Marika is a bookaholic who makes handcrafted silver jewelry in her spare time.
Tools You Need to Make Wire Wrapped Jewelry for Yourself or to Sell
When you're starting out making 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.
You'll Accumulate More Tools Over Time
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 more things. 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 on to 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 are copyrighted by 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 stripping 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 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 figure out that this is the type of jewelry you will want to make as a hobby or maybe as a 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 you 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.
Wire: You Can't Wire Wrap Without It
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 drain. 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 of making wire-wrapped jewelry using copper is that this material is quite trendy these days. 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 detail about 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.
Wire 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). I will discuss them briefly below.
I find chain-nose pliers just as indispensable as 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 make great loops. Also, they're great for flattening wire ends and wrapping the 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 had 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.
If I had to buy a new set of chain-nose pliers, which ones will I go for? Well, the Wubbers, of course, no doubt about it!
I love the flat-nose pliers that I have, and I have more than one pair, of course. Now there are two main types here—the ones with 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.
This is another jewelry tool that I can't be without when making wire-wrapped jewelry. I use these pliers especially to flatten the ends of the wrapping wire, and when I am making a wrapped loop, the bent part is perfect for turning around in your hands. I find them simply necessary, and I couldn't be without them.
I currently have three pairs, but I find myself grabbing over and over again the Wubbers (on the left) and the Lindstrom ones (on the right). 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.
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
There are many other tools that will come in handy for making your wire wrap jewelry.
Hammers and Mallets
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 hammers 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 rawhide 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!
Hammered Silver Jewelry
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 the 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 has 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 tumbler, which I use even now, after more than five 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 and tool scratch marks and polish your piece.
However, as a 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.
Other Helpful (but Not Necessary) Tools
These tools are really helpful for making jewelry, but you won't necessarily need them when you're just starting out.
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 three 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!
Are you a jewelry crafter?
Feel free to comment what type of jewelry you're making if you are a crafty person.
© 2013 Marika
Do You Have Additional Tools For Wire Wrapping Jewelry That You Are Using?
D.Bradford@counsellor.com on September 01, 2019:
Nice. I have a crystal that I am learning to wire wrap.
Saadia on November 16, 2018:
Hi do you sell the tools? I would like to purchase them and ifyou dont sell them can you please give me a reference to where i can buy these. Thanks
Enejeta on March 20, 2017:
Great explanations, l have never seen this before .l only have a cutter and a round nose.l am really happy to see more tools and their uses.God bless u.But are there videos for wire wrapping? l will like to have one.Am just a beginner to wire work, and l love the wire wrapping so much
Larry Rankin from Oklahoma on July 28, 2015:
Looks like a cool skill set. Great hub.
Margaret Schindel from Massachusetts on February 22, 2014:
I only do wire wrapping for making wrapped loops and cagework beading (beads hand-embroidered with very fine gauge wire onto filigree stampings, a la Miriam Haskell), but I use and love a lot of the same tools you do for beading and metalsmithing, including a full range of pliers and both Xuron and Lindstrom flush cutters. And love my small, classic round-nose Wubbers pliers and I, too, use a fish hook sharpener for wire ends! The only tool you mentioned that I haven't tried yet is the texturing hammer, and that's definitely in my future. ;) You've put together a really terrific resource here that I've bookmarked to share with others! :)
johnson-mikeee on October 30, 2013:
I'm into pearl jewelries but I haven't tried wire wrapping yet, for wrapping jewelry and gifts ! im using
Fetpak.com they have a huge collections of wrapping material
LauraCarExpert on April 29, 2013:
The videos are very helpful!
Cynthia Haltom from Diamondhead on April 19, 2013:
A lot of the same tools are used in dentistry.
Splodgered on April 13, 2013:
loved the examples of your jewelry
DuaneJ on April 12, 2013:
great ideas for wrapping jewelry!
topbuilderlist on April 12, 2013:
I tried this one before and its really fun.
getmoreinfo on April 12, 2013:
This is a great resource for learning which tools are going to be best for wire wrapping jewelry.
BarbaraCasey on April 12, 2013:
I really like the look of wire wrapped jewelry... now I can see how the costs add up. Great explanations for the tools.
Maribel Taleghani Asl from Philippines on April 12, 2013:
I'm into pearl jewelries but I haven't tried wire wrapping yet. Your outputs are truly amazing! It's inspiring me to buy and complete my tools. I'll put this in my list once I get home to my country. I have the pliers and cutters already.
WriterJanis2 on April 11, 2013:
What a wonderful job you've done explaining this.
Lorelei Cohen from Canada on April 10, 2013:
My younger sister had done some beautiful wire wrapped pieces. It really amazes me how very crafty some people are.
mcspocky lm on April 10, 2013:
I didn't even know about this kind of jewelry... Pretty cool!
MaggiePowell on April 10, 2013:
Like you, I'm a hoarder.... boxes full of wire, tools, beads, books, hammers, etc..... all I need is time.
burntchestnut on April 10, 2013:
I like how you described each of the tools and gave their use. i have friends who make jewelry - maybe I will do it some day.
Fit And Fab on April 10, 2013:
This looks like an interesting hobby (or business for some). I would never had known about the equipment. Great lens.
Camden1 on April 10, 2013:
I've never made wire wrapped jewelry before, but if I thought I could make anything half as beautiful as yours, I would certainly give it a try. I especially love your silver heart pendant!