5 Handy Copper and Wire Jewelry-Making Tips

1 Feb 2012

Preparing for Tucson this year has me digging through the Jewelry Making Daily archives, finding projects and techniques that I want to try this year so I can prepare my Tucson shopping list. In my research, I've come across so many great tips for using all kinds of materials, wire in particular. Here are some of the wire jewelry-making tips that I discovered--all taken from Sharilyn Miller's Contemporary Copper Jewelry.

 

Funky Chandelier Earrings
from Contemporary Copper Jewelry

1. Many of the projects in Sharilyn's book are accented with wire coils. Sharilyn recommends making a bunch of wire coils all at once and keeping them on hand, ready for whenever a project beckons. She creates long coils of fine-gauge wire (24-, 26-, or 28-gauge) on heavier 20-gauge wire and cuts them into smaller pieces as her wire designs require. Bonus tip: Don't forget to label your coiled wire pieces so you'll know what gauge you're working with when the time comes to use them!

2. I think making a stash of wire coils for future use is also a great way to get your fingers warmed up when beginning a project. Plus it always takes me a few minutes to get used to the feel of the gauge, hardness, and general workability of a new wire, especially if I've been working with a different one just before, and making coils is a great warm-up or practice for getting used to a new wire before actually beginning the project at hand.

 
Spiral Fibula Pin
from Contemporary Copper Jewelry
3. Be careful when forging the ends or curves of ear wires; over-forging the wire too thin can create sharp razor-like edges that you definitely don't want to slide into your ear! Forge gently with a chasing hammer or be safe and use a hard plastic mallet. This is a good reminder to always check ear wires (and other wire edges that will touch the skin) for sharpness.

4. Another reason to avoid over-forging wire: it can become brittle, especially on the edges. This one surprises me, every time I read it. I've never experienced metal becoming brittle, so perhaps I'm doing something right! But it's good to know it can happen.

 
See how much smoother the arc is in the copper tubing curved by threading heavier gauge wire through it (top) vs. the copper tubing I tried to curve by hand alone (bottom)?
5. This one came in handy for me after Tucson last year: Hidden in my jewelry-making stash were some lengths of tiny copper tubing, which I found so interesting and unique I'd never used it. (You know how that is, surely? You get a small amount of a really neat supply, so you hoard it instead of using it!) I was afraid of breaking or collapsing the tubing if I tried to curve it and put it to use in a necklace or bracelet, but then I found a great solution in Sharilyn's book. Sharilyn suggests inserting heavy-gauge wire into the metal tubing before hammering it on a mandrel to help shape it into a rounded form without kinking it. Eureka!

 
I didn't want to hammer this tiny copper tubing yet, but putting a stronger, heavier-gauge wire through it and gradually pulling the ends toward each other helped me create the arc I'd been trying to achieve in this little copper tubing for so long! Now I'm not afraid of ruining it and I'll actually use it. (Well, some of it, right?)

All of these great tips were taken from a quick browse through Sharilyn Miller's Contemporary Copper Jewelry, which is loaded with copper and wire jewelry projects as well as techniques that you can learn and then adapt to your own jewelry designs--plus it includes a bonus DVD so you can watch and learn along with Sharilyn, wherever and whenever you like!


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