Taking My Wire Jewelry to the Next Level

Aug 28, 2013

I've been doing a lot of cool stuff with metal and wire jewelry lately, stuff that I never thought I'd ever be able to do, much less really enjoy! So far, I've painted metal, colored it with markers, punched holes in it, used wire to learn how to make my

own earring findings and clasps, learned new ways to make wire jewelry using simple techniques, and even learned how to do chain maille. But the one thing that has eluded me -- until now -- has been how to solder wire.

Now, don't get me wrong. I'm no wimp when it comes to working with a flame: for years, I made my own lampwork glass beads, learning how to manipulate hot glass on a single fuel torch, and then graduating to a minor burner with a bigger (and hotter) flame. But for some reason, the idea of aiming a flame at a couple of pieces of metal with the intent of somehow "gluing" them together has just scared the pants off of me. And that's silly, I know, because there are loads of people out there who can do it! (Like Jewelry Making Daily's very talented Tammy Jones!)

So, while I was perusing class listings for Bead Fest Philadelphia a couple of weeks ago, I came across a class for "No Fail Stack Rings" with Kate Ferrant Richbourg. Now, I got to meet Kate when I was taping an episode of Beads, Baubles, & Jewels back in June, and she is just as funny as she is talented. If anyone was going to put me at ease about soldering metal, it would be her. (Plus, I really liked the words "No Fail" in the title of the class.)

I woke up that morning with a splitting headache, probably from dehydration. (I had been on my feet for fourteen hours the day before, walking around the show floor at Bead Fest and assisting the very talented Jill Wiseman and Cindy Holsclaw in their packed classrooms.) Probably not the best way to go into a class where you're going to be hammering metal and handling an open flame, but there we are. I was going to learn this soldering thing, and no headache was going to keep me from my class!

Kate demonstrated how to wrap the wire around our ring mandrels and then how to cut it off into nice, even rings. Since I already knew a little bit about making jump rings out of wire, I felt comfortable. Step 1, mastered!

Next, she showed us how to apply the bits of solder to the jump rings before we fired up the torch. That was easy enough, since the solder was almost like the consistency of the bead release I used on my glass bead mandrels. Step 2, done!

Then it was time to fire up the torch.

Oh, my.

Turns out that heating up a piece of wire to solder it into a ring is a lot like heating up a piece of glass to make a bead. You have to heat the entire wire ring, just like heating up the entire blob of molten glass. The solder itself flows to where the heat is, just the way that glass flows in the direction of the heat.

One of the things that concerned me the most was the heat that I would feel from the torch. (I love to cook in the kitchen, but I'm not fond of burning my fingers.) Well, the heat from that handheld torch is no warmer than the heat that came from my single fuel lampwork torch. Fear conquered!

After we cooled and cleaned our wire rings (I now know what pickle is, and how to use it!), we put them on our mandrels and hammered them into shape, then polished them with a little piece of steel wool. Turns out that most of the things I need to make my own rings already reside in my garage workshop alongside my glass tools. And now I can put them to good use again!

Now that I've learned how easy it is to solder copper and brass for wire jewelry projects, all I can think about is other ways to use wire for things like making chain. What else will I do? Well, for some amazing wire jewelry inspiration, the first thing I'm going to do is go through my copy of The Missing Link by Cindy Wimmer. Cindy lays it all out there for you: basic techniques, tools, wire jewelry supplies, and then before you know it, you're making these gorgeous wire links (without soldering) for fashioning your own handcrafted wire jewelry! Use wire links to make your own findings, your own wire chain, or even some unique wire dangles as additions to beaded fringe!

For a limited time, if you pre-order your copy of The Missing Link, you'll also get the eBook for no additional cost! Take advantage of this special bundle and see how making wire jewelry can change your whole direction.

Have you tried simple soldering techniques before? Got any great tips or techniques to share with me before I go out to the garage workshop and start playing with wire? Leave a comment here on the Beading Daily blog and share your advice with us!

Bead Happy,

Jennifer


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Comments

Joycila wrote
on Aug 28, 2013 9:01 AM

Kate Richbourg taught me to solder in an online class I took. It takes a lot of patience and practice, but with each project, even with each failure, you learn so much. The results are so satisfying!

Radiofiesta wrote
on Aug 28, 2013 12:52 PM

Jen, loved your Wire + Heat = Fun article.  Related to it closely, as I had a similar experience in my first (and only) glass bead class.

I had a splitting headache from allergies that day, and of course to make glass beads  I was on my feet on concrete all day.

To add to my discomfort, this was my introduction to The Torch.  My husband should have known better than to include me in the class.  One look and feel of the heat, and the proximity to the heat, was too intimidating for me to really enjoy the day.

I did finish the minimum number of beads in the class, but I was uncomfortable in many ways all day.

I'll leave it to my husband to make the beads.  I'll just string 'em!

Shannon

LuannUdell wrote
on Aug 28, 2013 2:57 PM

If I could ask for anything for I order new book releases online, sight unseen, I would ask for a sneak peek inside!   I'm now making this decision based ONLY on what I can see on the cover.  Even just a look at some of the projects, without directions, would help me decide if it would be a good book for me.  Is this something Interweave would ever consider??  Thanks!

Valbeads wrote
on Aug 29, 2013 1:50 AM

Hi, Jennifer,

I really enjoyed tour article on soldering.  It sounds like something I'd like to do to expand my wire working skills.

There's just one problem- I have a terrible fear of fire.  I can't even light a match!  I was burned rather badly not once, but twice as a child, and since then, even a fire in a fireplace makes me anxious.

Do you know if there's any such thing as cool or cold soldering?  I have a glue gun that doesn't get hot, but is a "hot glue gun."  Is there any solder gun equivalent?  Any information you could give me would be greatly appreciated.  Thank you so much.  I really enjoy your articles.

Thank you again,

Val

on Aug 29, 2013 7:42 AM

I haven't learned to solder yet (my husband is going to teach me), but your story reminds me of the time I was trying to learn to weld, in a make your own garden art session. Speaking of being terrified of flame.... LOL My first few weld joints looked like wads of chewing gum, until I suddenly realized, "It's like a really big hot GLUE GUN!" After that, my joins were quite nice. Fun, but not something I'd want to  take up for a hobby; too much equipment and too hot, with the helmet and gloves and apron. However, it was fun to try!