Wireworking for the First Time

Apr 29, 2012

It may be hard for some to believe, but I've never tried my hand at any type of wire work. Being a life-long crafter, coupled with the fact that I work on a jewelry magazine, has afforded me the opportunity to experiment with lots of materials and techniques--resin, polymer clay, metal stamping, embossing.

 

I've found that more and more, I'm seeing  bracelets and necklaces come into the Jewelry Stringing offices that include beautiful handmade clasps and I have been determined to make one of my own. Lucky for me, I happen to have a copy of Denise Peck's book, Wire Style, to get me started.

This little desk reference really did come in handy, as I had no idea what wire gauge to start with, or even if the tiny hammer that I use to set eyelets would be sufficient enough to harden the wire. Armed with a bench block I found in the office, some 18-gauge wire, and a few tips from the book, I headed to the makeshift workshop in the basement of our building.

 

A few basic tools are all you need to get started; many projects require only pliers and cutters!  

I started by using a pair of nylon jaw pliers to straighten a section of wire.

I used the nylon jaw pliers and a paintbrush handle to make the curves.

Next, I made a small loop at one end of the wire, using round-nose pliers.

My small ball-peen hammer worked just fine to work-harden the hook.

My first attempt turned out a little messy (and kind of laughable, if you know what a perfectionist I am about anything I create!). At least the second try is a little smoother, but not exactly wearable--look at the angle on that thing!

 Now we're getting somewhere. Not terribly creative, but at least this final one looks useable!

Here are a few basic tips, if you want to give it a go:

1. Wire comes in a variety of shapes, but round is most commonly used and easily available.

2. Try using copper, brass, or colored craft wire instead of the pricier sterling silver or gold wire.

3. If you are planning to coil or spiral the wire, you should use dead-soft wire, which is easier on the hands than half hard or full hard. And keep in mind that as you are working with the wire, it work-hardens itself.

4. Work-hardening stiffens and strengthens the wire and can be done with a rawhide mallet or ball-peen hammer on a steel bench block. I found that it really did strengthen the hook part of my clasp!

Stay tuned for more adventures in wireworking! Next up--designs using the Wig Jig!

Happy crafting,

Debbie Blair

Managing Editor


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