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.
Jewelry Making Technique:
This week's jewelry making technique is some discussion on the hardness of jewelry wire. We have discussed this many times, but not in the past year, so it may be worthwhile to review.
First, wire can be soft and pliable or it can be stiff like a spring. The perfect wire would be a wire that was soft and pliable when you were working with it, but upon completion of your work it turned instantly stiff so that the finished shape was permanent. Unfortunately, this perfect wire does not exist. What does exist is wire that can be manufactured to be pliable, semi-stiff, or very stiff and springy. Pliable wire is frequently sold as "soft" or "dead soft". Semi-stiff wire can be sold as "half-hard". Very stiff wire is sold as "hard". When you purchase your wire, you must decide which of these alternatives best meets your needs.
Now that we know that wire can be pliable or stiff what do you look for in when buying wire. Unfortunately, when you go to a store to buy wire, most wire will not state whether it is soft, half-hard or hard. Inexpensive wire is not made to a defined hardness. The hardness is what it is and you, as the buyer of inexpensive wire, don't have a choice. Fortunately, in general, it takes more work to make wire that is stiff, either half-hard or hard. Since it takes more work to make stiff wire, almost all cheap wire is soft wire. Our experience has been that all copper wire has a hardness of soft, and all colored copper wire has a hardness of soft. Most brass wire has a hardness of soft with a few exceptions. The Artistic Wire brand of non-tarnish brass wire isn't manufactured to a defined hardness but its actual hardness is roughly half hard. Some other manufactures of brass wire will make their brass wire to a specified hardness so you can buy some brass wire with a defined hardness. Silver plated and gold plated wire is also generally soft, although we don't see that the manufacturer specifies the hardness of that wire. Finally, expensive wire including all sterling silver, gold, and gold-filled wire is made to a defined hardness. Be sure to select the hardness that meets your needs.
The next question that must be answered is -- what hardness will meet your needs? First, for the projects on our web site, we never use hard wire. It is just too springy. If you were making a hat pin, then hard wire would be appropriate, but you must understand that with hard wire you will have a lot of work straightening the wire and it is very difficult to work with. Our recommendation is to avoid hard wire. Second, the larger the size of the wire, the less important hardness is. For wire that is 10, 12 or 14 gauge we only recommend soft wire. For 16 gauge wire, we rarely use half-hard wire. So now we get to the important stuff. For 18, 20 and 22 gauge wire, we recommend both half-hard wire and soft wire according to the project. In these sizes of wire, anything that includes a spiral must use soft wire. Half-hard wire will not make a good spiral. Furthermore, rounded shapes, including rounded shapes using our Super Pegs usually work better with soft wire. By contract, angular shapes and wire components where you must wrap wire around itself tend to work better with half-hard wire. When in doubt what do you do? Our recommendation here is that if you aren't certain which wire would work better, then find a project on our WigJig web site that is similar to your project and see which wire we used for that project. When we make a project, we experiment with the wire and try making that item in both soft and half-hard wire. Finally, for smaller wire like 24 gauge, we only recommend half-hard wire.
For the WigJig Dog Bone Chain earrings shown above right, we used 22 gauge wire in two different hardnesses. The links in the chain were made with 22 gauge half-hard wire because they require wrapping wire around itself and half-hard wire does that better. The spiral head pin at the bottom of the earrings, holding the bead, were made with 22 gauge soft wire, because you can't make good spirals in anything but soft wire. Hopefully, this discussion will help you to understand the hardness of wire and what wire will work best
Nostalgia Corner -- Some of our favorite jewelry making designs:
This week's featured design in our Nostalgia Corner is the design for making our Wire Wrapped Chain Bracelet shown at right. We selected this project because it makes a chain that is somewhat similar to the WigJig Dog Bone chain that is our new jewelry project for this month. This chain can be made with open loops or with wrapped loops. You can view the open loops chain below-left and the wrapped loops chain below-right. Both of these chains meet our design requirements of strength and being nice looking.
Please select here, or select the picture above right to view our free instructions for making our Wire Wrapped Chain Bracelet made on our WigJig jewelry tools.
All content on this web site including jewelry and wire designs are copyrighted© by WigJig. WigJig® is a registered trademark. Last modified: 04/28/2009