, but if I try to tuck the tiny bit of wire into either the bead or the wrapped part, I end up with a mess.

  3. I have tried wrapping my round-nose pliers in masking tape, but I’m still leaving bad dents in the wire. I have nylon jaw pliers, but they’re flat-nosed, so they’re useless for loops. Am I missing something critical here, or am I just too heavy-handed?

4a. Most of the jewelry instructions I have seen call for 20-gauge wire - including jig shapes. I’ve made a few and they seem awfully wimpy to me; far too weak to be made into chains or to support any but the very lightest beads. As I said, I am using copper wire right now, which is pretty soft. Would using half-hard or full-hard sterling work a lot better?

4b. How hard IS it to use half-hard or full-hard sterling wire?

Thanks in advance for any advice!

No advice, but I’ll be watching this thread. I seem to have begun attempting to make jewellery (simple beading for now) and find the wire stuff the most challenging. I want to make pretty dangly earrings, but a clever twist with wires seems impossible to achieve!

i just bought an americangirl library jewelry kit. it is the paper clip one. very imformative.

paper clips are very cheap and easy to try out new loops and swirls and the ilk.

they do mention your tape trick for pliers… perhaps wax? or a rubbery moldable plastic?

as paper clips are already cut to size there aren’t any major cutting issues. i also have trouble judging sizes. they mention making a decorative loopy thing so you don’t have a raw edge show. when i look into my box of jewels i do notice most wrap things will have a small circle loop at the start and stop.

as with most jewelry making things trial and error seems to be the rule. i just wish the error was less costly.

You rang? :smiley:

I’ll do my best; at least you’re familiar with the tools and materials . . . I once had someone who wanted me to show her how to make wrapped loops – but we didn’t have any tools OR wire. Not very easy to pantomime.

Disclaimer: 90% of my wirework is doing wrapped-loop links – I’m a wrapping fool and can practically do it in my sleep. Never been much for jigs and freeforms. I suck at wrapping stones and such. But when Mr S. and I took a glass fusing class that required wire wrapping to assemble the piece, I actually ended up helping the teacher show people how, as she said she didn’t do much of it. But I see that loops are what you’re asking about, so I feel qualified to answer.

Also, what magazines are you reading? Bead & Button and Bead Style both have a section with beginner tips and directions for basic techniques in the back of every issue. Bead Style is geared more toward beginners, but I get both mags 'cause I like the pretty pictures. :smiley:

Practice, man, practice. There’s no set measurement. Some beads are going to want a little more play, so you don’t want to wrap too close to the bead. Obviously your gauge is a factor as well. I usually shoot for three turns, just my aesthetic preference. Try making a mark on your pliers X distance from the tip and use that to measure. After a while it will become second nature.

A good practice exercise for wrapped loops would be to take your copper practice wire (from the hardware store is fine) and some small cheap beads like niblettes or E beads, and make yourself a wrapped link necklace. After you make about six dozen links your technique should improve. :smiley:

This is actually much easier than people think. Leave a little space at the end of your wrap (don’t wrap it completely tight to the bead), cut it as close as you can, and then just take your flat nose pliers, perpendicular to the bead hole and across the wrap, and simply press the end down. You shouldn’t even have to press it very hard. You don’t want to bend it toward the loop or the bead, just continue the curve of the wrap until the wire is flat.

Possibly, or maybe your wire is too soft. You should think of your roundnose pliers as a form around which you bend the wire, rather than as a grippy tool; in other words, you hold the roundnose pliers steady and manipulate the wire with your other hand (with or without a tool, depending on what you’re doing.) This is very important. You should only need to grab the wire enough to hold it, not deform it. I have seen nylon jaw roundnose pliers for sale, but I don’t recall where, as I’ve never felt the need for them. (Possibly Rio Grande?)

Also, if you’re going to be doing a lot of wire wrapping, do spend the money on a good pair of roundnose pliers. Many of the cheap ones are not truly round.

Full hard would probably be too much – that’s best for free-form shapes that really need to hold the design. Half hard works very well. I actually use 21-gauge half hard gold filled and sterling most of the time.

Another tip: For a piece you made on a jig like a WigJig (or even if you did somehing free-form in two dimensions), you can hammer it flat, which does two things: (1) it flattens the piece (duh) and (2) it tempers the wire, or hardens and stiffens it. You can do this with just the hammer on a block of metal if you like the effect of the hammer marks, or you can get the gizmo that WigJig sells (I forget what it’s called – I don’t use mine much, but I have to have all the toys) that’s basically two pieces of hard plastic – you put your piece between them and hammer away.

See above. I would use full hard only for, say, something that needed to hold its shape against applied stress, like a large clasp or a shaped-wire earring or pendant with a heavy bead dangle. Half hard should be excellent for small shapes and even clasps if you’re using doubled or twisted wire. You could probably try 18 gauge, but that gets a little on the chunky side for most people’s taste.

Yer welcome. Let me know if I can elucidate further. (NB: I’m away from home for a few days and can’t get online as much as usual, so I won’t be quick to reply. But I’ll watch this thread. I also don’t have any tools/wire on me, so I hope my descriptions aren’t missing something I haven’t thought of. It’s a challenge to describe how you do something that you don’t even think about when you’re doing it.)

Thank you!

I knew about the hammering - I’ve even gone so far as to buy a tiny anvil, a rubber mallet and a tooling hammer. In fact, I have been using this to disguise the damage I’ve done to the wire with my pliers. It never occured to me to use the pliers as a mandrel - I HAVE been squeezing the wire, so I will work on that now, along with using the flat-nose pliers to finish off the loop-wrappings.

I read Bead & Button and Bead Style (along with Jewelry Crafts, Wire Jewelry Magazine, Belle Armoire, Expressions, Beadwork, etc., etc.) and have even written for a few of them (polymer clay work.) I’m not a novice to jewelry-making, but hadn’t explored wire much beyond making eyepins or using jump rings for maille until now. I am taking a metalwork class starting next week, but I have no idea if wirework will be covered there, and even if it is, I prefer to go in with at least a clue!

More questions, now of a curious rather than student-y nature: do you ever make the coiled wire beads? Ever made your own jump rings (and if so, what do you use to cut them, snippers or a saw?) Have you done any antiquing with silver-black?