Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Basic Wire Skills for Jewelry Making Part 3 Hand Forged Eyepins

Eyepins are one of the most basic of wire jewelry skills. Learning this one skill will allow you to make a multitude of jewelry pieces.

A lot of other skills are variations of the eye-pin so practice this until you can form them quickly and uniformly.

What You Need:
Practice Wire ( 18 - 20 gauge is good for practice)
Flush Cutters
Round Nose Pliers

Start by cutting the wire flush with your flush cutters, making sure the flush side is on the end of the wire. Next grasp the end of the wire with the round nose pliers.  Make sure the end of the wire if flush with the barrel of the pliers. If not, you will end up with an oblong loop, not a round one.

The size of the loop is determined by how far down the barrel of the pliers you grasp the wire. Start to roll the wire away from you, until a complete loop is formed. If you can’t complete this in one motion, it’s ok to reposition the pliers into a more comfortable position.

Once the complete loop is formed it will be round but it won’t be centered on the rest of the wire. To accomplish this, place the upper barrel of the pliers in the loop and rest the lower barrel against the rest of the wire. Using the lower barrel as the pivot point, rotate the loop until it’s centered on the wire. This will form a slight bend at the base of the loop.

You can leave the eyepin as is or hammer it to make it more sturdy. I find that 20ga or heavier wire works great and is heavy enough that you won't have to worry about the loop coming apart.

You can make your own chain but threading a bead on the pin, and adding another loop on the other end. Make multiples and connect with either jump rings or just the multiples by themselves.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Basic Wire Skills for Jewelry Making Part 2 Wire

In this post we're going to take talk about the wire itself.

The thickness of wire is measured as gauges. The higher the number the thinner the wire. Some of the most popular gauges to work with are:

14-16 gauges are good gauges for bangles or bracelets.

18 gauge - this is a good firm thickness for jump rings and base components.

20 gauge - can be used to form base components and to make jump rings for lightweight items.

22 - 26 gauges are good for wrapping either a heavier gauges of wire or to wrap beads.

Wire comes in different shapes too. The most popular include round, half-round, square, and twisted.

You may have heard the terms dead soft, half-hard and hard but weren't sure what they meant.  Here's a breakdown.

Dead soft - This is the most pliable. Wire that is dead soft can be bent very easily. Most copper and brass comes in dead soft. This is my most preferred hardness. You can hammer a piece once you've finished working on it to make it harder. This is called work-hardening.

Half-Hard is a little bit stiffer than dead-soft but not fully hard. If you'd like to make earwires 20ga of half-hard wire will work beautifully.

Full Hard wire is so stiff it's very hard to work with. It's almost impossible to get smooth looking curves with wire that is this stiff.

MaterialsWire is made from different materials. The easiest metal to start with is copper followed by brass.

Copper wire is almost always dead soft and very pliable. It is the wire I recommend learning with.

Brass is good to work with before moving to Sterling Silver because they feel the same to work with. It's a little bit springier than copper. Here's an example of what I mean. When you wind a coil with copper, it almost stays the same size as the mandrel you're wrapping it around. When you wind it with brass or sterling it springs a little bit and it will be a little bit larger in diameter.

Fine Silver is made of pure silver. It is tarnish resistant and very pliable but sometimes too soft.

Sterling Silver is 92.5% silver and 7.5% copper. The copper adds a little bit of strength to sterling but is also the reason why sterling silver tarnishes. Sterling silver is a very popular wire to work with but I would recommend practicing with copper first. Copper is more pliable than brass. 

Gold-filled, which is considered heirloom quality, is a heavy layer of 10k to 14k gold over base metal. The layer is much heavier than for gold-plated and is a way to incorporate gold into your pieces without "breaking the bank."

I hope you learned a little bit about wire that you didn't know before.


Monday, January 10, 2011

Basic Wire Skills for Jewelry Making Part 1 Tools

I will be posting a series of tutorials on basic wire skills for jewelry making. Part one will cover the tools required to make wire jewelry. Enjoy!

Let’s start with a brief list of tools that I consider “must-haves.”

Round Nose Pliers
These pliers have rounded tips that taper to a point. You use them to make loops

Long Nose or Flat Nose Pliers
My preference for these are flat nose pliers. They are flat and rectangular but don't come to a tapered point like long nose. You will need two of these so you can get one pair of  flat and one pair of long to see which one you prefer. These will be used to open and close jump rings. You need to twist jump rings open and closed which requires a pair of pliers on each side of the jumpring. These are also used for grasping the wire and I also use them for straightening wire.

Nylon Jaw Pliers
These are not an absolute must but they are nice to have. They are used to straighten wire.

Flush Cutters
There are many types of cutters for cutting metal and wire. The flush cutters have always been my favorite. I like that they are small and can get into tight places.

Small Hammer
I use a very lightweight hammer that I purchased from the scrapbook section of my craft store. It was sold to set eyelets. It has a flat surface on one side and a rounded surface on the other.

Nylon Hammer
Nylon hammers are for straightening metal without marring the surface. When you hammer metal, it becomes hardenened. The more you work with the metal and the more hammering you do the harder the metal becomes. This is called work hardening. You can actually hammer the metal to a point that it because too brittle to work with and will break.

Bench Block
A bench block is a smooth block of steel that you do all your hammering on. A great size to get started is
2 1/2" x 2 1/2"

Jeweler’s Saw & Blades
A jeweler's saw and blades are not absolutely essential for making wire jewelry but having them will allow you to make custom sized jump rings, allow you to make rivets and cut sheet metal and tubing.

Needle Files
Needle files are used for deburring the ends of wire.


Various Sized Mandrels
A mandrel is a rod that wire or metal is wrapped around. You can use it to form jump rings, or shape metal. It can be any shape or size. They don't necessarily need to be metal. Chopsticks, crochet hooks, pens and knitting needles make great mandrels for beginners. You will use these to create a coil that will be cut apart to create jump rings.

That's it for the tools. Look for my next posting which will the cover wire.


Saturday, January 8, 2011

3 Pieces Combined to Make a Unique Focal for a Necklace

This layering idea uses only 3 pieces. I would use epoxy resin to glue the medallion onto the base piece and wire wrap the top part on.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Brass Filigree Layering Idea to Create a Unique Medallion Style Necklace Focal

This next layering idea is made up of 4 pieces but I think they combine well and create something really different. The base is domed and so is the smaller medallion with the rings so it's has some depth when you put them altogether. You could keep the rings on the smaller medallion or you can clip them off.

I would use epoxy resin to keep the layers together and either drill a hole in the base, or use large jump rings inserted on either side of the medallion to create a necklace.

Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Clean Tarnish with Ketchup

Did you know that you can clean tarnish off of brass, copper and sterling silver with ketchup? Simply rub a little ketchup onto your tarnished piece and rinse off with water. Neutralize with a mixture of baking soda dissolved in water and rinse again. This takes just seconds to do and the ketchup does a really good job of cleaning the tarnish.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Welcome to my new blog!

Happy New Year and welcome to my new blog!!!

I am still trying to get everything posted into my new shop LuxeOrnaments.Etsy.com but have tons of ideas that I'll be posting here. It's hard to figure out from a picture what items go well together so I'll be posting some "layering ideas" of various components to show you some unique pieces that you can use. If there is space, some of the listings in my shop will have these "layering ideas" too.

Here's an example of what I mean by "layering idea"

To the left is what the layered piece looks like and the right shows which components were used with stock numbers so you can search my store.

My first priority is going to be getting the rest of my inventory items into my shop. I still have fabulous filigree items and more vintage glass rhinestones to post.

I am also toying with the idea of adding some hand patinaed pieces to offer for sale which the customer can buff to bring out highlights to their preference.

- Sue