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.


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