February 20, 2015

How to Make a Hook and Eye Clasp and Pliers Comparison

Hook, line and sinker

Hmmm.  Starting with a fishing phrase just reminded me.  I got a great deal on Berkley Fireline beading thread yesterday because there is a $5 rebate per spool at Bass Pro Shops through 3/31/15. They also offer free shipping over $25 plus I already got a shipment notification this morning.  Wow!

But, what this post is really about is making a hook and eye clasp.

Nah - it's really about making a hook and eye clasp with my new Lindstrom RX Plier and Cutter Set!  
Yes, the projects are a little bit about the pliers right now. And deciding if the age old jewelry making wisdom of buying the best tools you can afford is true.

So, here's the first project that I unleashed the new pliers on.

My personal opinion is that learning to make your own findings is one of the best things you can do - no matter what type of jewelry you make (i.e. stringing, bead weaving or wire wrapped).  Especially if you have any plans to sell your jewelry.

Do you need a few reasons to convince you?  Handmade findings are the bomb (which is good) because:
  • They are less expensive to make than buy - and often you can use scrap pieces of wire and left over beads - and they still look amazing
  • You will never have to wait for an order or run to the store for findings to finish a piece of jewelry
  • They are easy to make
  • They will make your jewelry more interesting than the person at the craft fair next to you with all store bought findings
  • You get to justify having the fancy tools you invested in
Don't get me wrong - I don't think you need to make all your findings, and I definitely use lots of store bought findings, but knowing how to make a few can really help in the long run.

Cast your line

To get started, you'll need your brand new Lindstrom RX Plier and Cutter Set :) and some 18g wire.
Ok - you can use your round nose pliers and flush cutters no matter what brand they are.

You'll also need a mandrel to make the hook around.  My preference is these comparatively economical Multi-step Looping Pliers, but if you want to go super economically, the smooth barrel of a pen will also work. 

Some optional tools are a hammer and bench block or a tumbler with stainless steel shot.  It's nice to flatten the curve of the hook to work harden the metal which makes it stronger (and it looks nice), but as long as your wire is thick enough and the hook is not too large - it should be fine.  The tumbler is another alternative to work harden the metal - without flattening and it - and also polishes it.

Reel it in

These instructions make a hook clasp that is about 3/4 inch long. For your information - the gold colored hooks in the demonstration pictures are made using my old tools, the copper hooks are made with my shiny, yummy, ergonomic, unfortunately very expensive, new ones.

Cut a piece of 18g wire about 2 inches in length.  I use copper, brass, sterling, sterling filled or gold filled.

For those of you interested in the tool comparison, the Lindstrom flush cutters are very comfortable to use, and they make a nice flush cut that is comparable to the one my Xuron Flush Cutters make. The most notable difference is they make a very pleasant snap sound when they cut the wire.  I kid you not.  It's fun to hear the snap but  I think the cut from the Xuron cutters is equally flush. The Lindstrom tips are a little smaller than the Xuron I have so they'll fit into tighter spaces.  They also have a more comfortable grip and closure mechanism.

File the cut end of your wire smooth.  An emory board with foam in the middle that is meant for acrylic nails works great.  It just takes a few swipes to take the sharp ends off.

Using your round nose pliers, turn a small loop on the filed end.  See the difference in the size of those loops?  Copper is the Lindstrom's, brass is the other pliers.

To make the curve for the hook, wrap the wire around your step pliers or mandrel until the wrapped end and wire are in close contact.

If you started with 2 inches of wire, you should have just enough wire left to turn a loop on the other end.  For me, that's about 3/8 inch.

Not much of a difference between the finished clasps, is there?

Where there is a difference is in the feel of the tools.  The economy round nose pliers dig into the palm of my hand - something I never noticed before. And they require more strength overall to handle - again, not something I have noticed because I don't have either hand strength or mobility issues. Now that I have something to compare it with - I have to admit the Lindstroms feel really nice.

Another area where the difference is really noticable is when making spirals and curves.  The fine point of the Lindstrom's make it super easy to make a really tight spiral.

You can see it in a few of my little practice doodads and thingamabobs.  I hammered some of the wire ends first and it was amazing how tight of a center I could get on the spirals.  I really love that!

On the other hand, making larger loops - like the one at the bottom of the hook clasp, is a challenge since that is about as large as the pliers go.

Take the bait

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  1. Lisa, this is a very good article. It was interesting to me that you mention how the pliers and cutters set in your hand, shortens the span of the pliers, etc. I had worked with 12 ga all the way down to 18 ga because I made all my own frames for earrings and all my ear wires. Hammer, cut, shape, etc. It damaged my right hand so bad that I had to have surgery on my right hand and developed arthritis. That is why I had to back off and learned micro macrame with Sherri and seed beadwork with Kimberly. I can do these and not hurt. So to me this is a great article and please everybody save your hands. Several years ago I wish I had known this information. Thank you Lisa.

    1. Donna, thank you so much for adding the information about your experience and injury. I'll bet there are lots of people like me who have never had problems and think that anything more than hobby tools are an unnecessary expense. The more I am using my new tools, the more I notice the difference in my hands. Even though I've never had problems, I can tell these nice ergonomic tools may prevent me from developing them. Stories like yours help remind us we need to make the changes before the problems start or it may be too late. Thank you!

  2. PS: I still do some wirework because it was my first love, but I am very careful and keep things at 16 ga or less.