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Components on a Jewelry Jig

Free instructions on how to make wire jewelry out of beads, jewelry wire and jewelry supplies using a WigJig jewelry tool:

WigJig Olympus Jewelry Making Tool showing jewelry wire components shaped on jig.
Many jewelry making projects begin by making a jewelry wire component on a WigJig or other jewelry tool.  Almost all jewelry wire components made on a jewelry making jig, work better when starting the piece by placing a loop over a peg to fix one end of the jewelry wire.  This fixes the wire to the jig.  In most pieces this initial loop will be part of the finished piece.  In some pieces, by contrast, you will need to cut the initial loop off after you complete wrapping the wire on the jig, as it won't be part of the finished piece. 

To make a jewelry wire component on a WigJig jewelry tool, begin by identifying the design you want to make and start by identifying the positions for the pegs pattern in the jewelry making jig that are required to make the component.  A good jewelry design for a beginner is shown [Select here for a beginner's jewelry making project].  Next, cut and straighten the jewelry wire.  One of the most important tips in being successful when making wire components is to concentrate on keeping the jewelry wire straight as you wrap it around the pegs to make the design.  For a design with many pegs, begin by adding pegs 1 and 2 to your WigJig jewelry tool and adding a peg as you proceed.  You may need to remove pegs from the pattern and add them back in one at a time as necessary to help keep the wire straight as you wrap.  A helpful tip is to hold and guide the jewelry wire with constant tension in your dominant hand and rotate the jewelry making jig with your non-dominant hand as you wrap the wire around the pegs.  Concentrate on keeping the jewelry wire straight with your dominant hand until it wraps around the pegs. Try to push the jewelry wire with your fingers as close to the pegs on the jig as possible.  Avoid pulling the wire if possible. 

One last suggestion for jewelry making.  For each jewelry wire component made on one of our WigJig jewelry making tools, plan on making at least three of that component using inexpensive practice wire before you try using your expensive jewelry wire.   This is very important.  Make several practice pieces of each type wire component you will need before you begin to use your good wire.  Plan on discarding these practice pieces.  Do not get discouraged if the first several pieces don't end up like the directions say they should.  This craft is like riding a bike.  It is a skill that must be learned.  Almost everyone can learn it, but almost no one is ready to ride in a bicycle race during their first ride on a bike. 

Generic Steps for Making a Jewelry Wire Component on a WigJig Jewelry Tool:

The steps involved in starting a jewelry making project are essentially the same for every project.  From an overview perspective the first thing you need to do is to make your jewelry wire components out of practice wire.  While making your components out of practice wire you need to learn how much wire is required to make the components so that when you get ready to use your good jewelry wire, you will be able to cut the correct length of wire on your first try.  In general, with every jewelry making project, you will measure your wire, cut the wire, make a loop in the end of the wire, hold this loop and straighten your wire,  and then make your jewelry wire component starting with just two pegs in your jig and adding pegs as you go.  When you have completed wrapping your wire on your jig then you need to cut the excess wire and measure how much excess wire you have.  Your goal should be to have 1/2 inch of wire left over as scrap when you are done.  Below we document the steps involved.  We will describe these basic steps in the following paragraphs.  We also have a free video that describes these same basic steps. 

Step 1:  Cut a length of practice wire that you estimate will be 1-2 inches longer than you need. 

Four Dangle Earrings Jewelry Making Project Made with Swarovski Jet Beads and Gold-Filled jewelry wire.Step 2:  Measure this length of jewelry wire and record the length. 

[Editors Note:  Frequently we will straighten a segment of jewelry wire before we cut it.  This way the spool of wire acts as a handle, allowing us a good grip on the wire while we straighten the length of wire away from the spool.  With this straight segment of wire attached to the spool it is easier to cut the jewelry wire to a precise length.]

Step 3:  Make a"P"  loop in one end of this wire using your round nose pliers or Fine Step Jaw Pliers.  (We prefer the Fine Step Jaw Pliers for making initial loops because the first step gives us a loop the size of the metal pegs for the WigJig Delphi, Cyclops or Centaur and the second step gives us a loop the size of the metal pegs for the Olympus, Olympus-Lite or Electra.) 

When making your loop, be sure to use the end of your jewelry wire with the flush cut and not the end with the sharp end.  If both ends of your jewelry wire are sharp, cut one end off about 1/4" from the end being certain to leave the flush side of the cut on the piece of wire you plan to use.  For many people it may be a good idea to cut both ends of the wire off flush to avoid possibly cutting yourself on the sharp end of the wire.  (If we were smart, this practice would save us a lot of money on Band Aids for my thumb.) 

Step 4:  Now, while holding your jewelry wire by the loop you just made, pull the jewelry wire through the jaws of your nylon jaw pliers several times until it is straight. 

Instructions on how to hold your WigJig  jewelry making tool while shaping jewelry wire.Step 5:  At this point our practice wire is ready to be shaped on our WigJig jewelry making tool.  Start with just pegs 1 and 2 from your pattern.  Leave all the other pegs off the jewelry making jig, out of your way.  Place the initial loop that you made in Step 3 onto peg 1 and shape the jewelry wire against peg 2.  Push the wire far enough that the wire will rest immediately next to the empty hole waiting for peg 3 with no pressure on the wire.  This is important.  Release your grip on the jewelry wire to test if the wire has been pushed far enough.  When the wire stays where you want it to, you have pushed it far enough.

One important concept is that the unused jewelry wire must remain straight.  The technique that seems to work best for us is to position your index finger on your dominant hand to push and guide the wire while you move/twist the WigJig jewelry tool to cause the wire to Instructions on how to push jewelry wire when using a WigJig jewelry making bent against peg 2 using your non-dominant hand to move the jewelry making jig.  Holding the wire with the finger tip of your index finger as close to peg 2 as possible while pushing the wire will help to keep the wire straight.  Please note that the jewelry wire should be about 1/2 way up the peg on the jewelry making jig.  You don't need to push the wire against the jig and you paid for all of the pegs so you might as well use them. Remember to PUSH THE WIRE with just the tip of your index finger touching the wire.  Pulling the wire by grasping it in two fingers will introduce bends in the wire and won't work as well.  We learned this the hard way many times.  If the jewelry wire gets bent at the wrong location, remove it from the WigJig jewelry tool and straighten the bend with your nylon jaw pliers, then replace the jewelry wire on the jewelry making jig. 

Beaded Chandelier Earrings Jewelry Making Project Made on WigJig jewelry tools with Swarovski Crystal Pearl Beads and Gold-Filled Jewelry Wire.If you can master the above 5 steps, making wire components on a jewelry making jig will be easy.  These steps are appropriate for soft, 1/2 hard  or even hard wire.  Remember, you are not done pushing the wire until the wire rests immediately adjacent to the empty hole for the next peg without touching the wire and no pressure on the wire. 

This video has perhaps our best and most current jewelry making instructions.  It is worth watching more than once.  

Step 6 and beyond:  Making your jewelry wire component continues by adding a single peg to the pattern on your WigJig jewelry making tool and bending your jewelry wire against this new peg, leaving the wire adjacent to the empty hole for the next peg in the pattern with your hands removed from the wire.  Continue adding one peg at a time until you have all the pegs in your pattern.  Remember to remove your grip on the jewelry wire after every step to ensure that the wire won't spring back, out of position.  Removing your grip on the wire is especially important when using 1/2 hard or hard jewelry wire.  (Please note if you fail to push the wire and then remove your grip from the wire, you will probably find that the jewelry wire component will spring out of shape once you remove it from your WigJig jewelry tool.)

Final Step on Jewelry Making Jig:  When you have added the last peg to the pattern and wrapped the jewelry wire against this peg as required, you are ready to remove the wire from the WigJig jewelry tool.  If you have done this correctly, when you remove the wire from the jig, it will remain in the shape set by your pattern.  If you haven't done this correctly your wire might spring into a new shape.  If you get the new shape, start over and remember that you need to push the wire then release your grip on the wire to test to see if you pushed it far enough, then push some more if necessary until the jewelry wire stays where it is supposed to with no pressure on the wire.  Now you are ready to cut the excess wire.  Using your flush cutters, with the flat side of the cutter toward the finished piece, cut the excess wire and using your bent chain nose pliers close the final loop. 

At this point we need to measure how much excess practice wire we just cut off.  If you have only 1/2", your length of wire is perfect.  If you have significantly more, adjust your length of jewelry wire for your next piece so that when you are done you have only 1/2" of excess wire.  It is important when using your practice wire to learn how much wire to cut.  When you graduate to your good, more expensive jewelry wire, you should have only 1/2" excess wire. 

After you remove a jewelry wire component made on one of our WigJig tools and cut the excess wire, you will find that the piece is still not quite ready for prime time.  The piece will be slightly three dimensional.  The next step is to flatten the piece.  This step is necessary because it is very difficult to push the wire all the way down while you are wrapping it around the pegs on your jig.  In fact, with your fingers alone, it is almost impossible to make a piece that will come off your jig and be perfectly flat.  What is required is a tool to help you flatten the wire component.  The tool that we recommend is nylon jaw pliers. 

Finishing Jewelry Making Projects by Hardening your Jewelry Wire with Nylon Jaw PliersAfter removing a wire component from one of our WigJig tools and cutting the excess wire, we always flatten the jewelry wire component by squeezing it in the jaws of our nylon jaw pliers.  The leverage provided by the jaws of the pliers allows you to flatten the wire, where your fingers alone could not.  Unfortunately, for us this is as automatic as Finishing Jewelry Making Projects by Hardening Jewelry Wire Component Using Nylon Jaw Pliers Step 2breathing out after you breathe in.  For this reason, sometimes in our instructions we fail to mention this requirement.  Please know that for almost every jewelry wire component, this step is necessary even if we don't mention it in our instructions.  The process is very simple, place the wire component in the jaws of your nylon jaw pliers and squeeze firmly with the jewelry wire component rotated so that it is held in several different orientations in the jaws of your pliers.  You will notice that the piece will become flatter and stiffer.  This is sometimes know as "work hardening" the jewelry wire component. 

Hand Finishing a jewelry wire component made on a WigJig jewelry tool.With some pieces a little more finishing will be required.  After removing the wire from your nylon jaw pliers you may need to "hand finish" your piece.  This means that you view the piece and manipulate it by hand so that it is positioned properly.  Rarely you may even need to use your pliers to help you with hand finishing.  The pliers can help you to grip a loop of jewelry wire and manipulate it, where your fingers alone would not be able to get a firm enough grip.  The proper way to perform hand finishing with your pliers is to insert your round nose into the loop as far as they will go, then grip lightly with the pliers, pushing or pulling the loop into position.  Step Jaw Pliers may also be used and will generally result in fewer marks on your wire component.  You are done with the hand finishing when the piece appears the way you want it to.  If the jewelry wire component looks like it was made on a machine, you've done great. 

Duplex jewelry wire component made using WigJig jewelry making tools.The jewelry wire component made for our Deluxe Duplex Bracelet (shown here) is a good example of a wire component that will require some hand finishing.

Deluxe Duplex Bracelet Jewelry Making Project Made with Crystal Pearl Beads and Gold-filled Jewelry Wire

3 Tier V Shaped Earrings Jewelry Making Project Made on WigJig jewelry tools with Swarovski Emerald Beads and Gold-Filled Jewelry WireIn general, it is a good idea to make at least three of your jewelry wire components out of practice wire before starting to use your good wire.  If the last component comes out perfectly, you are ready to use your good jewelry wire.  If the piece doesn't come out perfectly you need to make a few more practice pieces.  We frequently make as many as 7 pieces out of practice wire as we perfect our approach to making a new design. 

When you can consistently make your wire components with practice wire then you are ready to begin using your good jewelry wire.  Please note that for many designs, it may actually be easier to make the design in your good wire.  Practice wire is almost universally soft wire.  Wire components that do not include a spiral are often easier to make in 1/2 hard jewelry wire.  Frequently we find that it is easier to be consistent when making your jewelry wire components with 1/2 hard gold, gold-filled or sterling silver jewelry wire rather than your soft practice wire.  Our free instructions in our Learn -- Jewelry Designs section of our web site will always document which wire we recommend using. 


What to Do When Making a New Jewelry Design:

Invariably, when making a new jewelry design, your first attempt won't work exactly the way you wanted.  You will find that it isn't exactly what you had in mind when you thought up your new design.  This happens to us every time we make a new design.  At this point you can do one of three things.  1.  you can get frustrated and quit, or 2. you can scream for help, or 3. you can try again.  If you are the type of person who frequently selects option 1, then making new jewelry designs is not for you.  You should probably stick to following our instructions for existing designs because we try to document the best way to make each jewelry design.  If you are the type of person who selects option 2, please don't call us.  We will respond to email questions, but our answers are going to be something like this -- did you follow our directions?  Followed by -- did you read our Beginner's Instructions here?  If you are the type of person who selects option 3 above, please read on. 

When we are making a new design, it will frequently take us as many as 7 or 8 iterations of making the piece before we get it the way we want it.  The first thing everyone needs to remember is to begin by using practice wire and make every new component several times in practice wire before you begin to use your good wire.  The second thing to note is that the first few times you use your good jewelry wire, you will probably notice that it isn't exactly the same as your practice wire.  Many times it will be easier to make pieces out of your good jewelry wire because the hardness of your good wire will be matched to the optimum hardness for making the piece.  Sometimes you may find that using your good wire isn't as easy as using your practice wire.  In those instances here is what you do -- experiment. 

Why were the Wright Brothers the first people to successfully fly a heavier than air craft?  It wasn't because they were the smartest people trying to fly.  It wasn't because they were the richest people trying to fly.  It certainly wasn't because they were the only people trying to fly.  The genius of the Wright Brothers that allowed them to solve all the complex problems in flying was that they did controlled experiments.  They built the first wind tunnel and used it to test different aeronautical shapes while they measured the results.  The problem we have to solve in making a new piece of jewelry isn't anywhere near as complicated as flying, but the same approach applies.  If you aren't successful using one size and hardness of wire try another.  Use a gauge that is one size larger or one size smaller than the wire that wasn't successful.  Try using jewelry wire that has a different hardness.  Vary the technique that you use to make the jewelry wire component.  If you aren't successful by the seventh iteration, only then should you consider option 2 above and scream for help. 

While jigs for making jewelry existed thousands of years ago, they weren't in common use in the 20th century.  When we re-invented using jigs to make jewelry, there weren't any books on how to use a jewelry making jig.  There weren't any teachers who taught how to use a jig.  So how did we learn how to make jewelry with wire and beads?  We did it the same way the Wright Brother's did -- we experimented.  The craft of making jewelry using wire, beads and jewelry making jigs is definitely not at the point where every technique is known, understood and documented in books.  There is still much to learn and the simple way to learn is to do controlled experiments. 

Now let us discuss what is a controlled experiment.  Doing a controlled experiment is simply changing only one variable at a time.  If 18 gauge wire was too stiff and hard to work with, try using 20 gauge wire.  If half-hard wire did not follow the rounded shape you wanted, try using soft wire in the same gauge.  What you don't want to do is change more than one thing at a time.  If 20 gauge soft wire did not wrap properly, going to 22 gauge 1/2 hard wire might not be the right answer.  That was changing two variables.  It could be that 20 gauge half-hard wire was the right answer.  What we are discussing here is called the Scientific Method.  Using the Scientific Method is simply what allowed the Wright Brothers to learn to fly and the same basic trial and error approach applies to tasks as simple as making jewelry with wire and beads.  History has proved that the Scientific Method works.  We suggest you adapt this approach to your new jewelry making projects.  We use it every day.

Some Final Thoughts for Beginners to Making Jewelry:

Queen of Clubs Earrings made on WigJig jewelry tools using amethyst beads and gold-filled jewelry wire.Let's first discuss some common errors that people experience in getting started that make it harder for them to be successful. 

  1. Many people see a jewelry design and that design is what motivates them to begin making jewelry.  Unfortunately, if that design is not suitable for a beginner, it may be a bad choice as a first jewelry project.  The biggest single error that people make is in picking a first or second jewelry making project that is too difficult.  We recommend making the Queen of Clubs Earrings, shown at right, as a good first jewelry project.  It is suitable for beginners and allows you to make something that looks hand made and can be used as gifts. 
  2. Celtic Triangle earring jewelry making project made on WigJig jewelry tools with emerald beads and gold-filled jewelry wire.A second error that people make is not accepting that everyone should use practice wire and make about 3 pieces out of practice wire before cutting your good wire.  Sterling Silver and Gold Filled wire are almost at record high prices.  Don't cut a segment of this expensive jewelry wire until you know exactly how much is required because you made the component in practice wire and measured both before and after making the component so that you know exactly how much jewelry wire to use.  For the Celtic Triangle Earrings shown at right, we made this component out of practice wire about 7-8 times before we were satisfied with the technique.  Any time you are making a new component, you should assume that you will need to make that component out of practice wire a few times until you are satisfied that you can make it properly.  Just as it is when you learn any new skill, everyone needs to practice,  including us. 
  3. A third error that many novices make is in not following the basic steps.  The basic steps are easy.  First you straighten, measure and cut the wire to length, then you make a loop in one end of the wire.  Many people forget to fully straighten the wire using nylon jaw pliers.  This results in some irregularities in your finished jewelry item.
  4. A fourth error that many people make is in placing all their pegs in the pattern at the beginning.  You should always begin every pattern with only two pegs and add pegs as you go.  Unfortunately, this is something that we learned relatively recently.  Many of our patterns on our web site don't show this, because when we documented that pattern, we weren't smart enough to know it at that time.  Now we know that if you have a pattern with 6 pegs and you start with 6 pegs, 4 of those pegs are going to be in your way and making life difficult. 
  5. A fifth error that people make is in not pushing the wire with just one finger while you hold and move the WigJig jewelry tool with your non-dominant hand.  Intuitively people want to grab the wire and hold the wire by the end of the jewelry wire and keep the jig stationary.  The important thing in making jewelry wire components is to keep the wire straight until you are ready to bend it against or around a peg.  Keeping the wire straight isn't easy to do when you grab the wire.  You will tend to add kinks and bends to your jewelry wire using that approach.  If you essentially keep the wire stationary, by pushing and guiding the wire with only the tip of the index finger on your dominant hand touching the wire, while you rotate the jig with your non-dominant hand you will find that it is easy to keep your wire straight.  Keep your index finger close to the peg you are using to bend the wire.  Once you understand and can accomplish this technique you will be much more successful in making jewelry items with our WigJig jewelry tools. 
  6. A final error that is relatively common is not releasing your grip on the jewelry wire after bending it against a peg.  Releasing your grip allows the wire to relax back to its normal position.  By releasing your grip after you bend the wire against a peg you ensure that your wire component won't spring out of shape when you remove it from your jig. 

The above are the six most important techniques that must be mastered/errors that must be overcome.  We also discuss some other common jewelry making errors starting here.  If you haven't visited that page, it would probably be a good review.  Above all, don't get frustrated.  Like any skill worth learning the skill of making jewelry from wire and beads does require some practice. 

Please select here to visit our beginner's jewelry making skills web page.





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