Free video instructions on how to make jewelry wire components permanent by a process called "hardening" using common jewelry tools:
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What is hardening mean when applied to jewelry wire?
In a perfect world, wire would be easy to manipulate as you were making a jewelry wire component, but when you had finished making the wire component it would be perfectly stiff so that the wire could not be pulled out of shape. Obviously we don't live in a perfect world and there is no wire that is easy to bend while shaping it into a jewelry component, but then perfectly stiff and unbendable.
The jewelry wire that we use in making wire components can be "soft" or "hard" or several levels in between. Soft wire is very easy to bend and is therefore easy to make into jewelry wire components. Hard wire is very difficult to bend and is therefore hard to make into jewelry components. In general, for the projects described in this web site, we will never recommend using hard wire. If you were making a hat pin, hard wire would be recommended because you want the finished hat pin to be very stiff. We don't have a hat pin project in our web site and all the projects we do have use wire that is either soft or half-hard. Since we have defined wire hardnesses of soft, half-hard and hard, it may seem like there are only three alternatives for wire hardness. Actually there are six. Wire can be manufactured with a hardness of 0 (soft), 1, 2 (half-hard), 3, 4 or 5 (fully hardened or hard). Most vendors won't carry wire in all these defined hardnesses. Remember that soft wire is very easy to bend and hard wire is very springy or hard to bend. Vendors will tend to carry wire that is soft and some will carry wire that is half-hard. Please note that it is more difficult to make wire that is hard or even half-hard. For this reason, most inexpensive craft wire will only come with a hardness of soft. Precious metal wire, copper wire and brass wire can be purchased from manufacturers with a hardness of soft, or some vendors will also carry half-hard silver, gold, copper and brass wire. Becasue it is more difficult to make, half-hard wire may cost more than soft wire.
Since we can't purchase perfect wire how do we make permanent wire components with soft or half-hard wire?
Given that hard wire will make really permanent shapes, but is very, very difficult to work with, how does a jewelry crafter make permanent wire components using soft or half-hard wire. The answer is to perform the function called "hardening" on the wire after it has been shaped. You can find a good definition of hardening from a metallurgical perspective here. In making jewelry, one of the more common methods for hardening wire components is "work hardening". Simply stated, work hardening is moving the wire and in the process the wire becomes harder or the shape is more permanent. Old school jewelry crafters used to do this with their fingers during and after the wire was bent into shape. You can also harden the wire by hammering, either with a chasing hammer or with a nylon hammer according to how much you want to harden the wire component. In the above video, techniques for hardening wire components when making jewelry are shown.