5 Tips for Getting Started with Wire Wrapping

Sep 18, 2011

When I was in high school, I got bit by the jewelry-making bug. I had been experimenting with making jewelry from beads, paper, fibers, buttons and anything else I could get my hands on. A friend of mine was doing a lot of wire wrapping with polished rocks and stones, and her pieces looked so beautiful that I just had to give it a try. So I bought some tools and some wire and a book about wire wrapping and sat down to teach myself how to do wire-wrapping.

Sixteen mangled rocks later, I discovered that I wasn't so good at wire-wrapping, and I gave up. When I started getting into beadwork a few years later, I shied away from any project with wire because of my past experiences with it. Then a beading friend showed me just how easy it was to create wire-wrapped loops and make my own jump rings. Eureka! I realized that yes, I could still do simple wire work and create lovely and unique handmade components to accent all of my beaded creations! Then I tried Viking knit with colored craft wire, and, well, I was totally hooked. The infusion of color into my finished beadwork was just what I needed to give my work a signature look, and I've now become a wire convert!

If you're ready to jump into making your own wire jewelry findings, here are a few tips from the Boy-I-Wish-I-Knew-This-Before-I-Started department:

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1. Practice with craft wire. Before you go diving in with the expensive precious metal wire, practice your techniques on inexpensive copper or brass craft wire. You won't waste anything if you make a mistake, and one of the nice things about craft wire is that it comes in a wide range of colors. Make up a few wire jewelry findings with colored craft wire to add an unexpected bit of color to your jewelry-making projects!

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Knowing which wire tool to use for which task can be crucial. Always buy the highest-quality tools that you can afford!
2. Buy the best tools you can afford. I've heard this from many other jewelry artists, and they are all right. When I first started making beaded jewelry, I used cheap wire working tools. They were fine at first, but as I started to do more and more beading and wire jewelry-making projects with them, my hands started to hurt. When I finally invested in a great set of European-made wire working tools, the difference was like night and day. Ergonomic tools are even better if you do lots of repetitive-motion activities like making wrapped loops and opening jump rings.

3. Protect your eyes. You wouldn't necessarily think about protecting your eyes when making wire jewelry, but flying bits of wire coming from your wire cutters can pose a danger to your eyes. To minimize the risk to your eyes, either wear a pair of lightweight plastic safety glasses (available at any hardware store) or make sure that you cover your wire with one hand while cutting with the other. Don't learn the hard way on this one - your eyesight is too important!

4. Work right from the spool. When you do finally go in and start working with precious metal wire, you can minimize waste by working right from the spool or coil of wire. Instead of cutting larger pieces of wire that might leave you with unusable leftovers, just start working right on the end of your spool or coil of wire.

5. Use the right tool for the job. After you've invested in a good set of wire working tools, you'll want to make sure that you know what each tool is for and how to use it. As a general rule, don't use your regular wire cutters for things like memory wire - the memory wire is too stiff and will ruin your cutters. If you think you'll be doing a lot of work with memory wire, invest in a special pair of memory wire cutters. Your hands (and your regular wire cutters) will thank you!

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If you want more great tips and information about working with wire, visit our new Wire Jewelry Making Topics Page here on Beading Daily. You'll find some handy information for getting the most out of your wire working tools and supplies, as well as comprehensive lists of all the great resources like books, magazines and videos available all about making wire jewelry! And if you're looking for a great starter reference book, you definitely need to check out Denise Peck's new book, Handcrafted Wire Findings. Denise shows you how to create your own wire jewelry clasps and wire earring findings with clear, easy-to-follow directions and photographs.

Have you ventured into the wonderful world of wire jewelry findings yet? What have you learned that you want to share with others who are just starting to work with wire? Share your tips and hints here on the blog!

Bead Happy,

Jennifer


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JKINO wrote
on Nov 28, 2011 3:26 PM

I accidentally discovered a new jewelry idea.  This was one of those "Oops, I could've had a V8" moments...moment of discovery.  I was given some old electrical wire (wire covered by plastic).  By cutting away the plastic (same motion has peeling a carrot with a sharp blade) you'll find "gold"...actually it is copper.  Using a little bit of lemon juice or Brasso, you'll be able to bring out a shiny lustre.  The average size of the wire usually is anywhere between 14gauge - 20gauge.  Because of the thickness of the wire, you would be smart to use a good wire cutter from a hardware store.  Save your jewelry tools.  I learned the hard way.

Using either a dowel or a store bought loop maker, start to wrap the wire around and around and around.  Personally I don't use anything smaller than 1/2" dowel.  Anything smaller is not strong enough to hold its form when wrapping.  After you've wrapped an inch or two (it comes off the dowel easier and it is easier when cutting), squeeze it together with your hands, then pull it off the dowel.  Pull the wrapped wire by the ends to allow an 1/8-1/4" space (this is so you can cut the wire).  Now, using a good wire cutter (again, I wouldn't use your jewelry cutters---Get one from the hardware store) begin to snip off individual rings.  The ends should meet in the middle, but don't overlap...It isn't necessary.  Repeat this process until you have the desired amount.

After you've got your li'l rings, file down an sharp points, then using a rubber mallet or a rawhide mallet, place the rings on a smooth, hard surface and hammer each ring once or twice.  This hardens the loop, even though you may not see it, the molecular structure changes.  If not mallet, take two hardback books (that you don't care if it gets a ding), place the rings between the two, then slam the top one on to the bottom. You may want to do this a couple of times.

Now you can use them as big jump rings, or what I did was I linked them together to create a bracelet/necklace.  You can link one-to-one or two-to-one.  Get creative.  Have fun!

BTW, the step where you hammer the rings is a great stress reliever...Just make sure you control yourself so you don't flatten the rings.  BAM BAM!