Generic Step-by-Step Approach
Free jewelry making instructions on the basic step-by-step approach to making a jewelry wire component with a WigJig jewelry making tool:
The steps involved in starting a jewelry making project are essentially the same for every project. From an overview perspective the first thing you need to do is to make your jewelry wire components out of practice wire. While making your components out of practice wire you need to learn how much wire is required to make the components so that when you get ready to use your good wire, you will be able to cut the correct length of wire on your first try. In general, with every jewelry making project, you will cut your wire, measure the wire, make a loop in the end of the wire, hold this loop and straighten your wire, and then make your wire component starting with just two pegs in your jig and adding pegs as you go. When you have completed wrapping your wire on your jig then you need to cut the excess wire and measure how much excess wire you have. Your goal should be to have 1/2 inch of wire left over as scrap when you are done. Here are the steps involved.
Jewelry Making Supplies Required:
• Several inches of 20 gauge jewelry wire (for beginners)
Jewelry Making Tools Required:
• Nylon Jaw Pliers
• Flush Cutter
• Round Nose Pliers
• Bent chain Nose Pliers
• WigJig jewelry making tool
Jewelry Making Skills Required:
• Ability to cut jewelry wire using the flush cutter jewelry tool.
• Ability to straighten jewelry wire using the nylon jaw pliers jewelry tool.
• Ability to make a loop in jewelry wire using the round nose pliers jewelry tool.
• Ability to close a loop in jewelry wire using chain nose or bent chain nose pliers jewelry tool.
• Ability to make a jewelry wire component using Wigjig jewelry tools (described below).
Step-by-step instructions for making jewelry wire components using the above set of jewelry tools:
Step 1: Cut a length of practice wire that you estimate will be 1-2 inches longer than you need.
Step 2: Measure this length of wire and record the length.
Step 3: Make a loop in one end of this wire using your round nose pliers or Fine Step Jaw Pliers. (We prefer the Fine Step Jaw Pliers for making initial loops because the first step gives us a loop the size of the metal pegs for the WigJig Delphi, Cyclops or Centaur and the second step gives us a loop the size of the metal pegs for the Olympus, Olympus-Lite or Electra.)
When making your loop, be sure to use the end of your wire with the flush cut and not the end with the sharp end. Please visit our instructions on cutting wire if you aren't certain which end of your wire to use. If both ends of your wire are sharp, cut one end off about 1/4" from the end being certain to leave the flush side of the cut on the piece of wire you plan to use. For many people it may be a good idea to cut both ends of the wire off flush to avoid possibly cutting yourself on the sharp end of the wire. (If I were smart, this practice would save me a lot of money on Band Aids for my thumb.)
Step 4: Now, while holding your wire by the loop you just made, pull the wire through the jaws of your nylon jaw pliers several times until it is straight.
Step 5: At this point our practice wire is ready to be shaped on our WigJig jewelry tool. Start with just pegs 1 and 2 from your pattern. Leave all the other pegs off the jewelry making jig, out of your way. Place the initial loop that you made in Step 3 onto peg 1 and shape the wire against peg 2 in the pattern on your WigJig jewelry tool. Push the jewelry wire far enough that the wire will rest immediately next to the empty hole waiting for peg 3 with no pressure on the wire. This is important. Release your grip on the jewelry wire to test if the wire has been pushed far enough. When the jewelry wire stays where you want it to, you have pushed it far enough
One important concept is that the unused jewelry wire must remain straight. The technique that seems to work best for us is to position your index finger on your dominant hand to push and guide the wire while you move/twist the jewelry making jig to cause the jewelry wire to be bent against peg 2 with your non-dominant hand. Holding the wire with the finger tip of your index finger as close to peg 2 as possible while pushing the wire will help to keep the wire straight. Please note that the jewelry wire is about 1/2 way up the peg on the jewelry making jig. You don't need to push the jewelry wire against the surface of the WigJig jewelry tool and since you paid for all of the pegs so you might as well use all of them. Remember to PUSH THE WIRE with just one finger touching the jewelry wire. Pulling the jewelry wire by grasping it in two fingers will introduce bends in the wire and won't work as well. If the jewelry wire gets bent at the wrong location, remove it from the WigJig jewelry tool and straighten the bend with your nylon jaw pliers, then replace the wire on the jewelry making jig.
If you can master the above 5 steps, making jewelry wire components on a jewelry making jig will be easy. These steps are appropriate for soft, 1/2 hard or even hard wire. Remember, you are not done pushing the jewelry wire until the wire rests immediately adjacent to the empty hole for the next peg with no pressure on the wire. Please select here to view our free, 6 1/2 minute jewelry making video on the above five steps. This video requires Windows Media Player on your computer and is a very large file (32M) so it will take a while to download. Please have patience, we think you will find that the video is worth it. We also suggest that after you download this video, that you save this video to your computer so that you can view it more than once. This can be done using the "File" drop down menu and the "Save Media As" command in Windows Media Player. You can also view this video on You Tube here. The video should download and start faster from You Tube, but will be slightly lower quality. Finally, for those of you with a slow Internet connect, if you have the latest version of the Real Media player, you can download this video as a Real Media file here. This is a 13M file.
Step 6 and Beyond: Making your jewelry wire component continues by adding a single peg to your pattern and bending your jewelry wire against this new peg, leaving the wire adjacent to the empty hole for the next peg in the pattern with your hands removed from the wire. Continue adding one peg at a time until you have all the pegs in your pattern.
Final Step on jewelry making jig: When you have added the last peg to the pattern and wrapped the jewelry wire against this peg as required, you are ready to remove the wire from the WigJig jewelry tool. If you have done this correctly, when you remove the jewelry wire from the jewelry making jig, it will remain in the shape set by your pattern. If you haven't done this correctly your jewelry wire might spring into a new shape. If you get the new shape, start over and remember that you need to push the wire then release your grip on the jewelry wire to test to see if you pushed it far enough, then push some more if necessary until the wire stays where it is supposed to with no pressure on the wire. Now you are ready to cut the excess wire. Using your flush cutters, with the flat side of the cutter toward the finished piece, cut the excess jewelry wire and using your bent chain nose pliers close the final loop.
At this point we need to measure how much excess practice wire we just cut off. If you have only 1/2", your length of wire is perfect. If you have significantly more, adjust your length of wire for your next piece so that when you are done you have only 1/2" of excess wire. It is important when using your practice wire to learn how much wire to cut. When you graduate to your good wire, you should have only 1/2" excess wire.
In general, it is a good idea to make at least three of your wire components out of practice wire before starting to use your good wire. If the last component comes out perfectly, you are ready to use your good wire. If they don't come out perfect you need to make a few more practice pieces. We frequently make as many as 7 pieces out of practice wire as we perfect our approach to making a new design. When you can consistently make your wire components with practice wire then you are ready to begin using your good wire. Please note that for many designs, it may actually be easier to make the design in your good wire. Practice wire is almost universally soft wire. Wire components that do not include a spiral are often easier to make in 1/2 hard wire. Frequently we find that it is easier to be consistent when making your wire components with 1/2 hard gold, gold-filled or sterling silver wire rather than your soft practice wire. In the following paragraphs we will discuss how to finish wire components after the wire has been removed from your jig.
Step-by-step instructions for making jewelry wire components using the above set of jewelry tools:
The steps involved in making a jewelry wire component on one of our WigJig jewelry making tools are relatively consistent regardless of the piece you are making. They are simply 1. cut a piece of jewelry wire the appropriate length, 2. make a loop in one end of this jewelry wire, 3. straighten the jewelry wire. 4. wrap the wire around the pattern of pegs on your WigJig jewelry tool, 5. remove the jewelry wire from your jewelry making jig and cut the excess wire then close the final loop, and 6. finish the piece and set the design by hardening/flattening the piece. The technique that we will discuss in the below paragraphs is step 6, finishing the piece. After you remove a jewelry wire component made on one of our WigJig jewelry tools and cut the excess wire, you will find that the piece is not quite ready for prime time. The piece will be slightly three dimensional. The next step is to flatten the piece. This step is necessary because it is very difficult to push the jewelry wire all the way down while you are wrapping it around the pegs on your jewelry making jig. In fact, with your fingers alone, it is almost impossible to make a piece that will come off your WigJig jewelry tool and be perfectly flat. What is required is a jewelry tool to help you flatten the wire component. The tool that we recommend is nylon jaw pliers.
After removing a wire component from one of our WigJig jewelry tools and cutting the excess wire, we always flatten the jewelry wire component by squeezing it in the jaws of our nylon jaw pliers. The leverage provided by the jaws of the pliers allows you to flatten the wire, where your fingers alone could not. Unfortunately, for us this is as automatic as breathing out after you breathe in. For this reason, sometimes in our instructions we fail to mention this requirement. Please know that for almost every jewelry wire component, this step is necessary even if we don't mention it in our instructions. The process is very simple, place the jewelry wire component in the jaws of your nylon jaw pliers and squeeze firmly with the wire held in several different orientations in the jaws of your pliers. You will notice that the piece will become flatter and more stiff.
With some pieces a little more finishing will be required. After removing the jewelry wire from your nylon jaw pliers you may need to "hand finish" your piece. This means that you view the piece and manipulate it by hand so that it is positioned properly. Rarely you may even need to use your pliers to help you with hand finishing. The pliers can help you to grip a loop of jewelry wire and manipulate it, where your fingers alone would not be able to get a firm enough grip. The proper way to perform hand finishing with your pliers is to insert your round nose into the loop as far as they will go, then grip lightly with the pliers, pushing or pulling the loop into position. Step Jaw Pliers may also be used and will generally result in fewer marks on your wire component. You are done with the hand finishing when the piece appears the way you want it to.
In the next paragraphs, we will discuss what to do when you are making a new design instead of following our instructions for an existing design.
What to do when making a new jewelry design:
Invariably, when making a new design, your first attempt won't work exactly the way you wanted. You will find that it isn't exactly what you had in mind when you thought up your new design. This happens to us every time we make a new design. At this point you can do one of three things. 1. you can get frustrated and quit, or 2. you can scream for help, or 3. you can try again. If you are the type of person who frequently selects option 1, then making new jewelry designs is not for you. You should probably stick to following our instructions for existing designs here because we try to document the best way to make each jewelry design. If you are the type of person who selects option 2, please don't call us. We will respond to email questions, but our answers are going to be something like this -- did you follow our directions? Followed by -- did you read our Beginner's Instructions here? If you are the type of person who selects option 3 above, please read on.
When we are making a new design, it will frequently take us as many as 7 or 8 iterations of making the piece before we get it the way we want it. The first thing everyone needs to remember is to begin by using practice wire and make every new component several times in practice wire before you begin to use your good wire. The second thing to note is that the first few times you use your good wire, you will probably notice that it isn't exactly the same as your practice wire. Many times it will be easier to make pieces out of your good wire because the hardness of your good wire will be matched to the optimum hardness for making the piece. Sometimes you may find that using your good wire isn't as easy as using your practice wire. In those instances here is what you do -- experiment.
Why were the Wright Brothers the first people to successfully fly a heavier than air craft? It wasn't because they were the smartest people trying to fly. It wasn't because they were the richest people trying to fly. It certainly wasn't because they were the only people trying to fly. The genius of the Wright Brothers that allowed them to solve all the complex problems in flying was that they did controlled experiments. They built the first wind tunnel and used it to test different shapes while they measured the results. The problem we have to solve in making a new piece of jewelry isn't anywhere near as complicated as flying, but the same approach applies. If you aren't successful using one size and hardness of wire try another. Use a gauge that is one size larger or one size smaller than the wire that wasn't successful. Try using wire that has a different hardness. Vary the technique that you use to make the wire component. If you aren't successful by the seventh iteration, only then should you consider option 2 above and scream for help.
While jigs for making jewelry existed thousands of years ago, they weren't in common use in the 20th century. When we re-invented using jigs to make jewelry, there weren't any books on how to use a jig. There weren't any teachers who taught how to use a jig. So how did we learn how to make jewelry with wire and beads? We did it the same way the Wright Brother's did -- we experimented. The craft of making jewelry using wire, beads and jewelry making jigs is definitely not at the point where every technique is known, understood and documented in books. There is still much to learn and the simple way to learn is to do controlled experiments.
Now let us discuss what is a controlled experiment. Doing a controlled experiment is simply changing only one variable at a time. If 18 gauge wire was too stiff and hard to work with, try using 20 gauge wire. If half-hard wire did not follow the rounded shape you wanted, try using soft wire in the same gauge. What you don't want to do is change more than one thing at a time. If 20 gauge soft wire did not wrap properly, going to 22 gauge 1/2 hard wire might not be the right answer. That was changing two variables. It could be that 20 gauge half-hard wire was the right answer. What we are discussing here is called the Scientific Method. Using the Scientific Method is simply what allowed the Wright Brothers to learn to fly and the same basic trial and error approach applies to tasks as simple as making jewelry with wire and beads. History has proved that the Scientific Method works. We suggest you adapt this approach to your new jewelry making projects. We use it every day.
Some final thoughts for beginners to jewelry making:
Let's first discuss some common errors that people experience in getting started that make it harder for them to be successful.
Many people see a jewelry design and that design is what motivates them to begin making jewelry. Unfortunately, if that design is not suitable for a beginner, it may be a bad choice as a first jewelry project. The biggest single error that people make is in picking a first or second project that is too difficult. We recommend making the Queen of Clubs Earrings as a good first jewelry project. It is suitable for beginners and allows you to make something that looks hand made and can be used as gifts.
A second error that people make is not accepting that everyone should use practice wire and make about 3 pieces out of practice wire before cutting your good wire. Sterling Silver and Gold Filled wire are almost at record high prices. Don't cut a segment of this expensive wire until you know exactly how much is required because you made the component in practice wire and measured both before and after so that you know exactly how much wire to use. For the Celtic Triangle Earrings above, we made this component out of practice wire about 7-8 times before we were satisfied with the technique. Any time you are making a new component, you should assume that you will need to make that component out of practice wire a few times until you are satisfied that you can make it properly. Just as it is when you learn any new skill, everyone needs to practice, including us.
A third error that many novices make is in not following the basic steps. The basic steps are easy. First you measure and cut the wire to length, second you make a loop in one end of the wire, and third you straighten the wire. Many people forget to fully straighten the wire using nylon jaw pliers. This results in some irregularities in your finished jewelry item.
A fourth error that many people make is in placing all their pegs in the pattern at the beginning. Unfortunately, this is something that we learned relatively recently. You should always begin every pattern with only two pegs and add pegs as you go. Many of our patterns on our web site don't show this, because when we documented that pattern, we weren't smart enough to know it at that time. Now we know that if you have a pattern with 6 pegs and you start with 6 pegs, 4 of those pegs are going to be in your way and making life difficult.
A fifth error that people make is in not pushing the wire with just one finger while you hold and move the jig with your non-dominant hand. Intuitively people want to grab the wire and hold the wire by the end of the wire and keep the jig stationary. The important thing in making wire components is to keep the wire straight until you are ready to bend it against or around a peg. Keeping the wire straight isn't easy to do when you grab the wire. You will tend to add kinks and bends to your wire using that approach. If you essentially hold the wire stationary, by pushing it with only the index finger on your dominant hand touching the wire, while you rotate the jig with your non-dominant hand you will find that it is easy to keep your wire straight. Once you understand and can accomplish this technique you will be much more successful in making jewelry items with our jigs.
A final error that is relatively common is not releasing your grip on the wire after bending it against a peg. Releasing your grip allows the wire to relax back to its normal position. By releasing your grip after you bend the wire against a peg you ensure that your wire component won't spring out of shape when you remove it from your jig.
The above are the six most important techniques that must be mastered/errors that must be overcome. We also discuss some other common jewelry making errors starting here. If you haven't visit that web page lately, it would probably be a good review. Above all, don't get frustrated. Like any skill worth learning, the skill of making jewelry from wire and beads does require some practice.