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Wire Working Tips

Tips for making jewelry with jewelry wire and beads.

Tips for making jewelry with jewelry wire using common jewelry tools

One of the more difficult skills for beginners to learn is how to use your tools and minimize the marks that the tools make on wire. Please see the picture at right for an example of a tool mark left by normal use of round nose pliers.  Round nose pliers in particular will mark both sides of the wire every time that you use them. Since Round Nose Pliers are normally used making loops, one of these marks will be on the inside of the loop and won't be an issue, the other will be on the outside of the loop and will be visible.Even Chain Nose Pliers can mark the wire if they happen to slip, the edge of the pliers can scratch the surface of your wire. There are a few things to do to lessen the amount of marks that you leave on your wire. Here are some suggestions:

  1. Learn to grip the wire firmly and tightly in your pliers so that it will not slip, but not too tight.  The proper gripping pressure is a skill that needs to be learned and will minimize marks on your wire.
  2. Minimize use of your round nose pliers to those applications where they are absolutely required like making loops for bead dangles and for wrapped bead links.  Use Chain Nose or Bent Chain Nose Pliers for gripping wire and holding wire. 
  3. Use the right tool.  Consider purchase and use of the following tools:
    • Fine Step Jaw Pliers or Round/Flat Pliers for making the initial loop in a wire component.  (Fine Step Jaw Pliers are preferred when you have them.)  The round jaw of these pliers will leave a mark, but this mark is on the inside of the loop where it can not be seen.  The flat jaw spreads the force of gripping so that they do not mark the wire.
    • Nylon Jaw Pliers for gripping, compressing and hardening wire components.  The nylon is softer than the metal in the wire and will not mark the wire. 
    • Bent Closing Pliers for closing the small gap in loops.  The grooves in these pliers help to hold the wire without letting it slip.
  4. Use your tools properly.  Please select here to see how to use your Fine Step Jaw Pliers or Round-Flat Pliers to make initial loops
  5. Consider filing the edges of your chain nose or bent chain nose pliers.  With inexpensive pliers you may have some minor imperfections in these edges that can cause marks in your wire.  Any file with a fine surface like our Needle Files - Economy will do. 

     
  Example of a mistake in a jewelry wire component made with common jewelry tools.Mistake Example of correct shape of jewelry wire made with common jewelry tools.Correct Reason
Sharp End Common Jewelry Making Mistakes Sharp End Common Jewelry Making Mistakes Good Loop In the loop on the left, the wrong end of the wire was used.  When cutting wire with a flush cutter, the cut wire will have one sharp end and one flat end.  Always use the flat end of the cut for your starting loop as shown at right.
 
Open Loop Common Jewelry Making Mistakes Open Loop Common Jewelry Making Mistakes Good Loop In the loop at left, the loop is not fully closed.  Frequently, we will find a loop like this in a wire component after we finish the component.  Sometimes you can use round nose pliers to close this loop using the same approach that you used to make the loop.  Sometimes because of the location of the loop, this is not possible.  In many cases, using Bent Closing Pliers will help close these open loops with minimum marking of the wire. These Bent Closing pliers have grooves in the jaws to help grip the loop without slipping. 
Springs Apart Common Jewelry Making Mistakes Spriings Apart Common Jewelry Making Mistakes Good Component When making components with our WigJig tools, frequently people find that when they remove the component from the jig it will spring apart.  The loops made on the same peg will not align.  This is especially true when using 1/2 hard wire.  This problem can be overcome after the fact by "hand finishing" the piece, bending it gently with your fingers until everything is aligned.  The better solution is to solve this problem before removing your wire from the jig.  This is done by only using the pegs you need at that time, and always bending the wire beyond where you want it to end up, letting it "relax back" into its finished position.  After every step, remove your hands from the wire and check its final position.  In concept, the jig should provide a pattern, but not any force to hold the wire in shape. 
 
Not Straight Common Jewelry Making Mistakes Not Straight Common Jewelry Making Mistakes Good Component In the wire component shown at left, the wire segment at number 1 is not straight.  This is an intentionally exaggerated example to illustrate the point.  For every wire component that you make, one of the first steps needs to be to straighten the wire by pulling it repeatedly through the jaws of nylon jaw pliers.  You must start with straight wire.

As you continue working the wire around pegs making a wire component, you need to keep the wire straight.  The easiest way that we have found to accomplish this is to guide the wire with your dominant hand, keeping it straight as you go, while you move the jig with your non-dominant hand.  This is counter-intuitive, but what works best is holding the wire essentially stationary (lifting it over pegs when required) while you move the jig to create the wire components.  Holding wire with your finger tips as close to the pegs on the jig as possible also helps.  Don't hold the end of a long piece of wire, hold the wire near the pegs that you are working on.
Not Flat Common Jewelry Making Mistakes Not Flat Common Jewelry Making Mistakes Good Component In the loop at left, the loop is not fully closed.  Frequently, we will find a loop like this in a wire component after we finish the component.  Sometimes you can use round nose pliers to close this loop using the same approach that you used to make the loop.  Sometimes because of the location of the loop, this is not possible.  In many cases, using Bent Closing Pliers will help close these open loops with minimum marking of the wire. These Bent Closing pliers have grooves in the jaws to help grip the loop without slipping. 
Not Round Common Jewelry Making Mistakes -- Loop Not Round Common Jewelry Making Mistakes -- Proper, Round Loop The loop shown at left is not round.  This is a common mistake that can be overcome with practice.  The cause is simple -- when making the loop at left, the wire was grasped in the round nose pliers too far from the end of the wire, leaving a long straight wire segment before the loop started.  The correction is to grasp the wire in your round nose pliers closer to the end of the wire.  This takes practice because if you grasp the wire too close to the end, the wire will slip and you won't be able to make a loop.
Marks on Wire Common Jewelry Making Mistakes -- Marks on Wire Common Jewelry Making Mistakes -- No Marks On Wire The wire shown at left was grasped and held with round nose pliers.  Round nose pliers almost always mark the wire where they grip the wire.  In most cases these marks are at a loop where they aren't obvious because of the bend in the wire.  In a straight segment of wire these marks are obvious and should be avoided.  Always use bent chain nose pliers to grip straight segments of wire.


Loop Not Centered

 

 

 

Loop Not Round

 

 

 

 

Wrap Not Tight

Common Jewelry Making Mistakes -- Loop Not RoundCommon Jewelry Making Mistakes -- Loop Not Centered

 

 








Common Jewelry Making Mistakes -- Centered Loop
There are many common errors in making wrapped loops.  One is where the wrapped loop is not centered on the wire, but is offset to one side.  Another is where the wrapped loop is distorted and not round.  Another common error is where the wire wrapped around the stem is loose or has gaps.  The skill involved in making a good wrapped loop is one of the more difficult skills in working with wire.  We describe this skill in detail in our online books, "Wire Design Basics" and "Wire Design Basics Book 2".  These books are our best source for detailed information on how to complete a wrapped loop.  In short, the corrections to the problems shown here are 1.  Check the loop to ensure that it is centered before wrapping it closed and adjust as necessary.  2.  Grasp the loop in your bent chain nose pliers as you wrap it closed to preserve the round shape of the loop, and 3.  Keep the wire tail perpendicular to the wire you are wrapping around as you wrap the loop closed. 












Loops Not Consistent






Jewelry Making Tips -- Loops Not Consistent






Tips and Tricks -- Consistent Links in your Wire Jewelry Making Components

One of the more common problems for people who are new to working with jigs is that the loops are not consistent.  In the figure at left, one can see that the loops on the sides of this piece are different sizes.  This can happen for one of a couple of reasons.  The best way to be consistent when making components on a jig is first to only position the pegs that you are using at that time in the jig and add pegs as you progress.  In the component shown here, there are 6 pegs in the final pattern, but one should start making this component with only two pegs in the jig.  Second, it will be much easier to be consistent if you push the wire with your fingers as close to the pegs in the jig as possible.  Soft wire tends to want to make larger, more rounded loops when used making the component here.  In order to keep the loops in this component the same size, push the wire with your fingers as close to the pegs of the jig as possible.   Frequently it is easier to hold and guide the wire in your dominant hand while your move the jig with your non-dominant hand.







Loops Don't Lay Flat


Jewelry Making Tips -- Loops Don't Lay Flat


Jewelry Making Tips -- Consistent Loops
Another common problem is that a wire component that doesn't lay as flat as it could.  In the component on the left the piece was made wrapping the wire around the pegs in turn without removing it from the jig.  In the component on the right, after every loop was added, the wire was removed from the jig and flipped over.  This way the loops around the pegs were always made on the same side of the jig.  The end result is that the component on the right has only two layers of wire, while in the component on the left each succeeding loop is built on top of the prior loop. 




Hand Finishing

Jewelry Making Tips -- Consistent Loops

Jewelry Making Tips -- Consistent Loops

The piece on the left could be improved by hand finishing.  Hand finishing is the process of using your fingers and your eye to manipulate a wire component after removing it from the jig.  Hand finishing is preformed after the piece is flattened or squeezed in the jaws of your nylon jaw pliers.  Hand finishing is a technique that is learned by experience

Summary of Jewelry Making Mistakes

We can't emphasize enought that the above mistakes are made by almost every beginner to making jewelry with wire.  We've made all of these mistakes and more than once.  We document these mistakes in the hope that you will be able to learn from our mistakes.  Above all, don't get discouraged.  With a little practice all of us get better at these techniques. 

 

 



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