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July 25, 2013

Quick Copper Wire Focal Bead Bracelets

I haven't made much this week - I've been hoarding supplies instead.  Yesterday was a huge mail day - all of my orders arrived at once.  I got some supplies and tools from Fire Mountain Gems (FMG) to make soldering easier - and also a nice selection of gemstones that were not from FMG.

I like to make something every few days though, so I decided to use one of my new bead purchases.  I bought some gold rutilated quartz nuggets from Fire Mountain Gems.  I'm not sure why I keep buying their stones.  I know they are lower quality, but sometimes they are so darn cheap, I just can't resist giving it a try.

Anyway, I also like to try and push myself, so even though I didn't love the stones, I decided to see what I could do with them.  These simple bracelets is what I came up with.  The stone in the center is the rutilated quartz from Fire Mountain Gems.  The other two bracelets have little doo-dads (technical term) that were sitting on my bench.

These bracelets were super simple to put together and are very comfortable to wear.  I made them pretty close fitting rather than bangles.  They are 12g half round wire.

As always, there's a disappointment in the effort.  The flower has some Japanese seed beads that I recently purchased from Thunderbird Supply.  When I was using steel wool to brush off some of the patina, the color of the beads was coming off too!  I had no idea it would come off so easy.  Is that normal??

First of all, I thought they were solid color glass when they are matte opaque beads like these.  Second - I would have thought it would take more than a swipe with steel wool to remove the color.  I understand that a polished finish like AB would scratch easily - but really didn't expect it from these beads.

My lesson today - patina and clean your wire before you make the project if you are worried about the finish on the beads.  Also, I do like the rutilated quartz when it's in a rustic or simple design.

July 22, 2013

Simple Pearl Earrings with Custom Earwires

Today's project combines two of my favorite things in jewelry.  The simplicity of pearl earrings and unique handmade ear wires.  There are so many options when making your own earring findings - it is an area that I love to explore.  

The ear wire shape is not my own creation (few things are!), but they are a variation of... you guessed it - some earrings on my Pinterest Earring Inspiration board.  The original earrings are from Bloomingdale's and are considerably more refined than my attempt.  No worries though - I wasn't really going for a copy - just an interpretation.

Here's my big 'Oops' on this project.  I made my first pair of ear wires and I thought I had the process down.  Make the loop for the pearl dangle, hammer, and then make the rest of the curve shape of the earring.  So, I made about 5 pairs like that - and tumbled them.  And they were wonky.  The curves of the ear wires weren't smooth and flowing enough and I think that's a key element of the design.  So, I had to go back to square one.

It was much better when I made the main curve of the earring first, and then the loops - even though it was more difficult to hammer in the tighter area of the curve.  The headpins are also handmade - balled ends that I hammered flat to make a small circle.  

The last step is to add some antique patina to these earrings as a finishing touch.

July 21, 2013

Wire Wrapped Ring with Beaded Flower

More jewelry inspired by Pins from my Pinterest free jewelry tutorials board.  This time, I made a ring.

It's a simple wire wrap style - with no soldering required.  There's a free video tutorial from Beadaholique, There are also instructions for making a similar designed necklace and earrings at the link.

But, I didn't watch the tutorial.  If I can figure it out on my own, I will.  Now that I've struggled through making it my own way, I may go back and check out their designs to see if there is an easier way though.

I made the ring base using 18g copper wire.  Originally, I had a fairly large round glass bead in the center.  I'm a little pleased that I didn't take a picture of it - it was ugly.  It was a silver faceted bead, about 8mm.  Nothing about it worked.  When that happens, I usually just toss it aside until inspiration hits me on what to do next.

In this case, this ring shank design is pretty common.  It was easy to find variations on Pinterest - there are even a couple on my ring inspiration board.  I decided the focal bead needed lay a little flatter against my finger, and also needed a little more pizzazz than just one simple bead.  I have been making wire flower connectors and dangles forever, so I decided to try one.  I think it works.

But here's why I really love it.  With the bead flower center and the wire curls, it looks just like a flower with leaves.  And it's a bit sappy and silly - and when it comes right down to it, I love that stuff.  It's almost like a really bad pun.  It's something that doesn't take itself too seriously - but it's still pretty and functional.  Most people probably won't recognize the flower right away, but I do.

And it makes me smile :)  .  Have a great day!

July 18, 2013

Copper Forged Hoop Earrings - Before Tumbling

Well, I decided to make another pair of these heavy wire forged hoops - and this time, I took a few pictures during the process. I really like the first pair I made, and even figured out how to improve the ear wires, but I wanted round hoops this time.  I am still using 10g copper wire.  The first picture shows the ends hammered and the wire formed into a circle.  At this point, the wire is already hardening, so I annealed it for the first time.

This is a front view of the hoop in process.  Next, is a lot of hammering on the side of the hoop to get some beautiful texture and flatten the wire.  My hammering is improving with all of this practice and I am getting a little more skilled at being able to 'move' the wire to spread it and understand how to get hammer marks.

During the hammering process, I probably annealed the wire at least one more time.  Once I have the shape I want, I bent up the end for the hook and punched the holes.  This time, I followed the shape in the original tutorial from the Objects and Elements blog to see if I like the ear wire hook mechanism a little better.

From my last experience, I did learn a trick or two.  If you want the earrings to hook easier, make the hole on the back side of the earring by drilling from the inside of the wire to the outside i.e. from the side closest to your ear to the other side.  That is the opposite of how I did it last time.  The reason is that when you start drilling, it forms a divot on that side - and excess metal forms on the outside of the hole on the other side.  After filing, there is still a little bit of a raised area of metal around the hole.  I found that the raised area makes it more difficult for the ear wire to slip in the hole.  However, the indent and smooth surface of the other side make the ear wire naturally slide into the hole - making it much easier to hook the earring without twisting it or having to look in the mirror. Yay!  

I don't really use a drill to make my holes either - I used a screw hole punch like this one from EuroTool.  It makes two different size holes and is very easy to use.

The last picture is the earrings ready for the tumbler.  Remember how I said in my last post that they didn't look like much - they really don't.  Nice and rustic - but at this point, I still think 'eh'.

I will add some sterling ear wires before tumbling - and then I will take some more pictures.  I plan to patina these ones after tumbling too.

July 16, 2013

Simple Brick Stitch Seed Beaded Hoop

In between other projects, I have been working on my bead stitching.  It is a slow process, but I'm determined to get the hang of it.  I'm hoping someday to create something as wonderful as Miguel Ases.

This is brick stitch around a wire hoop frame.  I made the hoop frame using 20g copper wire.  

The hoop is 1.5 inches in diameter and tumbled to harden and polish.  I used size 11 Japanese seed beads with smoke colored fireline thread.  

The hoop is flattened to widen the end so the thread cannot slip off the hoop from that direction.  It doesn't seem to move at all, so that shouldn't be an issue but... just in case.

The earring is very pretty on - but I have to admit that it took a decent amount of time to make and I'm not sure it is worth it.  Actually, as I'm sitting here writing this, I've decided they are really pretty and I should at least invest the time to make the matching earring.

That was really what I was wondering as I was writing this blog post - should this be a practice earring or should I complete the set?

Since I have enough projects in the UFO bin (Un Finished Objects), I've decided to put in the time to finish this.  Who knows - maybe the second earring will be twice as fast!*

*wishful thinking

July 15, 2013

An Endless Supply of Wire for Jewelry Making

What on earth is it?  And would you want it?

Honestly, I don't know what it really is - but I do know I'm happy to have it.  If you're a wire a jewelry maker, you probably want it too.

I'm guessing it weighs at least 8 lbs.  And I'll probably never use it all in my lifetime.

This ugly dirty thing is a HUGE coil of 28g solid copper wire.  I was skeptical when my Dad brought it over the other day, but a few swipes down the wire with some steel wool reveals that gorgeous copper shine.  My Dad thinks it is from an electrical transformer of some sort.  It must have been sitting in his shop for a long time - and if you look closely at the first picture, you'll see it has a price of $12.00 on it.  Probably a garage sale or swap meet find at one point.

28g is thin for wire - close to being wire thread.  I've already played with it a little bit and been very pleased with the results.  Some things I am planning for it: wire crochet, viking knit, herringbone weave - and one I just thought of - wire macrame!!  Won't that be neat!  I'm looking forward to playing with this.  And even better - I don't think I ever have to worry about running out!

Anything else you can think of that I can do with all of this fabulous wire?  I'm going to need more projects I think!

July 14, 2013

Heavy Forged Copper Earrings - I love these!

It's not often that I open my tumbler and absolutely squeal with delight, but I have to admit, these earrings did just that!  I guess I should have taken a picture before they went into the tumbler and maybe you could understand - but suffice it to say, I just didn't expect much.  By the time I was done annealing the wire multiple times to get these hoops hammered out, it was dull and brown and they didn't look like much more than thick pounded frames.  But when I opened the tumbler... it was the hallelujah chorus.  Not kidding!

I made these earrings following instructions from a post from my Pinterest board of Free jewelry tutorials.  There are actually two similar tutorials that are helpful to make these earrings.  Both are from the Objects and Elements blog.

The first tutorial I recommend is the instructions for a pair of simple rustic bronze hoops.  The only change I would recommend from these instructions, is that it's sooooo much easier to flatten and shape copper wire this thick if you anneal it first and again during the process if you find that it work hardens.

I wish I had followed the way the ear wire is connected in this tutorial instead of the way I did it.  My ear wires just aren't secure enough.  I lost one earring right away yesterday. It could also be that the holes that the ear wires feed into is too small.  I am going to try to make another pair and use a different punch to make the hole larger.  Hopefully, that will make the earrings more secure.  I found the earring this morning in my driveway, in case you were wondering!

The second tutorial I recommend is a variation on the first.  It shows how to forge hoops in a variety of shapes.  The instructions are basically the same - so read both before you start.  I have not worked with bronze wire yet, so I don't know if the annealing would be a necessary step for it or not.  I tend to think it makes the shaping and hammering easier for copper and sterling - but your mileage may vary.

I will definitely be making more of this style earring.  I used 10g wire for my earrings and 20g for the ear wire.  After the earrings came out of the tumbler, I was so thrilled with the bright shine, I immediately polished them and applied some paste wax to seal the color.  Using wax to seal the patina, or prevent oxidation as is the case here, is new to me, so only time will tell if it will really help.  So far, I do notice that the earrings stay bright and shiny and don't even get finger marks.

July 10, 2013

How to Strip Copper Electrical Wire for Jewelry Making

Most of the wire I use is purchased in coils from jewelry supply companies like Thunderbird Supply, but I also use copper electrical wire.  A lot of times it is remnants left over from a remodeling project given to me by friends or family.  In either event - the big problem when I get this type of wire is how to strip it!

The wire strippers I've seen in the hardware store usually just remove the last inch or so of the plastic cover.  I need to strip at least a foot at a time, and usually more than that.  

Typically, I use a box cutter knife and turn the blade at an angle so it slices the top layer plastic off the wire.  I try to do this working away from my body, so there's no chance of cutting myself.  It works, but sometimes I end up nicking the wire.

A great idea I heard about recently is using a vegetable peeler.  I would have never thought of that!

 I tried it today and it worked really well.  It was easy to get the right angle to slice just the insulation without nicking the wire.  I use  the type that is like the red or orange one in the picture.  Mine has a blade that swivels.  I put one end of the wire in my bench vise and pull the wire taut while I am peeling.  I pull the peeler towards me which is an easier motion for me than pushing away from my body like I was doing with the box opener.  I think I have more leverage that way.

Here's a picture of my freshly stripped wire and the old peeler that has a found a new home in the garage workshop.

July 08, 2013

Cool Jewelry Tools: Using a Wooden Ring Clamp

The newest addition to my tool bin is this wooden ring clamp.  I'm not sure I had ever heard of this tool before I watched a neat video tutorial on coiling wire by Lisa Niven Kelly at Beaducation.  If you go to step 2 of the video, you'll see how she uses it to hold the wire she is coiling around - making it easier on her fingers.

As you may remember from this blog post when I attempted to make earrings with coiled wire - I don't coil wire very frequently, so it wasn't my primary use for the wooden ring clamp.

But I do like to make rings!  And for me, one of the more difficult parts of making wire rings is the cleaning and filing work.  It is really important that everything is sanded smooth, all wires are filed and tucked securely or the ring will get caught on clothing or scratch the wearer.

The ring clamp holds the ring securely and gives you a larger more comfortable grip on your work.  One end of the ring clamp is square and the other side is rounded.  Both sides have leather padding inside the jaws to securely hold your ring or wire without leaving any grip marks.  The wooden wedge fits in either side to clamp the ring or wire securely in the jaws.

Here's one more video from Beaducation that shows 4 great uses for the wooden ring clamp: to file or finish rings, to coil wire, to hold warp wires while weaving wire and also to straighten thinner wire that has bends or kinks.

I bought my wooden ring clamp from Thunderbird Supply during their last sale when everything is at the lowest price.  It was great investment (really, it was a steal) at under $6.  WOW - This tool is on sale for $4.34 at Thunderbird Supply right now!!  The sale is two months long - so you may still have time to get one at this price.

July 07, 2013

Free Tutorial: Copper Woven Stacked Ring

What's a woman to do when their wire wrap just doesn't turn out right?  Burn and pound things - wire that is!

Feeling a little disgusted at all of the time I wasted the other night on this free wire wrap earring tutorial, I decided to jump right back into my Free Jewelry Tutorials board on Pinterest and see what else I could make.  Honestly, that last coiling and weaving effort made me want to pull my hair out, so I thought some heavy gauge copper, a hammer or two and my torch would relieve any residual anxiety.

Today's free jewelry tutorial is from York Avenue Studio's Blog.  It is for a Bold Copper Weave Stack Ring.

The instructions on the tutorial are pretty thorough.  If you are making the five row ring - I think you should plan to cut closer to 14 inches of wire instead of the 12 she suggests in the tutorial.  For my first ring, I used 12 inches and I could only wrap 4 times, instead of the 5 in the tutorial.  It turns out I like the 4 wraps too, but I would have been very disappointed if I started with silver wire and then found out I didn't have enough.

The ring above has five rows like the woven ring tutorial.

I showed these rings to my girl friends last night to see what they thought.  I came home with two less rings than I started out with. It would have been 3, but all of my rings are size 7 and larger.  

Actually - that's one thing I should mention.  If you are trying to make a ring size 7 or smaller, I think you should probably use 16g wire instead of 14g.  The thicker wire is just too hard to bend that small and keep the ring that size.  I'm going to try it today.

One other note, if you make a mistake bending and wrapping the wire, or don't like the way it is crossing - you can anneal the wire while it is in the ring shape, quench it, and then unwrap it and start again.  If you are not familiar with annealing, it is simply heating the metal which causes it to soften.  I heat it until it turns whitish  or glows and then quench it in a bowl of water.  Then you can unwrap and smooth the wire and wrap again.  Until I learned this trick - I would have tossed aside those balls of wire with kinks or waves in them.  For at least one of the rings, I must have annealed the ring and unwrapped then re-wrapped the wire 3 times.

I decided to try my own style of stacked ring, above.  It's simple - but my favorite is still the first one I made - the black patina one.  I'm hoping the patina will stay dark like it is in the picture.

The patina is from liver of sulfur.  Normally, I use steel wool to remove the black on the high spots and leave it in the crevices.  This ring I left black and just polished.  I'd say it is almost gunmetal with a hint of copper underneath.  I applied wax (Turtle Wax for cars) to it to try and maintain the patina and also to see if it would stop my finger from turning green.  I've never used the wax before so I am crossing my fingers.

July 06, 2013

Free Pictorial Wire Wrap Earring Tutorial - Ugh!

This one makes me a little sad.  I was very pleased with my results from the Free Tutorial for Wire Wrap Framed Gemstones that I must have forgotten my skills.

You see, I'm not very fond of coiling wire and I don't think I'm very good at weaving it either.  I'm not sure whether I'm not patient enough, precise enough, or I just don't find the zen in the technique.  It's just me, so I rarely do projects that involve coiling or weaving.

But, I really liked these earrings from my Free Jewelry Tutorials Pinterest board.  It seemed like the next logical progression from my simple wire frame pendants.  Wow - was I wrong.

First - the tutorial is a pictorial only.  Which makes it look easy, but you have to figure out the materials for yourself.  For those of you who feel you are up to making these earrings, here's what I found worked.

2 large holed 8 mm beads (mine are ceramic) - they could be larger I think
2 pieces of 20g wire, 6 to 8 inches long for the frame
26g wire for the coils (At least 30 inches - but I wouldn't know since I ran out!!)

All is well so far.  The frame was fairly simple.  There were a few tricks to make it even on both sides though.  I wanted the frames to be about 1 1/2" long, so before I wrapped the frame wires up around the bead, I used Sharpie to make a mark at the 2 inch spot.  This let me know where to make the wrap and loop for the top without guessing.

But then came the coiling - which is where the tutorial just doesn't give enough details.  It was coming out 'OK', even though I could tell it wasn't the same as the tutorial - BUT then I ran out of coiling wire... and it was tedious and hard and I wanted an easier way. (Yes, I am whining just thinking about it!)  I always think I can find a better way of making something - so that's what I tried next.  I think a normal person would have added a new wire and called it a day.

 I made another frame and decided instead of coiling on the frame, I would make two 1 inch coils and slide them onto the frame.  Time savings - phenomenal!  I think I'm a genius about now.

Now, I try to do the weaving.  Ugh!  It's still tedious and now the problem is that the higher I get up the frame, the wire keeps slipping off the coils because of the angle.  The little light bulb goes off above my head again, and I decide I'll weave with macrame cord instead.  It looks really pretty in a neutral green that matches the ceramic bead - but slipping is still a problem.  I almost resorted to crazy glue because I really wanted to get these done!!

What I should have done is separate the coils a little to make room for the wire or cord, but I was already out of patience and didn't want to ruin the frame.  So, that's as far as I got with these earrings.

Of course, like everything else I do, I look at them today and think - eh, not so bad.  I'll probably try the weaving method I started in the first picture again - but with much more wire.  I'll also mark the spots where I want the wraps to go to the center so I can make them even without counting coils.

The second frame took so much less time than the first, I consider it a far better technique once I can resolve how to make the wires or cord stay on the coil.  I've thought about using pieces of coil instead of one long one, which would give me a natural break to wrap between.  It would also resolve how to space the wraps to the center.

In any event, if you have advice - please let me know.  I'll probably let these sit until next week while I consider my options.

July 05, 2013

Free Tutorial: Spiral or Rose Wire Wrapped Ring

I'm still working my way through my Pinterest Free Jewelry Tutorials Board.  It has provided a lot of inspiration lately.

Today, it's wire rings on the menu!  I made many of these rings last week while I was in Arizona with my family and friends watching my son play baseball.  When your child pitches (whether it's baseball or softball), it results in a lot of nervous energy for the parents.  A lot of my friends pace, or eat sunflower seeds, or talk. I use that fidgety energy to make simple jewelry.  Stuff that doesn't require a ton of concentration - so I can glance up every once in a while, but not obsess over the game.  (He pitched great, by the way - but I like to think that's because I'm channeling my nervous energy into something other than how he's doing).  

The first place I started was with this easy to follow Free Rosette Wire Wrapped Ring Tutorial by McFarland Designs.  Follow it just like the instructions say and you'll have a fabulous ring just like this.

Of course, I didn't follow the instructions all that closely at first, and mine ended up more like a spiral or coil ring.

July 04, 2013

Bead Framed Wire Wrap Gemstone Pendant

Just a quick post today - Happy Fourth of July!  My thanks to everyone who served our Country so that we live in what I think is the best country in the world.

I tried a quick wire wrap using two wires (following the free tutorial for a wire bead frame that I posted yesterday) and adding beads to the frame.  It looks nice - as you can see from the picture BUT it really wasn't very easy to do and the bead will spin inside the wrap.  So - I'll post my preferred method of achieving this look in the near future.

Of course, if the bead were round, the spinning part wouldn't matter.  I still think there are easier methods though.

Happy Independence Day!

July 03, 2013

Free Tutorial: Wire Wrap Framed Gemstone Pendants

First off, I love Pinterest!  It started off slow for me, but as I've gradually added to my boards, I find it such a valuable resource for information and inspiration.  I don't know how I did without before.  It's so nice to have pictures and links to their sources available so easily and organized in one place.

I mention that because today's post comes from my Pinterest board of Free Jewelry Tutorials.  I have been trying to re-think old ways of doing things - and one of my favorite styles is a simple wire framed gemstone.  It's easy when you are making a link - the wire is even on each side, but when you are making a dangle, the wire starts from the bottom and typically ends at the top, resulting in one side with a thicker wire border.  You can see an example of this in my post of the Free Herringbone Wire Wrapped Tutorial - although the herringbone weave helps hide the difference.

Anyhow - one thing that seems so obvious, that I've never done before is to try putting two pieces of wire through the hole in the stone, as they did in this Free Tutorial for Wire Wrapped Stone Earrings.

It's so simple that I had to try it.  Obviously, you need a stone with a slightly larger hole, but I think it works great.  I didn't think I would like the small indent where the wires go their separate ways - but it is barely noticeable when the jewelry is hanging (I purposely tried to show it in some of my photos).

Once I try a new technique, I usually try to see how I can expand on the idea.  So, next, I tried making some pendants and giving them a thicker wire wrap (and hiding the indent) by wrapping around the stone a second time.   The picture shows the bottom two wires very clearly - but when the pendant is hanging, you don't see it at all - so this is a real winner to me.

I was worried the frame would come off the pendant sides, (and it could) but so far I don't see any problems with it.  It seems to work really well with irregular shaped stones, like the turquoise in the first picture.

After a few successful pieces, I started searching through my bead soup to find other pieces to wrap and other ways to try this technique.  One other thing I've never tried is to wrap through the face of the stone instead of the sides.  I was pretty pleased with that too, although a single wire down the center was too simple for me, so I gave it a little twist with my round nose pliers to give it a curve.  I also tried wrapping a few times around the stone with a criss-cross.  Last, but not least, I tried a stack of stones using some lower quality prehnite.  

Overall - I think this is such an easy technique for stones that two wires will fit through.  A couple of things I haven't tried yet - but it's next on my list - is to add some beads or coils to the wire that I'm wrapping around the stone.  I'll post those results soon - so stay tuned!