All Wired Up

wire reels

As my jewellery making medium is wire, I thought I would write a little about it.  Although it is no definitive guide, it will give you a glimpse into my world of wire.

Lets start with the shape of the wire.  If you thought all wire was round,  then you’d be mistaken.  Of course, wireworker’s use round wire, but sometimes we have to think about the design and how the wire would work with that design.  Other options are square wire and half-round wire.  I have never disagreed with the fact that wirework can be fiddly, especially when it comes to wrapping the wires together.  Wrapping square wire together with its straight edges has a much even fit compared to two round edges which ‘roll’ round together.  Half-round wire is shaped like a semi-circle, so you have the flat edge which fits snuggly round the wire, especially square wire, whilst the rounded edge leaves a smooth finish.  In addition to shaped wire, you may decide to use patterned or fancy wire; not all wire is smooth.

The next important thing to consider is the size of your wire.  Different designs use varying sizes of wire.  For example, wire that binds or wraps the wire together would be thinner than wire used as a frame.   This is where you need to keep your wire collection organised, but help is at hand as all wire sizes are categorised.  Here in the UK, we tend to refer to the actual size of the wire i.e. 1mm, 0.8mm or 0.6mm.  The USA tend to use a gauge system based on numbers; the higher the number, the thinner the wire.  I must admit, I prefer the gauge system, but have found that after using wire for a while, you refer to both of them hand in hand.  I use between 14g (gauge) which is very thick wire and use it for frames, to 30g which is very thin and used for crocheting, for example.  You can experiment with wire weaves and which wires work best for your design i.e. 18g as the frame and 26g to weave.

copper heart wirework pendant
This pendant was made with 3 different sizes of wires.

Finally, when you know the shape and the size, you need to decide what type of wire you want to use.  When I first started, I used silver plate wire but as I’ve progressed, copper wire appears to be my predominant choice.  It comes down to how comfortable you are working with the wire.  Options include plated wire, craft wire, copper wire, coloured copper wire, silver wire, and Argentium silver wire, to name some.  Each have their own qualities.  If you choose copper and silver wire, for example, you can patina/oxidise the finished design to give it an “aged” look.  Copper wire is relatively cheap as well, and if you’re lucky, you can source copper wire from  used cables!  Copper wire is considered good to practice with due to its costs and it’s forgiving wire temper.  Silver can be costly as it’s no secret that the cost of silver has increased considerably over the recent years, so ideally some practice would be recommended before purchasing silver wire.  Argentium Silver wire is very popular with wirework too due to its high quality, tarnish resistance and durability.  Don’t rule out other metals though like brass, aluminium and stainless steel.  Bear in mind though not all wires are as malleable as others and consideration should be given to which wire would be best to hammer, heat or oxidise, should you decide to do this.

I hope this has given you a little insight to what goes into the art of wirework.  If you enjoyed reading this, perhaps you could share it for me.  I would also welcome you to sign up for my newsletter.

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