Mar 212010

Just a few notes I wrote up for my Continuing Education students at Iowa Western Community College.  Copper is one of my favorite materials to use, and it’s great for practicing wire wrapping, because it’s softer and less expensive than sterling silver or other materials!

Copper is used as an alloy…sterling silver is 92.5% silver and 7.75% other metals, usually copper. This adds strength, but also causes the silver to tarnish more quickly.

Bronze is a metal made from combining copper with tin; brass is copper and zinc.

Copper will tarnish when exposed to oxygen. Make your copper new penny shiny again by using one of the following methods:

  • Polishing cloth – my favorite is Sunshine brand.
  • Tarnex – dip or wipe the piece, but use care if the piece has stones (no opal, turquoise, or other “soft” or porous stones). Rinse very thoroughly with clear water and dry.
  • Natural jewelry cleaner: 1/4c white vinegar, 1t salt. Put in a plastic container and shake to dissolve the salt. Add jewelry and stir around or shake gently. Rinse very thoroughly with clear water and dry.
  • Rub Ketchup on the piece using a soft cloth. Rinse thoroughly. – Combine lemon juice and salt and dip/rub on the piece. Rinse thoroughly.
  • Tumble in a rock tumbler with mixed stainless steel shot, water and burnishing compound (blue Dawn works well).


If you wear copper and it turns your skin green or black, your body chemical makeup has a high acid content. “Treat” your copper using a thin layer of Future floor wax, Renaissance Wax, or clear Krylon spray. Any treatment will wear off over time and will need to be reapplied.

If you have a higher alkaline content in your chemical makeup, you’ll naturally “shine” the copper that touches it!

Copper can be artificially tarnished (or antiqued) using chemicals or the natural sulfur found in hard boiled eggs. Tarnishing metal and then polishing the high points brings out the detail in wire wrapped and stamped pieces.

Verdigris is the green/blue patina that you see on copper outdoors (think of capital domes or garden decorations). Verdigris can be removed from copper, but like rust, it may have damaged the underlying surface.

You can buy copper wire at the hardware store.

Copper is alleged to have healing properties, especially for joint aches and arthritis.

Copper is probably the oldest metal mined and used by humans…when you wear copper, you are wearing a bit of history!

Nov 202009

As I finished up a batch of my Holly Jolly earrings this morning, I thought “geez, if people really knew what goes into these things…” and had a brainflash. What if I took a photo of all the materials and tools used to make them? I started gathering…..

Wow…for a cute and seemingly simple little pair of earrings, it’s amazing what it takes to make them! After I took the photo, I realized that I forgot a couple of things – a round nosed pliers, a punch pliers, 22g wire, and I didn’t include my tumbler.

Starting with the copper sheet I punch out the discs, then stamp them using letter stamps.  After stamping, holes are punched for the ear wire and dangle, then I carefully file the edges to remove any messy little bits.   A Sharpie marker is used on the stamping to accent it, then I use one of the little white polishing squares to clean off the excess Sharpie.

The discs are then domed, using the dapping tools.  I make all of my own head pins and ear wires, so at some point, I use my butane torch and 22g wire to make the headpins that hang the crystals.  After the dangles are complete, I use 20g wire to make the ear wires, hammering them just lightly.

Last step is to toss the earrings into the tumbler for a last polish and remove any excess burrs.

I’d love to hear what goes into YOUR handmade products…and the next time someone stops to look at your work, or asks about it, be sure to tell them about all the details that go into making handmade!

May 312009

Earlier this week, I wanted to order some copper watch faces.  I went to my trusty supplier, HHH Enterprises, but was disappointed at the selection and what was actually in-stock.  (Plus, I’ve always HATED their web site, it’s one of the worst I’ve ever encountered…)

Off to Google, where among other sites, I checked out JIT Enterprises for inexpensive watch faces.  They had a number of copper watch faces that I liked, and at $3.99 each, I couldn’t beat them!  (Not all watch faces are $3.99, but there are a lot that are in that range.)  Additionally, the site was easy to manuever, and I had no trouble with “out of stock” on the items I was looking for.

I placed my order on Thursday, hoping to get it in within a week so I could get some watches made up for an upcoming show.  A pleasant surprise in my mailbox today – Saturday – my order had arrived!!

The watch faces were good quality for the price (Geneva brand, same as HHH Enterprises), and while they didn’t ship with an extra battery (something HHH began doing a couple of years ago), there was a nice little stopper on the stem, so the watch doesn’t inadvertently get turned on before it’s purchased.

Good prices, user-friendly web site, nice product, fast shipping…all add up to an A+ from me.

May 252009

Thanks to my friend Vicki Cook, I’ve discovered fold forming…taking a sheet of metal and making lovely designs by annealing, folding, unfolding, tapping a bit with the hammer…and then starting all over again in another spot.

The results are really cool.  Of course, every piece is completely unique, and the possibilities are endless.  So far, I’ve made a couple of pendants, a pin, and two pairs of earrings.

If you are comfortable with a torch, it’s easy to get started.  Basic instructions are:

  1. Cut a small piece of 30g copper sheet.  About 1 1/2 to 2″ square is a good starting point.
  2. Anneal the copper sheet using a torch.  Wave the hottest part of the flame over the sheet slowly and evenly, watching for the color to change.  I anneal for about 30 seconds.
  3. Let the sheet cool slightly, then pick up with a pliers and quench in cool water.
  4. Here’s where the folding comes in…I use a small vise, placing the sheet in the jaws of the vise and folding to a 90° angle.  Remove the sheet from the vise, and continue to fold it over until both sides are folded against each other.
  5. Using a rawhide or rubber mallet, gently tap the crease until it is tight. (Think about when you crease paper with a fingernail so that you can tear it straight…same concept!)
  6. Open the fold from the back.  You may find it easier to use a thin piece of metal (Vicki suggests using an oyster knife, which I think is brilliant!) to unfold the piece.  I also use a pair of flat nosed nylon jaw pliers to pull the fold apart.
  7. Gently tap the crease and unfolded sheet on either side of the sheet.  You’ll want the fold to continue to be a bit convex, but the sides should flatten out.
  8. Repeat from Step 2, creating a fold in another spot.  Experiment with crossing the folds over each other – you’ll be amazed at the results!

Fold forming is a lot of fun, and after you’ve created a sheet, the possibilities are endless.  Sheets can be punched out with a disc to make circles, cut with a saw, or just drilled and hung from ear wires!

Apr 202009

Well, I’ve missed a few weeks, but wanted to share a couple of things I’ve worked on this week. First up, some citrine post earrings made with gold filled wire. I’m pretty happy with this design, which uses just one piece of wire for the entire piece, and is comfortable to wear. I’ll post a tutorial on how to make the “Knot Your Average Posts” earrings tomorrow.

Next up, a copper ring that was commissioned. This uses 18g wire, I start with about 9″ and tie a knot in the center and finish off the ends. Off to its new owner tomorrow.

Finally, a simple but very special bracelet using Stretch Magic and assorted beads. Years ago, I got a necklace from my grandmother that had these pretty blue beads in it. I tore it apart, and made bracelets for my mom, sister, daughter and niece…but never made up my own version of the Grammie Bracelet. I did mine up last week and will wear it to Bree’s wedding on Saturday. 🙂

Mar 212009

Been a busy couple of weeks here on the ranch…between traveling for Bree’s bridal showers, the Art & Soup show, and everyone in the family having their own version of The Plague, I haven’t had much time for blogging!

I’ll get caught up with “Everything from Weeks…” this weekend.

In the meantime, I thought I’d share one of my favorite tips on findings! For the last several years, I’ve been making my own headpins, ear wires, clasps and other basic findings. Rather than make a set of simple ear wires every time I make some earrings, or ball up a few headpins when I need them, I like to make in bulk and have on hand whenever I’m working on a project that requires those supplies.

Yesterday I made up 100 copper head pins…they’ll last me quite a while, so I may list some in my Etsy shop. Copper head pins take a little longer to ball up with a small butane torch than fine silver, but it is possible. Just make sure your torch has plenty of fuel and you turn the flame up pretty high.

I also made up 64 (32 pairs) ear wires while watching a movie last night. (Good Will Hunting, if you must know!) I can sit down with a beading mat, pliers, cutters and a spool of 22g half hard wire and feel like I’ve accomplished something!

For these “make in bulk” projects, I generally just make basic findings, nothing too fancy…but it’s always good to have plenty of basics on hand. When I find I’m getting low on findings, I’ll have a production day again!

Jan 262009

For some reason, today I decided I wanted to make a tiara.

I’ve never really been a tiara kind of girl, and I really don’t know what put it in my head. But there it was, and the little voice nagging just wouldn’t go away.

I googled “tiara making instructions” and came back with lots of ideas, but nothing that clicked for me. Also, most of the instructions required a tiara frame, and I didn’t have one. That nagging voice kept picking at my brain, saying “You have 14g copper wire, just use that!”

So I did.

I took about 18″ of 14g copper wire, and shaped it into a headband. Hammered the heck out of it to make it keep it’s shape. Now I had a tiara frame of sorts.

Now I needed to do some decorating…again using copper wire (this was a prototype!), I made three hearts and two swirls out of 18g wire for the centerpiece. After doing a little more hammering on each one separately, I started binding them together using 26g copper wire. At each join, I added a 6mm clear Czech bicone, which gave it some sparkle.

Next up, bind the centerpiece to the frame. I used 20g wire this time – it’s more sturdy than the 26g, but is still fairly easy to wrap. I started in the middle of the decorative part, being careful to keep it in the center of the frame. I wrapped one side first, added a final bead, and wrapped the tail to the last swirl. Time to wrap the other side to the frame, add a bead, and complete the final wrap.

Voila! I now have a tiara fit for a Queen. I’m wearing my tiara around the house tonite to see if it gets me any respect (not so far, LOL) and have decided I am now a tiara-wearing kind of girl. I will definitely do another version, perhaps using a different style centerpiece…this was a fun project!

Jan 242009

Busy week…I accomplished a LOT!

First up, earrings to accompany already created necklaces.

Citrine and Sterling


“Ruby Jade” Hearts

Labradorite and Sterling complements my Lab Works necklace.

Copper Swirls.

And finally, a chunk of amethyst crystals that just begged to be wrapped. Believe it or not, this is so snug, the stone is not going anywhere despite the open appearance. I really think it showcases the crystals nicely.

All of these pieces are being created for the Art & Soup show next month…I’m very excited about this show and hope it is successful!

Jan 042009

One of my goals for 2009 (oops…I need to post those, don’t I?!) is to be more consistent in taking photos of my work and posting it on my Etsy site. On one of the jewelry message boards I frequent, there is a member who posted “Everything from Week ##” throughout 2008, and I thought it was a great way to journal a year’s worth of work.

So look for “Everything from Week ##” from me, beginning this week.

Up first is a wire woven pendant using some yummy iolite stones (tiny, tiny things…I fell in love with them when I saw them!) and freshwater pearls. The style is taken from an Eni Oken tutorial that I picked up a couple of years ago. I tend to stress about what to do with pendants…I’m not fond of most 100% beaded necklaces with a pendant – I think they take away from the focal – but sometimes I really like to have something that’s finished, not just a pendant for someone to hang on a chain.

I like the way this finished up, with the addition of some iolite and pearl eyepins to a light chain I purchased in bulk from Fire Mountain Gems.

A work-in-progress this week is the chain for a copper pendant that I also made this week. The pendant was created from 14g, 16g, and 26g copper wire – I call it “A Song in My Heart”. I was inspired by Eni’s Jewelry Lessons site challenge for Valentine’s Day…still going to work on the design a bit before submitting.

The chain is a tiny, tiny version of the Jens Pind Linkage weave. I had a hard time getting this weave down, and when I finally did, it was one of those epiphany moments of “Cheese and crackers…what did I think was so darn hard about THAT?!” It’s classified as micro-maille (3/32″ 20g rings), and I can only do a couple of inches at a time before my eyes start to cross.

So, at the end of the first week of 2009, I’m pretty pleased with what I’ve accomplished. Join me in the challenge of posting your weekly jewelry making!!

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