Tips for Perfect Crimps

Jul 26, 2011

I've seen some pretty bad crimping jobs since I started making beaded jewelry. My own first crimps were pretty darn bad, too. I used the wrong kind of crimp, and I never used a crimping pliers. (I didn't even know what a pair of crimping pliers WAS!) My strung jewelry would fall apart after just a few wears, and I didn't know what to do about it. Enter the crimping pliers, one of my favorite jewelry making tools, and probably the most important jewelry making tool for making professional-looking beaded jewelry. Especially if you want to sell your beaded jewelry, learning how to properly use your crimping pliers is important for making beaded jewelry that will last.

First, let's review the basics of proper crimping:


First, we need to get to know your crimping pliers a little better. If you look inside, you'll see that there are two wells: one with a little notch in it, and other one that is perfectly smooth. For successful crimping, you'll use both of these wells to fasten and secure your crimp bead.




The first thing you want to do when you insert your beading wire into the crimp bead is to make sure that the strands of the beading wire do not cross. They should be lined up next to each other.

Place the crimp into the notched well of your crimping pliers and press down firmly. You should now have a little indent in the middle of your crimp bead.





Turn the crimp bead sideways and place it into the smooth well of your crimping pliers. Gently squeeze the sides of the crimp bead together, like closing the pages of a book. Sometimes I'll place the closed crimp in the very tips of my crimping pliers and give it one more gentle squeeze to make sure that it's securely closed.

Like any important skill for making beaded jewelry, learning how to close your crimp beads properly takes time and practice. Once you have the basics mastered, there are other ways that you can make your finished crimp beads look more professional:

  1. Use crimp covers. These tiny little round findings are designed to slip over your crimps and can be closed gently using a pair of flat nose pliers.
  2. Don't scrimp on your crimps. The price of sterling silver and other precious metals is going up, but you should still insist on buying precious metal crimps for your beaded jewelry. High-quality crimp beads will not only give your beaded jewelry a professional looking finish, but they will also make it less likely that your beaded jewelry will fall apart.
  3. Match your crimps and your beading wire. If you don't use french bullion to cover the ends of your beading wire, make sure that your crimps match your beading wire. Maybe I'm the only one who feels this way, but it makes me nuts to see a gold-filled crimp on a piece of silver beading wire.
  4. Make your loop large enough. Before you smash your crimp, insert a beading awl or another similar beading tool in the loop between the clasp and the crimp. You don't want to have your loop so tight that you can't move the clasp in order to open and close it.
  5. Reduce the stress on your beading wire. One way to prevent excess wear on your finished piece of beaded jewelry is to string an accent bead after your crimp and before your clasp. Adding a bead between the clasp and the crimp will keep the beading wire from rubbing up against the crimp bead.


Do you have a favorite style or brand of crimp bead? What are you favorite tips for making perfect crimps? Share them here on the Beading Daily blog!

If you can't get enough glass beads and want to try some new creative jewelry projects, then you have to take a look at Designing Jewelry with Glass Beads by Stephanie Sersich. You'll find twenty gorgeous and inventive glass bead jewelry projects designed by a master glass bead maker. You'll find stringing projects as well as beading projects that use fibers, glass and metal beads!

Bead Happy,

Jennifer


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Comments

Ricki Ayer wrote
on Jul 27, 2011 6:13 AM

Jennifer, what are your thoughts on the twisted tornado type crimps?  These do not use a crimp tool, just flatten them with pliers rather than doing the "fold" that the crimping tool creates.  I have used both standard crimps and the twisted ones.  I feel that the twisted ones hold as well as the standard crimps.  I have not been particularly successful using a crimp cover on the twisted crimps.  Just wondering your thoughts on the 2 versions.

Ricki  

ScottishSue wrote
on Jul 27, 2011 8:28 AM

Hello Jennifer:

FOR NORMAL CRIMPS:

The first lesson I learned was that I should stay away from anything but good precious metal crimps and that they should be TUBES (not rounds).

I have also learned that when using a crimping tool, it helps to make the process THREE steps.

I first insert the crimp (that is lined up on the parallel wires) into the smooth part of the tool and GENTLY press to make the crimp bead just slightly OVAL in cross-section.  I next put it in the notched part of the tool and press firmly to make the indent.  Finally, I return it to the smooth part to close it “like closing the pages of a book.”  

Matching the SIZE of the crimp to the SIZE of the beading wire is very important.  (I didn’t even know that there were different size crimps at first.)  I must remember if I am going to crimp when the wire is NOT doubled  (as when  making beads stay in place in an illusion necklace) or if I am going to crimp when the wire is doubled (as when attaching a clasp).  Then I check my chart for the proper crimp size.  I learned this at my local bead store and it has really helped.

Crimps labeled:  0.014    I use on single wire that is 0.014  or with doubled wires that are each 0.010

Crimps labeled:  0.019   I use on single wire that is 0.019  or with doubled wires that are each 0.014

Crimps labeled:  0.020   I use on single wire that is 0.024  or with doubled wire that are each 0.019

I also make sure I use the proper size crimp tool.  

The MINI-CRIMPER for the 0.014 crimp

The REGULAR-CRIMPER for the 0.019 crimp

The MIGHTY-CRIMPER for the 0.020

Finally, I relieve the stress on my piece in this way:  When attaching the first part of the clasp, I make sure their in a little give between the crimp and the clasp part.  Then when crimping the second part, I first coil my piece into a small bracelet sized circle and then attached the second part of the clasp. When I uncoil the piece, there is JUST ENOUGH space so that the beads are not trying to pop the crimp off.  

FOR TORNADO CRIMPS:

But I still find it difficult to always get a perfectly formed crimp with normal crimps.  Thus I have fallen in love with the TORNADO CRIMPS.

With tornado crimps, I still carefully line up doubled wires so that they are parallel to each other.  I still match the size of the crimp to the size of the beading wire, and I relieve the stress on my piece, but I just use flat-nosed pliers to squeeze the crimp shut.  

I have NEVER had a tornado crimp fail on me and I like the decorative little diagonal lines on the surface of the tornado crimp.  

Cordially,  

ScottishSue

JanG@25 wrote
on Jul 27, 2011 8:30 AM

Some time ago, I read that the inventor of the crimp pliers intended to make the first step one of placing the crimp tube into the front well and creating an oval shape, then continuing as your directions suggest.  It does seem to guide the wires better -- it's a bit easier to keep the wires on two sides of an oval than a round.

I'm with Ricki Ayer on the twisted tornado crimps.  I also have some trouble fitting .019" Extreme wire into the tubes, and I need a larger size crimp cover on the twisted crimps.

ScottishSue wrote
on Jul 27, 2011 8:36 AM

Jennifer:

I have also had a trouble getting CRIMP COVERS to fit over normal crimps.  (I never need to cover the tornado crimps.  They are so decorative anyway!)  THEN a week ago, I learned that crimp covers come in different sizes too!!!!!  I am waiting to get a variety of sizes now.  

ScottishSue

katsommers wrote
on Jul 27, 2011 8:37 AM

Jen, I'll have to agree with Ricki, the crimp covers don't work really well for me. They tend to get screwed up and scratched and dented. I don't quite understand how to put them on. The package says to use the crimp tool but that doesn't always turn out well.

And you mentioned adding an accent bead between the crimp and the clasp? You mean on the loop? Could you explain this a bit more?

wahila wrote
on Jul 27, 2011 8:42 AM

This is very timely, as I just purchased crimping pliers so I can add short strands of small-holed semi-precious beads to my braided horsehair jewelry.  However, I am not clear on item 5 in your final list of suggestions, ie. reducing the stress on beaded wire by adding an accent bead after the crimp.  A photo example of this would be most helpful for those of us with less experience using beading wire.

Linda G

on Jul 27, 2011 9:02 AM

I use the tornado or twisted crimps a lot!  But I do enjoy the crimping plier for the smaller profile it provides.  Beadsmith/Helby is now carrying very good basemetal crimps in four colors.  They have a very thick wall, which makes them a good candidate for less expensive jewelry.  Find them at your local bead store.  I never carried anything but silver and gold-fill until I found these!

Also, check out wire guardians instead of french bullion.  They provide the same ability to match the color to your clasps, but also give added strength to the stress point on your beading wire.  I have also used them in seed bead projects with thread!  Great little finding to add to your stash....

Vicky Feller wrote
on Jul 27, 2011 9:43 AM

Thanks so much for this refresher.  I have suffered the dreaded "gift falling apart" syndrome, and aside from it wounding my ego, (how embarrassing for a GIFT to break!), I was angered that it happened after all the labor hours it took to create it to begin with.  The last occurrence was most likely due to using brass crimps for a Vintaj piece.  I wanted the crimps to match the wire and the other Vintaj components.  I should have stuck with SS crimps, and just used a brass crimp cover to hide them afterwards.  Lesson learned...

Sarah@341 wrote
on Jul 27, 2011 9:59 AM

I too have learned the hard way,but now I use Beadalon crimps and crimpers.I looked up the website and they tell you all you need to know about the crimps and size of wire to use them with.It was really a good learning lesson,reading all about the process.I have previously been advised to use the tube crimps for the back of the kneck. I do not like using crimp covers,not very good at getting them even,I do use my crimping tool to close them as they are rounded cups you will not flatten the covers as much that way. I have not tried the twisted tornado type yet.  I have just read the other comments and there is details about sizes as I have mentioned.  Regards Jennifer Greenwood

on Jul 27, 2011 10:51 AM

The first necklace I made came apart in the chiropractor office (embarrassing chasing my special beads all over the floor but he said it happens all the time).  I did not know how to assure my crimps were tight when I first started.

Now I find after I separate the wires and do my first crimp in the small crimp hole I also use my chain nose pliers to flatten my crimp more tightly. I then tug on the wire with an awl or bead reamer in the end loop to make sure it is secure and won't slip out. Then I close the crimp in the larger hole of the crimp tool, and check once again to be sure the crimp grabbed the wire securely. It's worth the extra minute to assure the jewelry won't fall apart on me or my clients.

I love adding the bead after the crimp at the end of the wire loop, before the clasp. I noticed this when looking at pictures of jewelry in beading magazines and had an "aah-hah" moment.

on Jul 27, 2011 11:40 AM

Thanks for this refresher! Re: #4 Make Loop Large Enough and #5 Reduce Stress on Beading Wire, I prefer to use Wire Guards for the task. They also give the piece a clean, uniform, professional finish.

MaryW wrote
on Jul 27, 2011 12:03 PM

I'm also confused about where to place the accent bead in #5. Could you add a picture or clarify please?

on Jul 27, 2011 12:54 PM

I prefer using the newer Crimper, which takes a 2mm crimp and when you pinch, it turns it into a 2mm BEAD.  When you keep turning it round and round in the Crimper it makes a perfect silver bead, and is just as tight on the wires as the crimp you described.

To further enhance the entire clasp area, and to make the whole thing  look more professional, I use a silver or gold-colored Guardian which hides the wire as it connects to the clasp, and you don't have to worry about the crimp and the wire not matching in color.

Also, I have a final tip:  when stringing the ends of my necklaces, I thread on first a 4mm silver (or GF) round bead, then a 3mm round bead, then the crimp, and then the guardian and clasp.  When you go back through everything and crimp the 2mm crimp as above, you end up with a very nice graduated bead section attaching to the clasp, 4, 3, 2.   Looks so finished.

DebWAZ wrote
on Jul 27, 2011 1:10 PM

As an LBS owner, this is one of the most common problems I hear from beaders of all levels of experience.

I've had an instructor tell me that a flattened crimp was a "professional" way to finish a piece. We parted company after that. I've also had the head of one of the leading tool companies in my store tell me that crimps - no matter whether tube or round (EXCEPT the twisted crimps) were engineered to be folded.

Thanks to ScottishSue for adding that 1st step. The instructions on BeadSmith crimp tubes includes it. Adding a bead between the crimp and clasp is a good way to keep some of the tension off the claps, and it also is a nice decorative feature.

I'm the opposite of you, Jennifer, when it comes to crimps matching the wire. I match the crimps to the color of the findings, rather than match the wire. If it's super important to have everything match, and for added strength and protection for the wire, I'll use wire guards.

Also, a mistaken idea I hear from customers is, "I used a crimp cover and it still fell apart". Crimp covers are nothing but cosmetic touches - they do absolutely nothing to make a crimp hold better or keep a piece from falling apart.

If you don't like the way a folded crimp looks, you can use either the 1-Step Crimper or my still all-time favorite Magical Crimp Forming Pliers. The Magical takes a tube crimp and turns it into a round bead - eliminating the need for, or the expense of, crimp covers. The crimps and wires must be the proper size for the tool in order for it to work properly. The few times I've had a problem with a Magical formed crimp, either the crimp was wrong or the wire was the wrong size.

Anyway, I guess I'd better get off my soapbox.

Deb - AZ Bead Depot

GinnyC@9 wrote
on Jul 27, 2011 1:28 PM

Thanks for this great refresher course and to all the bloggers who have added great input.  One problem I have about half the time is this:  after I crease the crimp bead with the back "notched" well, and move my crimp to the front "oval" well, turn it 90 degrees to fold it, it doesn't fold - it opens up the crimp into a square (or parallelogram) and undoes the crimp.  What am I doing wrong?  

debpeters50 wrote
on Jul 27, 2011 3:23 PM

I am also confused about adding the accent bead.  Thanks to Leslie about her "ah-ha" moment.  Off to look more closely at my current issue of Bead 'n' Button to find a picture! Also want to thank the other bloggers and their great ideas!

reshleman wrote
on Jul 27, 2011 4:50 PM

I had not heard of the French wire to make loops until a few days ago and see how it would be great for thread/string. I like wire guardians for reinforcement and security on wire-strung jewelry though. Both would make the loop thicker and less likely to slip through jump rings too.

cnoble2001 wrote
on Jul 27, 2011 6:46 PM

I fully agree with you about matching the crimp to the wire.  I wouldn't dream of putting silver wire and gold crimps.  But I have one other suggestion to reduce wear and tear on the tiger tail or beading wire.  I use a wire guard when I can, I also found a few other styles of bead crimp covers.

Jerilyn Noble

janedean wrote
on Jul 27, 2011 6:46 PM

I love the extra heavy 2x2 tube crimps from Art Beads.  They are so reliable!  They ALWAYS work for me.

K.

dholmberg wrote
on Jul 27, 2011 10:26 PM

When I first started beading years ago the shop owner who taught me how to use the crimping tool explained it this way: if you look at the closed tool you will see a "c" and an "o", always use them in alphabetical order. This is an easy way to remember which well to use first.

daeidre wrote
on Jul 28, 2011 1:15 AM

I'm fairly new to making threaded jewelery and particularly with crimps. It took me a bit of fiddling around to realise that the particular crimping pliers I have don't make the U shape particularly well anyway (as someone else mentioned, I got the opened up diamond shape doing the second step), so I tend to start off with that, then carefully and gently bend the crimp into more of a U over the very end edge of the pliers. It keeps the crimp nice and tight around the wire too, which was the other problem I was having using solely crimping pliers. I also agree with the suggestions to tighten the closed crimp that little bit by flattening it with either the unused space on the crimpers or other pliers.

on Jul 28, 2011 4:45 PM

Hello-

Do you have any suggestions for what crimps to use for extremely heavy stones.  For years, I have been using very bold heavy stones (large slabs of agate, turquoise, and labradorite, etc) and I usually have to get pretty creative when it comes down to string ing and crimping.  Sometimes the Beadalon wire requires crimp tube #4 which I can never find.  I end up wire-wrapping my large stones and attaching them to chain.  But if any has any suggestions for crimping & stringing large stones please let me know.

Thanks!

mangiCj wrote
on Jul 29, 2011 4:26 AM

There are 3 more crimping tools out there.  I prefer Beadalon crimps.  On the tube it tells you what wire to use and what size crimper to use.  This way you can never get it wrong and the guessing game is over.  Plus you are guaranteed a good crimp.  If you go on to JTV.com and go into Jewell School, they have great sales on crimps with the tools from Beadalon.  Can't beat their deals anywhere.

Cj

PeggyBeads wrote
on Jul 30, 2011 5:36 AM

Deb, don't hate that instructor too much. She, like me, has likely been beading long enough to remember when there WAS no such thing as a crimping tool, when the only plastic-covered steel-cable stringing medium was tiger tail.

I remember the first time Scott Barkey showed me his new invention, the crimping tool, at his Chicago bead showroom, and thinking, "How cunning!" Good job for beaders the world over that Scott was an engineer long before he entered the world of beads!

By the same token, I had a friend, who used to string fabulous high-end beaded necklaces on fishing-line -- fishing-line!?! -- through the 90s, well into the early years of this century, until she retired to some remote part of AZ. She wrote and published two books about her heretical beading technique. She was even highly a sought after speaker and teacher for bead societies and all the BIG bead show. Go figure!

on Jul 30, 2011 7:14 AM

Thank you for this; I have had problems with my jewelry falling apart after a few wears. Embarassing!  One thing I have started doing is double crimping, or using 2 crimp beads if my beads are big chunky beads.  Also, I just cannot seem to be able to use the crimp covers.

miracatta wrote
on Jul 30, 2011 3:11 PM

Instead of crimping directly to a clasp, I crimp the beading cable to a split ring, and the cable/clasp to the split ring. Then, the stress from clasping goes to from the clasp to the ring, with less activity around the actual beading wire. I also like the look of the additional ring. I've used rounds and tubes, and tubes seem more stable. I am going to investigate the tornado crimps. Never heard of them before now---glad I read the article and comments!!

kgailb wrote
on Jul 31, 2011 2:17 PM

I've been using tornado style crips for years and never, never use - or consider using - any other crimp. If you don't want the metal crimps work harding and failing, these are the only crimps to use. Also, I use a crimping plier with these beads. It make a really nice sturdy round crimp. If I can't slip a bead over it, I use a large whole sterling bead to cover the crimp.

When crimping, I use both a medium crimper and a mini crimper on all my crimps no matter the size.  The medium starts the crimp and the mini gets it nice and tight.

I also use an accent bead between the crimp and the clasp.  It reduces stress on the wire. In addition, I save the 6 largest holed beads for the ends.  Then the wire/beadalon/whatever, returns back through the accent bead + crimp + 3 beads of the necklace. I pull the wire and then cut, so the end slides up into the last bead.

Loriel13 wrote
on Jul 31, 2011 10:59 PM

This article has spawned the BEST comments EVER!!!

I too like the new criming pliers that turn 2x2 crimps into little ROUND beads. I just can't find a tool that will work on LARGER CRIMPS that I use for my thicker wire (.024). I need the thicker wire b/c I make bigger beads and the designs just call for it.

Is there any way to order the Tornado crimps other than from Via Murano?  There website to so odd and difficult to navigate - and everything seems so extra expensive on there. My favorite suppliers are Artbeads or Fusionbeads, with the occasional foray into a eBay seller or two if their shipping isn't astronomical. I know people mentioned Rio Grande - but their shipping charges are outrageous! There has to be a way to get these twisted/tornado crimps from somewhere that doesn't cost more than the piece you are making!  I see they offer wholesale opportunities so SOMEONE out there must be selling these and giving us little guys a break. Anyone know of any? Thanks in advance! Lori (CBL)

on Aug 1, 2011 12:18 PM

Wow I learned so much reading these comments! I had no idea there were different sizes of crimping tools. No wonder I have trouble with the small wire and crimps. Does the fancy crimping tool that makes the crimp into a bead work on the smaller wire with the smaller crimps too? Thank you so much for all of this great information.

Maddie

KarenH@140 wrote
on Aug 2, 2011 9:50 PM

Excellent post and comments. Thank you!

on Aug 4, 2011 6:14 AM

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prabha111 wrote
on Nov 30, 2011 7:57 PM

Noone has mentioned the screw- in crimps, also called scrimps. Has anyone used these? PL. give you feedback. Thanks.

Prabha