Make Your Own Wire Jewelry Findings: Clasps, Ear Wires, Pins, and Jump Rings

26 Dec 2010

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.

 

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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).

 

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  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!

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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.


Spacer 10x10 pixels sterling silver jump rings


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!


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Comments

on 27 Dec 2010 4:54 AM

Love your emails. I have tried wire jewellry making, and after doing beading for about 20-25 yrs., I must admit that I thought it would be lighter work. But I've found that it requires quite a strong wrist and hand to acheive anything like what we see in magazines, or is it just me!  I would like to be taken step-by-step

through the required guages and what to use it for. Can you please help? Silvana.

joykruse wrote
on 27 Dec 2010 7:01 AM

I have made all my own findings now for years. Try using 20g square wire for earwires. It gives a clean straight line look. In your ear you cannot tell that the wire is square and they hold their shape wonderfully. Nice look for jumprings too. Enjoy making!! :) joy kruse    

on 27 Dec 2010 2:33 PM

I love working with wire. I started with beading but when I saw the lovely pieces achieved with wire, I was hooked. I tried a few times making my own findings, but not lately. So, I'm going right now to my table and try a few, after being inspired. And, as to needing a strong wrist, if you watch some tutorials on wire working and learn the proper way to use some hand tools, you will see that it isn;t so necessary for strength. I was using my hand tools in the wrong position and was getting tired way before the project was completed.

Awakachee Designs

on 27 Dec 2010 6:47 PM

I make my own eye pins but I like your ways of making head pins and jump rings

TammyJones wrote
on 3 Jan 2011 9:46 AM

Thanks everyone for your comments!

Silvana, Step by Step Wire editor Denise Peck went into more detail about wire gauges in a recent blog, hope it's helpful!

www.jewelrymakingdaily.com/.../top-tips-for-beginning-wire-jewelry-making.aspx

Joy, thanks for mentioning square wire. I used some in a pinch once, when I was out of round wire, and I loved it! It seemed considerably easier to work with in all aspects, maybe because the flat edges fit next to tools and mandrels better. Thanks for the reminder!

torchfairy wrote
on 4 Jan 2011 3:29 PM

I make my own findings all the time...also make my own glass beads...

It's like anything else  you do.. the more you practice & make things the

better you get...

Kathleen1955 wrote
on 20 Jan 2011 7:35 PM

I love Step by Step Wire Jewelry. I often feel inspired and validated while scouring my magazines. I love that Artist's often think alike. I've been making my own clasps and earwires for many years and have been teaching others how to do the same. I love it when students get that "ah ha" moment. It 's extremely rewarding.