Past Jewelry Making Techniques:
We maintain a techniques web page that provides links to the discussion of techniques in our prior newsletters. You can visit this web page here. Follow the links on that page to the discussion of the technique in that newsletter.
Current Jewelry Making Technique:
This month's jewelry making technique is our discussion on how to hammer wire. Hammering wire is used primarily for hardening wire. As shown at right, we frequently hammer the rounded portion of an ear wire to make that rounded shape permanent. Hammering wire can also be used for shaping wire and decorating wire with patterns.
When hammering wire you have the option of hammering with a metal chasing hammer which will flatten the wire or of using a nylon hammer or leather mallet which won't change the shape of the wire. Flattening the wire by hammering with a metal chasing hammer, will harden the wire more than hammering with a nylon hammer or a leather mallet. The concept is that when you change the shape of the wire, you are effectively creating an "I" beam which is stronger than regular round wire.
The metallurgical process of hardening wire can be accomplished in five ways. Only two of these five ways are applicable to making jewelry. The first of these two is called simply work hardening. Every time a piece of metal is "worked" or bent past its static rest position, that piece of metal is made harder, stiffer, or more resistant to bending. When making jewelry, every time you bend a wire, you perform a small amount of work hardening on that wire. This even happens when you straighten wire using nylon jaw pliers. The other significant way to harden wire is by tempering and quenching. Tempering and quenching involve heating the metal essentially until the metal glows and then rapidly cooling that metal.
Hammering wire will harden the wire both by changing the shape of the wire (forming an I beam) as we described above and by creating heat within the wire essentially work hardening the wire. When you hammer wire, you are effectively work hardening a very small portion of the wire. You can find more information tempering metals here.
Hammering wire can also be used to shape wire. Frequently when making a ring or a large round hoop, you will find that the wire will not be flexible enough to follow the round shape of the ring mandrel or the shape of a large Super Peg unless you hammer the wire onto the mandrel or Super Peg. Hammering the wire in this case is emphatically coaxing the wire into the shape you want. When shaping wire with a hammer, you are performing the same function that a blacksmith would when making a horse shoe.
There are a few considerations or precautions that you should consider when hammering wire. Our tips for hammering wire are shown below:
Tips for Hammering Jewelry Wire
Hammering wire with the flat side of a metal chasing hammer will flatten the wire. This can provide extra strength to the wire in the same way that an "I-beam" is a stronger girder than a rectangular piece of metal with the same weight.
Chasing hammers come with either a flat face or a slightly rounded face. The flat face of your chasing hammer will mark your wire at the point where the edge of the hammer touches the wire when you hammer. A metal chasing hammer with a slightly rounded face leaves fewer hammer marks. We recommend our chasing hammer, Item 0353.
If the surface of your anvil or bench block is not perfectly smooth, the imperfections on the surface can be transferred to your wire and will mark your wire. One way to add texture to your wire is to hammer the wire into a textured surface. If you can find an antique hammer with a rusted face, or an antique anvil with a rusted top, you can hammer your wire with that hammer or on that anvil and the results will be a textured finish to your wire. To avoid this texturing of your wire, use a smooth, blemish free anvil and hammer.
Whenever possible, only hammer a single piece of wire. Try not to hammer wire, where one wire crosses over another. The reason is simple -- hammering wire where one wire crosses another will ultimately cause the wire to break at the point where the wire crosses over. One piece of wire will see the opposite piece of wire as a chisel and it will ultimately cause the wire to break at that point.
Whenever possible don't hammer wire close to beads. Obviously, if you accidentally hammer a glass bead, it would shatter.
If you want to harden wire without changing the round cross-section of the wire, use either a nylon hammer or a leather mallet. They won't harden the wire as much as a metal chasing hammer would, but they also won't change the shape of the wire.
Please select here to view our information on hardening wire.
Nostalgia Corner -- Some of our favorite jewelry making projects:
This week's featured design in our Nostalgia Corner is the design for our Deluxe Duplex Bracelet shown below. This bracelet design is one of our favorite designs. We use our WigJig Olympus or Olympus Lite to make this bracelet because we like the spacing we get on that jig for this particular design.
We have basic instructions for making these bracelets that you can find by selecting the picture shown above. We also have a one page sheet of instructions for this bracelet that you can find by selecting below.
Please select here to view our one page sheet of instructions for our Deluxe Duplex Bracelet.
All content on this web site including jewelry and wire designs are copyrighted© by WigJig. WigJig® is a registered trademark.
Last modified: 06/03/2010