How many times have you been working at your bench and gotten so inspired, you outwork your stash? I can't recall how many times I've hit my jewelry-making groove and then come to a screeching halt because I ran out of a vital jewelry-making component, like unique clasps or ear wires. So frustrating!
Handmade Wire Jewelry Findings
A recent issue of Step by Step Wire Jewelry helped me realize a solution: If I have wire, I have findings! It's fun and easy to make my own S clasps, earring wires, eye pins, jump rings, and so on–and chances are they're going to be more unique, more attractive, and more economical than manufactured ones. Bonus: By using handmade clasps and findings, my jewelry projects will be truly and completely handmade, all the way down to their utilitarian ends.
|Martha Aleo's Clasp-tastic! S-clasp|
Design One-of-a-Kind Wire S Clasps
A simple S curve of wire and a jump ring becomes a one-of-a-kind S clasp with even a small amount of work. Hammer the wire just enough to flatten (with a ball-peen hammer), strengthen (with a rawhide or nylon hammer), and texture (with any metal hammer) the wire, and voila! That tiny bit of work just turned a short piece of wire into a handmade one-of-a-kind jewelry clasp.
You can go a step further and cover the S-shaped wire with coils of finer-gauge dead-soft wire, and punch it up even more by adding the extra embellishment of spacers and other metal beads. You could also try stacking on some other kinds of beads or textured jump rings. Finish the ends with one last flourish of curled wire and/or a ball of silver (just touch it with a torch flame until the silver end balls up).
|Stephanie Riger's Easy Ear Wires|
Create Easy and Unique Ear Wires
It's easy enough to make your own ear wires, but I prefer to make them because handmade ear wires provide an opportunity to go beyond basic hooks for something to hang on–they can enhance and be part of the overall earring design. Coils and swirls on the front ends take your earring designs one step further with minimal effort.
Making our own ear wires also allows us to experiment with their shape, making them extra long, angular, or giving them a slightly curved back side for a little extra style. Remember to create balance if you alter the standard fish-hook design or your earrings might not hang properly, and a Sharpie marker is just the right size for curving the top of your ear wires. Whether you make basic or fancy ear wires, take advantage of the wire tip of the year!
Got Wire? Got Pins!
Whether you need eye pins or head pins–and we always need them, don't we?–if you have wire (preferably half hard), you're covered. Eye pins are simple and self-explanatory enough: Using round-nose pliers to make a simple closed loop on the end of a wire turns the wire into an eye pin, with a custom-sized eye to match whatever your projects require.
Head pins take only a bit more effort. A ball-tipped head pin can be created by just balling up the end with a torch; flatten that ball by hammering it while the pin is in a vise and you have a standard head pin. You can also enamel the balled end for a colorful head pin. Or, make a small, tightly wound coil on the end of a piece of wire for a spiral-tipped head pin. Creating and using head pins with special features is an easy way to add an extra little something to your jewelry designs–and they're just a few steps away from becoming ear wires.
Make Jump Rings by the Dozen
This tip is pretty well known but bears repeating: Coiling wire around just about any long round object (pencils or pens, knitting needles, chopsticks, metal or wooden rods . . . ) and then sawing along one side to cut them open will create custom wire jump rings in any size you want and in your metal and gauge of choice, faster than you can say "jump ring." Get a more detailed lesson in making jump rings here.
Choose the Right Wire Gauge
Making successful wire jewelry components depends on starting with the right gauge of wire. Clasps like S clasps (as well as hook-and-loop clasps) should be made using 14- to 18-gauge wire. Finer-gauge wires are generally too soft to function as secure clasps, but they can be hardened by hammering them with a nylon or rawhide hammer or in a tumbler.
The best wire for earring wires is 20-gauge, half-hard wire, though 18-gauge wire (even 22-gauge wire with some hardening) would work. Jump rings can be made using 16- to 22-gauge half-hard wire. Softer or finer-gauge wire will make less secure jump-ring closures. Depending on the size of hole in your beads and how sturdy and hard working the pin needs to be, head pins and eye pins can be made using 18- to 22-gauge wire.
Wire is everywhere–as clasps, jump rings, head pins, and ear wires, sure–but also as the decorative coils and swirls, the bails and connectors, the sticks and dangles, even finger rings. Master the wire basics of making your own findings as well as the wire beyond-basics of fun and fashionable wire jewelry projects from industry favorites when you subscribe to Step-by-Step Wire Jewelry magazine.
Do you make your own jewelry findings? I'd love to hear about them in the comments below!