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Monday, February 2, 2015

That's My Jewelry Making Passion

So....what is that one technique that I always revert back to no matter what?  Can you guess?  No?  I think the one technique that I can't live without and am always incorporating into my designs in some way or another is wire wrapping.  Why?  It's a very versatile medium to work in and I find it very relaxing.  And without even knowing it, you probably have done a bit of it.  You might be thinking, "NO, I haven't!" Forming loops on head pins to make earrings sound familiar?  Yup, that was your introduction into wire wrapping.  Wrapped loops to make beaded chains.....again, wire wrapping.  :)  See you have been doing it all along.  TUTORIAL ALERT:  Stay until the end because there is a EASY tutorial!

Some of my fun stuff!
Wire wrapping can be both a challenge and very rewarding at the same time. When you learn some of the vocabulary of wire wrapping, it does make it easier.  I had no clue as to what to buy at all when I started so I just bought stuff.  I didn't understand that there were different tempers and gauges of wire.  I had no idea what I was getting into.  If only someone would have walked me through wire wrapping, I think I would have enjoyed the experimentation a bit more than what I did.  I found it so frustrating at first.  So I am going to share with you a bit about wire that will greatly help you get started into the fun and rewarding realm of wire wrapping.

Wire comes in three tempers - dead soft (best for wrapping in my opinion), half hard (best for making ear wires, and ear cuffs), and hard (great for clasps).  Gauge refers to the thickness of the wire.  Temper and gauge of the wire you choose to work with will effect what you can create.

Earrings made from 20 gauge Red Brass wire.
Gauge can be a bit tricky since the higher the number, the thinner the wire.  If you want to do simple wire wrapping around beads or stones, I recommend a thinner gauge like 26 or 28 in a dead soft temper.  You can also use 26 gauge for wire crochet and knitting. 28 gauge or thinner can be used for beadweaving. If you want to make clasps, use 18 to 16 gauge in half hard or hard.  Once you get used to working with the wire, it will be easier to create what is referred to as "work-hardened" wire. What this means is that
through the manipulation of the wire, you have changed its temper from dead soft to more of a half hard temper and half hard into a more hardened temper.  This can be accomplished through hammering or repetitious movement of the wire. Sometimes, through polishing the wire with a tumbler the wire will harden up some.  Wire also comes in a variety of shapes such as round, half round, square, twisted and patterned.

Bracelet made from 18 gauge Copper wire

When I began jewelry making, the only medium I worked in was beads. It was all I knew.  String some beads, crimp, and go.

I branched out rather quickly into beadweaving and various other techniques using mixed media and fibers. I was intimidated by wire so I stayed away from it.  I had someone encourage me to branch into wire wrapping.  I went and grabbed a bunch of various gauges of steel plated copper wire not knowing there were different temper of wire.  I think I bought all half hard and hard. I wanted to give up, but then I found aluminum wire!  Super soft and oh so easy to work with... also easy to make a mess with due to it's super softness. 
Mixed metal wrapping and clasp

My new BFF quickly became copper. Copper is a very versatile wire....again it comes in various tempers, but even the hard copper wire is easy to manipulate.  I have since branched out into stainless steel wires, red brass (jeweler's brass), German Silver (don't recommend this one since it's almost all Nickel), yellow brass and enameled copper.

I love to mix beads into my wire wrapping and sometimes even a bit of metalwork. You can mix chain, metal shapes, and leather into the wire as well as seen in the photo below to the left.  You can also mix different colors of wire together to get a lovely mixed metal look.

 what tools would one need for wire wrapping?

PROTECTIVE EYE WEAR is a must have!
Various Gauges, Shapes and Tempers of Wire (readily available at craft stores and online)
Round Nose Pliers
Chain Nose Pliers / flat nose pliers (Chain Nose is also referred to as Needle Nose)
Flush Cutters and/or end nippers
Emery board or nail file

As you advance you may want to invest into the following:
Steel Bench Block and rubber base
Rawhide Mallet
Nylon Maller
Various Mandrels (Neck, Bracelet, Ring)
Ball Peen Hammer
Wire Jigs
Bail Making Pliers
Wire Twister (for making some really cool wire out of square wire)
Wire Cup Burr Tool (to remove sharp edges)
Finger Cots (to protect your fingers)
Painters Tape (for holding wire bundles together as you wrap)
Nylon Jaw Pliers (for straightening long pieces of wire)

With wire you can make bezels for pendants, beaded chains, bead frames, ear wires, bracelets, earrings, rings, and even your own chains and jump rings.  Your only limitation if your imagination.  There aren't any rules in wire wrapping, so have some fun!

 here is your tutorial I promised. I have been making these for a couple of years now and they are fun and easy to make and wear.

Tools & Materials:
Round Nose
Flush Cutters
Marker or Bail Making Pliers with a 10 to 12 mm barrel
20 gauge dead soft or half hard wire in your choice of color/metal (do not use Aluminum)

Measure and cut about 5 inches of wire and straighten with your fingers.
Measure from the end of the wire about 2 inches and fold the wire back over the barrel of your round nose pliers.  Measure about two inches from the bend and repeat to create a weird "Z" shape.

Take your round nose pliers and place at the end of the wire and make a loose spiral. Repeat at the other end.

Kind cute!

Press the wire firmly against the barrel of your marker or bail making pliers and wrap the wire around the barrel.

Make a slight bend in the folded ends of the wire using your round nose pliers.


Easy-peezy, lemon squeezy!

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