Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Creating a Bail for a Pendant

First and foremost, it is important to measure around the clasp of the chain you will use for your pendant to dictate the circumference required for your bail.  Before you start bail construction.  If you have a special clasp you want to slide in and out, then:

Bail Circumference
Measure around the clasp with a soft measuring tape the minimum length required to comfortably slide the clasp in and out and then that should give you the length of X-wrap to make before creating the loop.

X Wrap Wire Weave

X Wrap Wire Weave

Ever needed to hide an area in wire work, or just wanted to fill in a large gap with some interesting pattern?  Here is an easy way to do just that, the x-wrap (named by me for the X shape produced in the middle of the wires) is a variation on the figure 8 used in the double coil weave to produce a more open, lacy look.

The tutorial is free and contains close up photos to show exactly what is happening over 3 full pages.  It is a stunning weave that makes a beautiful bail.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Double Coil Weave

Double Coil Weave

Ever wanted to figure out how to connect a few wires together to bring them to another side in your project?  The double coil weave is a handy, pretty way to add texture to a couple of wires.  Great to use doubled over as a bail as well!

This tutorial will show you how to create the coil with step by step photos and tips on how to hold the wire.  Better yet, it's free!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Wire Working Notes

Wire Working Notes

On my blog I have uploaded PDF files of my free wire working tutorials.  An important companion is the General Notes file which contains a lot of general wire working notes.

The Notes are also a companion guide to all of my tutorials, starting with a list of terminology I use in my articles and tutorials with definitions and reasoning behind my madness.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Basic Loop, Wrapped Loop Tutorials

This week I want to put the limelight on an amazing designer, Lorri Ely of www.making-jewelry.com, who has put all of her hard earned knowledge about beaded jewellery basics on her website for free. And what a website, she explores stringing techniques, earring makings, even how to sell your jewellery in various venues and tips on running a jewellery business.

This is a site I wholeheartedly wish was available when I started making jewellery over 20 years ago! But then again, the internet was not what it is these days either.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Starting a New Coiling Wire

This week is a step by step instruction for working with wire.

Often you are doing a coil and run out of the coiling wire before you are ready.

Don't fret, it is easy to learn how to make a seamless join between two wires in this situation.

As it is a step by step, I have made an instructable for the process:

Link is here: http://www.instructables.com/id/Start-New-Thin-Coil-Wire/

Friday, July 1, 2011

Wire Physical Descriptions

Chapter two in a series of Sterling and copper wire properties and how to work with it. In a previous post we discussed the work hardening properties of wire. This article will cover the physical description of wire shapes and sizes.

If you want to find out more about my jewellery, visit my website at www.yourjewellery.com
or view my growing collection of free instructables at www.instructables.com under the user ID of Amandajewls. Here is one to make a basic head pin to get you started.

Wire Gauges
Wire is sold in different thicknesses called gauge, which refers to the profile of a cross section of the solid wire. The Standard Wire Gauge, a British system used in Australia, works on a metric system of gauging based on the measure of the solid wire diameter (not perimeter or circumference) in millimeters.
America uses an even numbers based numbering system (American Wire Gauge) that refers to the times the wire has been pulled through a drawplate to “draw it down” for thinner thickness. So the higher the number of gauge in the American system, the thinner the wire.
In the Australian market a working knowledge of both metric and American system is necessary when purchasing wire.
Quick Comparison Chart
Standard Wire Gauge (SWG)
American Wire Gauge (AWG)
0.3 mm
0.4 mm
0.5 mm
0.6 mm
0.7 mm

0.8 mm
0.9 mm

1.0 mm
1.25 mm
1.63 mm
2 mm
The online store "Bulk Wire" has a fabulous all encompassing Wire Gauge chart with explanations located here: http://www.bulkwire.com/wiregauge.asp
Wire Shape
Wire can be purchased in a wide variety of shapes, which can best suit the needs of a project. The shape refers to the profile of a cross section of the wire.
These shapes include round, oval, half round (semi-circle), square, rectangle, double half round, beaded (looks like continuous balls) and even elaborate filigree wires.
For half round, the measurements are often given with two measures formatted like "2.0 mm x 0.9 mm". The first number refers to the flat side, the width. The second number refers to the height of the top most curved portion. So in the example, our half round wire is 2 mm wide and 0.9 mm tall - so more of a half oval than half circle.
When searching for wire online, it is highly suggested to have a calipers ruler and samples of a variety of gauges in front of you for reference.
Wire can come in fancier shapes as well, each with their own specific uses.
Embossed strips are strips of metal that have been sent through a press mill forcing a pattern onto one side. These are perfect for adding immediate, complex texture to projects such as ring shanks or bracelets. Thin embossed strips can even be used to act as fancy jump rings on necklace chains.
Gallery wire strips have a fancy base with pointy spikes - almost like a fancy comb. This is used in bezel settings with the top spikes folded over to set the stone. I have not used this as I have found from ready bought jewellery with this type of setting, the spikes catch my clothes easily.

Bezel strips are plain or lightly textured strips of varying height and very thin metal used in bezel settings. The strips are thin enough to enable the top to fold in on a stone to set it into a piece of jewellery. Left is a plain bezel strip.

Bezel strips can come fancy as well. The "bottom" is usually straight while the other end has a pattern. The photo right here shows a wavy edged bezel strip. It is important to note that with the fancier bezel strips, you can only grind away the already flat side to adjust the height of the strip or the patterned side will be ruined.

You can also buy round and square hollow tubes of metal in many different diameters. Again the measurements of the tube will have two such as "1.5 mm OD x 0.9 mm ID".

First what do those initials (other than MM) mean? OD means the Outer Diameter of the tube.
ID is the Inner Diameter of the tube.

So in this example, our tube has the outer diameter of 1.5 mm and the inner diameter of 0.9 mm. But how thick is the tube??? That is important if you need a tube thick enough to become a tube setting for a round stone. A little maths is in order:

(OD - ID) / 2 = the thickness of the tube wall.

In our example above, that is:
1.5 mm - 0.9 mm = 0.6 mm / 2 = 0.3 mm. So the wall of the tube is about 0.3 mm (30 AWG) gauge. Pretty thin.

To get a good understanding of what shapes, sizes and textures are available I suggest going to an online shop that sells wire goods and just search through their product pages. Window shopping - but I call it research! A great shop I use is A and E Metals in Sydney, NSW, Australia: www.aemetals.com.au

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Wire Properties - Work Hardening

I have written a series of articles covering some basic how to's and general information on working with wire and sheet metal so will post excerpts of the article here for free hopefully once a week.

Also during this time, some exciting fun technique tutorials will be available for sale on my website in a month time, so about August 2011.

The blog notes will be a companion for most of my tutorials and offer the absolute novice some really good solid know how for working with wire work. Stuff it took me several years to learn through trial and error.

I have written these articles for you to use but if you use the information or wish to cite, please give credit where credit is due and reference my website www.yourjewellery.com. - Amanda Katz

Metal Qualities

The most common metals to work with in jewellery are brass, copper, silver and gold but each metal has different qualities that endure or repel the jeweler. These qualities are hardness/softness which affects ability to cut, bend and manipulate. In ease of working without soldering the metals are easy to hardest as follow: fine silver, sterling silver, copper, gold then brass. Economics often dictates what metal is chosen for a design as well.

Wire Technique


Wire comes in three rates of hardness that equates to work hardening and annealing of wire before it is sold. As you work with wire, it gets work hardened, or the molecules in the wire line up more rigidly thus making the piece of wire less flexible and more brittle.

Work hardening happens by moving the metal around such as cutting, hammering, coiling or bending and even light filing. Work hardened metal is necessary for a project requiring stiffness like the pin on a brooch or for supporting a heavy weight like a heavy necklace with a large focal bead. One disadvantage of overworking the wire is eventually it becomes brittle and will snap with too much force.

When wire becomes too work hardened, a flame from a torch or even the kitchen gas stove is applied until the metal becomes a light pink (not red) and quenched in water. By applying high temperature evenly to the wire, it allows the molecules to loosen up which returns the wire to a bendable, softer form to work with again. One side effect of working wire with flame (such as sterling silver) is that the surface becomes covered with fire scale which requires pickling, sanding back and then polished up again either by hand or in a tumbler filled with steel shot. Thus when planning a project, it is better to plan ahead to know what hardness of wire is required before diving into the deep end.

Commercial wire is available in three hardnesses: Dead soft, half hard and full hard.

Dead soft means the wire is recently annealed, therefore is very flexible and soft to bend. There will be quite a bit of manipulation left in dead soft before it becomes brittle thus is best for wire coiling and weaving free hand sculptures or setting stones without solder. Dead soft is extremely easy to bend without much force so is unsuitable to supporting heavy weighted beads.

Half hard means the wire has been worked enough to give it a small amount of stiffness. It requires more force to bend than dead soft so is suitable for weight bearing projects, jump rings, and chain mail in thicker gauges. Thin gauges of half hard can still open by force of project weight though.

Full hard has been work hardened to the point that a considerable amount of pressure is required to manipulate the wire. Very suitable for heavy weight support, ear wires and projects where just a few bends in the stiff wire is necessary. Because full hard has already work hardened, it will become brittle quickly. Full hard is good for wire ring shanks, support frames for wire wrapping and jump rings in finer gauges.

Choosing the wire required is important in the planning stages of a project. Using the right stiffness of wire is important also to reduce strain on the hands, as coiling full hard by hand around a mandrel would be a much harder task force wise versus using dead soft wire.

Copper and sterling silver wire both have about the same work hardening properties, similar dead soft feels right on up to brittle breaking point when overworked. Brass wire tends to be stiffer even after annealing and will achieve overworked breaking point much quicker than copper or sterling silver in the same project. Fine silver, being 99.9% pure silver starts off dead soft and after much work hardening will possibly achieve half hard but will never become brittle to breaking point.

Next Week: Wire Gauge

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Foray into 3D PMC Mould Making

In 2008 I took a fabulous Precious Metal Clay Workshop with Rose Marie Christison in South Denver, Colorado who conducts these workshops in her own studio. I would highly recommend doing a course with her to get a solid knowledge and confidence for working with PMC. She teaches more than just pmc, have a look on her website is www.rosiesriginals.com

This article is my discovery of how to create a precious metal clay mould for an organic odd shaped item; mine being the stick that is left after the palm seeds have fallen off. This will not cover how to use Precious Metal Clay, rather how to test your moulds to ensure the desired effect is reached before destroying clay!

As with everything, have your work station set up neat with all items you will require to make the process easy. Spend the time getting to know every tool, chemical and rehearse the order before hand. Also, when creating the two halves, you want them to overlap and have some quirky ridges so the halves won't slide around when you are trying to mould the precious metal clay.

Items required:

2 part silicon quick and cold temp setting putty
Unusual organic found object
Ounce/Gram Scales (if you wish to be precise)
Olive Oil
Plastic Wrap
Clay, plasticine, etc (children's clay/dough of any sort that results in a smooth surface will suffice)
Ruler or flat hard object

Create First Half of Mould

Read your compound instructions carefully and don't throw them away like I did! There will be a set "mixing time" and then the compound will start setting - be very aware of this and do a few test balls first while watching a second hand on a clock to know how the compound works.

At first I was having trouble as the mould compound was setting looking like a kitchen sponge, which made my mould rough and lost a lot of detail. The sponge look can result for a few reasons
a) the two parts are NOT very close in amount (weigh them!)
b) OR your mould compound is too old and has gone off (who would have thought rubber can have a shelf life!)
c) OR You are mixing the two parts for too long and the compound is trying to set
d) OR each part is not at its optimal temperature for use
e) or a mixture of all 4 reasons.

Mine was a mix of reasons a, c and e so after some more test runs I figured out that I couldn't mix past 20 seconds, had to warm up the separate parts for a while and "eyeballing" the amounts didn't work for me.

After your mould compound is mixed, lay it out into a nice long half circle that is deeper than your object. Carefully press the found object in HALF WAY INTO THE MOULD. Using a flat plastic ruler can help press the object evenly into the moulding compound. You have one chance to get it right and cannot fiddle with the object while the mould is setting so resist the urge to lift the object out right away.

Lightly press a finger nail into the base of the mould to test the setting process. The mould is set when the fingernail mark no longer stays in the mould. After the mould is set you can take out the found object - be careful if it is a dry stick so that it doesn't break making the second half of casting difficult.

Cast the Top Half of the Mould

Lay a single small sheet of plastic wrap (Saran Wrap) entirely over the bottom half of the mould. This will prevent the second mould section sticking to the bottom half. (I learned the hard way.)

Carefully put the found object back into the bottom half of the mould until it sits snugly in place.

Mix more compound together than for the bottom half and place over the object so:
a) completely covers found object without gaps
b) top half slightly overlaps the bottom edges of the bottom half of the mould

Once the top half is squarely seated, leave it alone until the mould is completely set.

Ensure that top half will "lock" down onto bottom half with the overlapping portions so that the mould will not slide when casting the pmc. If not, recast the top half.

Test the Mould

COAT ALL PARTS OF THE MOULD WITH OLIVE OIL! This will keep any clay from sticking to your mould.

Testing the mould with a cheap clay, plastacine, polymer clay or even playdough (as I used here) lets you know if you are happy with the mould detail of the found object without wasting precious metal clay. It also will give you an idea of the volume of pmc required with minimal wastage.

You can see that I did not coat the mould with olive oil before squishing the test clay. Your clay can stick to the mould if not coated, ruining the casting.

I rolled the clay into a little round strip which was a little bigger than the original section of stick and pressed it into half of the mould. In the photos to the right you can see how the top half of the mould has a little cap that will fit over one end of the bottom.

Press the two halfs together until firmly fitted together. Carefully lift out the test clay from both sides of the mould.

If you're happy with the results, clean the mould of any of the test clay, recoat with olive oil and go for it in Precious Metal Clay!