Basic Tools for Wire Wrapping Jewelry
Tools You Need To Make Wire Wrapped Jewelry For Yourself Or To Sell
When you're starting our to make your own jewelry, you will need a few basic tools for wire wrapping jewelry, especially if this particular technique is something you want to get into. While the entry level is very low in terms of what tools you need, there are no two ways about it: you do need a few things to get going.
The good thing is that you don't need much. Of course as you progress with your jewelry making skills, you will accumulate tons and tons of tools, as I've done over the years as well. You want to learn more techniques, get more creative, learn different ways to wrap the wire, and you will get a few things more. Or maybe one or the other company has just come out with yet another set of round nose pliers that will help you make that basic loop so much easier and so much rounder.
I've been making jewelry for the last 10 years, and while I started with beading using seed beads, I soon went onto learning wire wrapping and I never looked back. Right now I'm learning beginning metalsmithing, but wire wrapping is something that I will always incorporate in most of the jewelry I'm making.
Have fun browsing and don't get discouraged by seeing all the tools I have amassed - you don't need that much to get started!
Copyright note: all images copyright kislany. Please do not lift or use without permission.
Basic Wire Wrapping Tools - A Quick Overview
I have many wire wrapping tools to make jewelry, so when it came to strip them down to the basics, I had a rather tough time - I use pretty much everything I have and I consider them all indispensable.
However I went back in time to when I started with making jewelry and I remembered what I needed without which wire wrapping simply wouldn't work. And this is the list that I came up with.
Further down you will find additional tools you will need down the road once you figured out that this is the type of jewelry you will want to make as hobby or maybe as business at some point. I have many jewelry making books at home, and I linked here to an article I wrote about some of the best books I found over the years.
And if are interested, you can check a few jewelry pieces I made using wire wrapping in the last section of this page.
- First of all you need wire. Without wire there is nothing to wrap. When you're just starting out, copper wire is the best to use, and I'll explain further down why. Later on you can also use sterling silver wire, once you're ready to start selling your work.
- Pliers. One can never have enough pliers for wrapping. However for starting out you will need at least some round nose pliers and chain nose pliers.
- Cutters. You need to cut the wire flush, and a knife or a pair of scissors is not what you want here.
- Hammers and mallets. At least a rawhide mallet to strengthen your base frame wire.
- A ruler so you can accurately measure the wire that you need to cut for your piece.
- A Sharpie pen, or something else to mark the wire with for cutting or bending.
- A ring mandrel if you want to make rings - it's indispensable
- A bracelet mandrel for making bracelets, preferably oval, but round will also work.
- Files or sandpaper to smoothen down the sharp ends of your cut wire.
I love this bare copper wire spool. It is 20 gauge, which is perfect for wire wrapping.
You Can't Wire Wrap Without Wire
When you start making jewelry with wire, you won't want to go with sterling silver right away as it is awfully expensive and let's face it, initially you're just learning. You can do wonderful things with simple craft wire (personally I don't like it too much, granted, but many people do), or bare copper wire, which is my favorite type.
Copper is much cheaper than precious metals like sterling silver, and if you screw up your piece in any way, you won't suffer in terms of dollars down the drains. You can find copper wire in many gauges (wire thicknesses) and the thick wires are great for frames, while the thin wires are perfect for wrapping. I love copper wire jewelry!
Another aspect to making wire wrapped jewelry using copper is that this material is quite trendy these day. I see a lot of women walking around with copper bracelets and even pendants.
Another type of jewelry I make with copper is called chain maille, and this type is a real winner as well.
Copper has various health properties which I don't want to go into details as I am no doctor, however by looking online a bit you will find plenty of information about it. People with arthritis, for example, swear by the healing energy of copper.
So overall copper is a great all around material to make jewelry with, be it wire wrapping, chain maille or even metalsmithing.
I Know. I'm A Hoarder. Sigh
Wire Wrapping Pliers
Round Nose Pliers, Wrapping Pliers
When it comes to jewelry making pliers for wire wrapping, the choices are endless - pretty much. There are so many great companies that make high quality, durable and long lasting pliers, that sometimes it's difficult to choose - and the more you speak with people, the more you'll see that everyone has their favorites.
For example in the image above you can see several round nose pliers that I've accumulated over time. I'm certain that I have more, but this is what I found on the quick to take a picture of. But I think you get the idea.
So which brand is my current favorite? Having tried several brands, personally I like the Wubbers best. Ever since I bought the whole range of Wubbers, I find myself using other pliers less and less. (the two Wubbers round nose pliers I have are highlighted with the red arrow below it). Will discuss them briefly below.
Video Demonstrating How To Make Loops With The Wubbers Looping Pliers
Chain Nose Pliers
I find chain nose pliers just as indispensable as the round nose pliers for jewelry making. If you use the regular round nose pliers (and not the multi-step looping pliers), you will need the chain nose ones to help making great loops. Also they're great to flatten wire ends and wrap wire around the loop. You'll find several other uses for it as well.
While I have a great selection of chain nose pliers at home, for some reason the very first pair I got many years ago served me well, and I didn't feel the need to buy a new one. The red pliers above are what I have for over 10 years now.
Note: when you buy chain nose pliers make sure the inside part is smooth and not grooved like those you buy at the hardware store as those will not be useful in wire wrapping at all.
Flat Nose Pliers
I love the flat nose pliers that I have - and I have more then one pair, of course. Now there are two main types here - the ones with the larger jaws and the thinner ones.
If you look at the image above, I have the two Wubbers (the two blue on the left side - think and regular size) and I have some others as well. The pliers on the right side have a plastic head on them, and this is perfect when you want to straighten the wire without marring them with the pliers. The second blue/black from the right are my trusted Lindstrom.
I use them for wire wrapping and chain maille as well. Now they're a bit more expensive than other brands, but they're 100% worth getting. The quality of these pliers is pretty much unmatched.
Bent Nose Pliers
This is another jewelry tool that I can't be without when making wire wrapped jewelry. I use these pliers especially to flatten ends of wrapping wire, and when I am making a wrapped loop, the bent part are perfect for turning around in your hands. I find them simply necessary and I couldn't be without them.
I have currently 3 pairs, but I find myself grabbing over and over again the Wubbers (on the left) and the Lindstrom ones (on the righ). The ones in the middle are also good, they're from Beadalon, but I don't like their handle these days so much, I find they're not so ergonomic and comfortable for holding them for long. I do prefer my Lindstrom and Wubbers for wire work.
Flush Cutters - A Must
Now these are not pliers, but I add them here because they look similar to the others, with two handles and all. Except they have a very different purpose: to cut your wire to the desired length. You simply can't work without them, so when you're stocking up on jewelry making tools, make sure you get one of these as well.
The cutters on the left are Xuron brand, and on the right are some no-name brand cutters that I've been using for several years. I bought these yellow pliers in the hardware store many years ago,but these days you can get quality flush cutters made especially for jewelry.
Flush Cutters For Making Wire Wrapped Jewelry
I have these Xuron flush cutters and I like them as they are flush on both ends.
Very easy to use and these cutters are not expensive either.
Why Should The Cutters Be FLUSH?
When you buy your cutters, make sure they're flush on one end. This means that one side is flat, so that when you cut your wire, you won't end up with burrs and sticky points. You need to cut the wire against the flat side to have a nice end that won't scratch the skin on contact.
Other Basic Tools For Wire Wrapping Jewelry
Hammers And Mallets
Hammers And Mallets Used For Making Jewelry
A rawhide hammer is pretty much a must when it comes to making jewelry with wire or metal sheet. The reason is because you can work harden or straighten your wire without marring the piece or without deforming its shape. If you don't have a raw hide mallet, you can also use a plastic mallet, a rubber mallet (like the second piece in my photo above, from the right) or the wooden end of a simple kitchen meat hammer.
Hammers are quite the necessary tools when making jewelry because they allow you to do several things in the process: very useful for shaping the wire, for work-hardening it and flattening it. I have several hammers that I use for wire wrapping and metalsmithing purposes, and the truth is, one can never have enough hammers, and just like me, you will find a use for each and any of them.
Besides the regular ones, there are also special types of hammes and mallets made for jewelry. If you don't have any, don't worry, you can always check around the house to see what you have and can use, at least initially until funds are available for purchases.
For example in the photo above, the last hammer on the right is actually one that I found in my kitchen after some cursory scavenging in my drawers. It has a wooden flat end and a metal one that I initially bought - but never used - for meat.
Thus when you don't have a raw hide or plastic mallet to start with, your kitchen can be a great source to check for useful tools. Once you use a mallet for your jewelry, don't ever put it back in your kitchen - buy a new one for preparing food!
Silver Earrings Formed With Hammers
Here is an earring that I made using only hammers and nothing much else (except a punch to make a small hole in one end). I only have one earring done so far, it's still a work in progress, but you can see here the result already.
While this jewelry piece is not made with wire wrapping technique, it has been made with wire and a few hammers, nothing else. Very easy and fun to make.
This is a piece of 1.5mm sterling silver wire (I think it's 14 gauge) which as been flattened with the flat end of the chasing hammer, then brought to the fun shape with the ball peen end of the chasing hammer and then added texture to it with the texturing hammer. You can see the ends are still a bit rough around, so I need to file them...which brings me to the next set of tools for polishing your jewelry.
Files, Sandpaper And Other Polishing Tools
Each piece of jewelry you make with metal, be it sheet or wire, will need to be polished for a smooth surface and to file away the rough ends and edges. Not everyone likes this final jewelry making stage, but there is just no way around it, it has to be done.
There are different tools for finishing your jewelry, and I'll show you some that I have and use.
The first tool I bought was a Lortone tumnbler, on that I use even now, after more than 5 years since I bought it. If you have the money to buy it, it is the perfect tool to not only harden your jewelry piece, but also eliminate some burrs, tool scratch marks and polish your piece.
However as starter, you can get by with simple files (I have a whole range of them in several sizes and shapes), sandpapers in various grits and a very cheap steel wool (grade 00), which you can find pretty much anywhere including well stocked supermarkets or home depot style stores.
Tool Tip: Lansky Fish Hook Sharpener
So what exactly does a fish hook sharpener have to do with jewelry? Well, in one of the jewelry groups somebody mentioned it as being great for filing the wire (silver and copper) ends so they don't have that sticky point after cutting it.
You might even have it at home if you have somebody around who loves fishing. Anyway I love it and I find myself using it over and over again for several different wire gauges. Here's a tool that has a different purpose - used with jewelry.
How I'm Sharpening The Wire End With The Lansky Fish Hook Sharpener
Other Tools That Are Good To Have
...but not necessary initially
My Donegan Optivisors With The Two Extra Replaceable Lenses
Donegan Optivisors - I Couldn't Be Without Them!
This is not something that every jeweler will need right away, but if you have problems with your eye sights (maybe you've been sitting too much at the computer, or simply you're not as young as you used to be), you will find them indispensable, as I do.
The Optivisors come with various replaceable lenses with different dioptries (I have 3 different sizes, 2, 3 and 4), and the stronger the dioptry number, the closer you will hold the piece to you.
For example I use number 4 for close-up work in wire working and chain maille, and number 2 when I do other work such as soldering my jewelry, as I do want to see what I'm doing, but i don't want to be so close to it that I light my hair on the fire!
If You're Not Sure Which Optivisor Is For You, Check Out This Video
Here are the various optivisor dioptries explained and which one to choose based on your needs.
My Collection Of Jewelry Making Books
Are You A Jewelry Crafter?
Feel free to comment what type of jewelry you're making if you are a crafty person.
Are You Making Any Kind Of Jewelry?
© 2013 Marika