Nov 132009
 

I love working with wire…the challenge to take something so ordinary as a simple piece of wire and turn it into something spectacular is so much fun!

I prefer using my pliers to a WigJig type tool, and had long ago graduated from using round-nosed pliers to make my loops to using stepped pliers.  My favorite pliers had three steps, and were terrific for making consistent loops, bends and curves!

About 6 months ago, I wanted to “step up” my stepped pliers, and ordered a pair that had SIX different sized jaws.  I instantly fell in love…I could go from teeny tiny loops to large loops just by flipping around a single pliers!

These guys are perfect for making ear wires, just use one of the two smaller sized jaws for the loop to hang your components from, and then the larger sized jaws for the shepherd’s hook that goes through your piercing.

I have to say that I love these pliers so much that I decided to become a distributor for a tool company (Euro Tool) that sells them.  I recommend these pliers to students in my Continuing Education classes, fellow jewelry makers, and jewelry forum friends.

Link It! Book Review and Project Results

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May 252009
 

I recently received Link It! (Susan C. Thomas) as a gift from my daughter, along with a great bracelet she created using one of the project tutorials in the book.  Link It! uses stretchy rubber or neoprene rings with metal rings to create colorful and unique chainmaille designs.

I was instantly intrigued…I’d made “stretchy” maille bracelets before, but nothing like the projects in the book.  My previous projects had been mainly metal with some rubber tossed in for stretchability…Thomas’s projects were mainly stretch rings!

The book starts out with some basic techniques, including tools and supplies needed to complete the projects in the book.  Basic techniques include how to make the “elements” that comprise the great looking jewelry pictured in the book.  Also included in the book are lists of suggested suppliers (I use Fire Mountain Gems to purchase rubber rings.)

Speaking of pictures, the photos in Link It! are great.  Colors used by the author for the various projects are imaginative, and you’ll be tempted to go out and buy hundreds of colored rubber and aluminum rings.

I have to admit, being an experienced chainmailler, I thought making the projects in Link It! would be a piece of cake.  However, this is *not* your average maille, and it’s more challenging than I expected!

I did find Thomas’s instructions somewhat difficult to follow, even with colorful pictures to accompany the text.  My daughter said she had the same problem, but was able to figure out the patterns between the picture of the finished project and the directions.

Regardless, I recommend Link It! as a starting point for making jewelry using these techniques.  I quickly moved from creating pieces using Thomas’s patterns to making up my own, like Black and Blue, and Rubber and Road (green, black and copper) men’s bracelets.  Jewelry inspired by Link It! is great for anyone – men, women, teens – and no clasp is needed!

Apr 152009
 

I love doing micro maille…little tiny chainmaille using little tiny rings. My regular Wubbers do the trick, but I’d been wanting to pick up some of the Baby Wubbers that I’d seen on WiredUpBeads.com.

Working on a recent project, I finally decided it was time to bite the bullet and just order a set. (For the record, I ordered the “chainmaille” set – one flat nosed, one chain nose, one bent nose.) I did my normal “are they here yet” dance for a couple of days, stalked the UPS guy, and came home one day to find a nice sized box that I suspected contained my new pliers.

Opened the plain brown box (LOL, that way no one knows about my addiction to tools!) and found pretty teal, purple and white tissue paper (that I can recycle 😀 ) enveloping my purchase.

Baby Wubbers! Patti and Trudy even included a personal note and a freebie with my cute little pliers and their handy stand. Even though I didn’t really have a lot of time (I had an engagement that evening and barely had enough time to make dinner for the guys and run out the door), I went to the studio and worked on my project (Jens Pind Linkage using 20g 3/32″ rings…miniscule!!!) for a few minutes.

The Baby Wubs were perfect for getting those tiny rings open and shut, and getting them in the right position for the weave! I think I got more done in 15 minutes that night than I had in previous evenings and with considerably less frustration.

My only wish is that the handles were longer. I love the tiny tips and padded handles, but they are shorter than the regular sized Wubbers. Having longer handles might make them even more ergonomic.

But the Baby Wubs are getting some major loving from Beading Help Web. I still love my “grown up” Wubber pliers, but they will be reserved for “big wire” projects.

Jul 192008
 

Yesterday, I posted photos of making headpins. It’s really quite an easy process, and sort of fun (DH thinks that I’m goofy to think it’s fun, but I’m easily amused….)

You’ll need:
Fine silver wire (I use 22g for most headpins)
Cutting pliers
Heat-resistant pliers
Butane torch (get them at any hardware store, just the little one!)

Clean and straighten wire using a polishing cloth.

Cut several lengths of wire in approximately the same length – I like to cut about 2″. It seems to be about the right length to give me enough wire to work with after I’ve “balled up” the end, without too much waste. I generally do at least 2 dozen headpins in one sitting…since it takes very little time, I will even go up to 100.

Prepare your working area.
Keep safety in mind – tie back hair, wear clothing that won’t accidently fall into the flame, protect your eyes, and have some water nearby!
You’ll also want to have a small cup of clean, cool water to quench the headpins in after they’ve been torched.
I have a firebrick under my work area, just in case I drop a headpin or heaven forbid, the torch falls over.

Time to get started.
Once you are ready, go ahead and turn on the torch, using the setting to keep it running hands-free.

Using the heat-resistent pliers or tweezers, hold one headpin by the end. Place the opposite end directly in the flame, just at the tip of the blue part of the flame.

Very quickly, the wire will start to glow – don’t blink! You’ll see a tiny ball start to form at the end, and it will begin “chasing” down the length of the wire. When it’s the size of a small BB, remove the pin from the flame, and immediately drop in the cup of water.

Continue until you’ve done all the headpins…I hold about 6 in my left hand, sort of fanned out so that I can grab one as soon as I’m ready for it. Less butane wasted when you can move quickly from one headpin to the next!

Make them Superman Strong!!
After quenching, you’ll need to strengthen your headpins – they will be very soft (too soft!) after being annealed in the flame. I toss mine in the tumbler with stainless steel shot, water, and blue Dawn dishwashing liquid overnight. After removing from the tumbler, I straighten using a nylon-jawed pliers (hold just above the ball with a chain-nosed pliers, pull the rest of the headpin through the nylon ones). If you don’t have a tumbler, just pull through the pliers several times.

You now have some *fine* headpins!!!

Mar 172008
 
Crimps

Crimps

Sticking with the basics, you’ve made a Stretchy Bracelet and you’re ready to move on to the next step: bracelets with a clasp. The first question many beginning beaders ask is “How do I hold the clasp on the bracelet? Knots? Glue? Special tools?”

The answer is easy: Crimps! Crimps are very tiny and thin beads that are specially designed to hold clasps of all kinds on the ends of jewelry. No glue or knotting needed, and you can get by with just a normal needle nosed pliers from the household tool box to start.

If you want to create the perfect crimp, you’ll need a crimping pliers. It takes some practice (as I tell my students…I’ve been making crimps for years!), don’t be disappointed if yours doesn’t look perfect the first time.

So pull out your beading board, gather some pretty beads, and get ready to make your first clasp bracelet. Once you’ve made a bracelet, making a necklace or anklet is super easy…just make it longer!

 

Feb 272008
 

…will be posted right here tomorrow!

The theme this month is “Luck” and I counted myself lucky in getting my project completed early so I didn’t have to rush at the end. 😉

So grab some 24g copper sheet, metal stamping supplies, wire, beads and pliers, and be on stand by for the step-by-step instructions. Plus, I’ll have links to all the other talented Ornament Thursday gals’ blog entries…the sneak peeks I’ve seen today have been fantabulous!!!