Working With Wire For Crafts And jewelry

Formed Wire Lampshade Bead Earrings WIP 3 - Image: © Briana Blair

Wire can be a versatile and rewarding craft material

There are all sorts of ways that you can use wire in your crafts. There are a few things you should know about it and a few tools you should own before you start working with it.

I have used wire in many art projects. Uses can range from something as simple as making a hanger, to creating a skeleton for a sculpture. Before you get started with wire, you should make sure you understand how wire sizing works, and be sure you have the right tools on hand to work with your wire.

Wire Gauge

The size in diameter of wire is measured in gauges. The higher the gauge number, the smaller the wire will be. A 32 gauge wire will be far smaller than a 14 gauge wire. 32 gauge wire is about as fine as fishing line, while 14 gauge wire is as thick as the post on a piece of body jewelry (like a navel ring).

Knowing gauge is important when picking out your wire from the store. If you’re making a skeleton for a clay sculpture, you’ll want an 18 gauge or thicker wire, depending on the size of the sculpture. Thicker wire will be more stable for any kind of framework. If you’re weaving seed beads, you’ll probably want a 28-34 gauge wire. These thin wires will be very flexible, and much like working with thread, with the advantage that it will hold its shape as you work.

Wire Types

There are many types of wire that you can work with. Most crafting wire is either steel or copper based, with some sort of coating for color. If you go to a hardware store you can get some of your heavier gauge wire for a lower price. It will often be steel, and is usually good for framing projects, but will not be as attractive as most craft wire.

Some wire is also painted or covered in a thin, colored rubber coating. Be sure you know what kind you are buying, as the rubber coated types are not good for all projects. Some rubber-coated products actually have very thin wire inside, and they won’t hold their shape or be as durable as painted wire that is full gauge.

The Right Tools

When you’re working with wire there are some tools you’ll certainly need. You should have at least one or two pairs of wire snips on hand. I have a heavy-duty pair for cutting thick wire, and a smaller, angled pair for cutting fine wire. The angled wire cutters are particularly good for snipping wire close to your work, which is perfect when you’re making jewelry.

You’ll also want to have pliers on hand for bending your wire. What types of pliers you’ll need depends on your project. I have general pliers for sharp bends in thick wire, pointed flat pliers for angled bends in wire under 20 gauge, and two different sizes of round pliers for making loops and twists in my wire. If you’re using wire for jewelry, you can often buy packs at your craft store that will have a selection of pliers and wire snips.

You may also want to have some gardening gloves around, to protect your hands while cutting and twisting wire. Also, when working with extremely fine wire, it’s very easy to slice up your hands. If you plan on pulling on fine wire to create tension, I highly suggest wearing gloves to avoid nasty injury.

I also keep metal rods on hand to wrap wire around. It’s great for making your own chain links and jewelry. You can also buy wire wrapping kits at craft stores. These kits will come with a small board that’s full of holes, and a set of pegs. You place the pegs into the board and wrap the wire around them to create designs. These kits can be a lot of fun.

Wire can be a wonderful art medium. Learn a little about it, make sure you have the right tools on hand, and you will be on your path to a world of new creative possibilities.


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