Jewelry Making Technique:
This weeks jewelry making technique discussion is on hammering wire. First, we should note that in general, it is not recommended to hammer wire where it crosses over another wire segment for the simple reason that it can cause the wire to break at that point. Given the limitation that we only hammer one thickness of wire, hammering wire on a jeweler's anvil is an important technique for both hardening wire and for shaping and adding texture to wire. The approaches to hardening are very different from the approach to shaping as we will discuss below.
When hammering wire to harden the wire, your goal is to preserve the shape already in the wire. As an example, when making and ear wire, it is a good idea to hammer the rounded portion of the ear wire, the part inside a pierced ear when it is worn. This shape needs to be permanent. Once the shape of the ear wire is set, then the flexibility of the wire that allowed us to bend it around pegs becomes a disadvantage. We want the wire to stay in that shape, and by hammering the rounded portion of the ear wire, we harden it, making it less flexible and more permanent. In hammering wire to harden it, you use the flat (smooth) side of a chasing hammer and you need to hammer just enough to see a very slight deformation of the wire. Most types of metal wire can be hammered to harden it. It works well with sterling silver, gold-filled, copper, and brass. Hammering is not a good idea for silver-plated wire or for the vinyl coated Artistic Wire as the hammering will probably destroy the silver plating or vinyl coat.
The second purpose of hammering is shaping and adding texture to the wire. While the goal in hardening wire was to hammer so that it is barely noticeable, the goal in shaping wire is to be able to notice the hammered result. The head-pins shown at right and above are examples of wire that has been hammered to shape the wire. For this type of hammering, the rounded head of the chasing hammer is used and the wire is hammered for a longer period. Sterling silver, copper, gold and brass wire can be hammered this way. Gold-filled, silver-plate and vinyl coated Artistic Wire are not good choices for hammering to shape the wire.
One final consideration in hammering wire is to use a good, clean, hard anvil. If there are surface imperfections in the anvil, the pattern for these imperfections can be transferred to your wire during hammering. The same anvil that was good enough for the blacksmith is probably not good enough for the jeweler simply because the marks on its surface will leave a pattern on your jewelry wire.
The next time you run out of head-pins, you now have an alternative. Pull out your hammer and anvil. For more information on making head pin jewelry findings using common jewelry supplies and jewelry tools please select here.
Hammered Jewelry wire
Bead Dangles from Hammered Head-Pins