Currently, there are several vendors who are making and selling jigs for making jewelry. As a consumer you have a choice about whose products you will purchase and with some vendors you have a choice about which of their products you buy. Many people ask the question, which jewelry making jig is right for them. We will try to answer that question here.
First, if one car were right for everyone, we wouldn't need GM, Ford and Chrysler; but one car is not right for everyone. With jewelry making jigs the same thing applies -- there isn't one jig that is absolutely right for everyone. Different jigs do different things. Jigs can have different sizes of pegs, they can have different spacing between the holes in the pattern and they can have different patterns. Both jigs and the pegs for the jigs can also be made of a variety of materials. Jewelry making jigs can come in a variety of sizes. Finally, some jigs are made better than others. We will try to discuss all these differences in the following paragraphs.
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Regular Peg Sizes
The regular pegs for jigs can come in basically three different sizes -- small, medium or large. The small pegs are 1/16" in diameter. The medium pegs are 3/32" in diameter and the large pegs are 1/8" in diameter. The size of the pegs determines the smallest size bend or loop that you can make with that jig. A jig with 1/8" pegs won't be able to make bends with a radius of less that the circumference of the 1/8" peg. You can always go larger using accessories called Super Pegs, but you can't go smaller than the size of the pegs. For making jewelry, having the option to make smaller loops and tighter bends is probably the better alternative. For making larger items like sun-catchers or mobiles, perhaps the medium size pegs might be better. For people who want to make larger, bolder jewelry designs, perhaps the medium size pegs would also be better. Once you understand what you want to make, choose the size pegs that best match your needs remembering that the size of the pegs determines the smallest loop that can be made by that jig.
The hole spacing of jigs is very similar to the size of pegs. In general, jigs with small pegs (1/16") will have five holes per inch, spaced .2 inches apart. Jigs with medium pegs (3/32") will have a peg pattern that is four holes per inch, spaced .25 inches apart. Jigs with large pegs will have a peg pattern that has a larger spacing between pegs. With hole spacing, more peg holes available per inch the more design options you will have with that jig. You can always space your pegs further apart by leaving an empty hole between two pegs, but you can't space your pegs closer together than the hole spacing on the jig allows.
Pattern of Holes
Now we need to discuss the pattern for the holes. In the beginning there was only one choice for a pattern -- square. The holes in jigs were laid out in a square matrix, horizontally and vertically (shown at right). You can do a lot with a square peg pattern, but you can't make a 30 degree angle or a 60 degree angle. These two angles are very important because they are part of an equilateral triangle. The equilateral triangle is a triangle with each side having the same length and each angle being 60 degrees. Because of the symmetry of this triangle, it is esthetically more appealing than non-equilateral triangles and is often used in art, architecture and jewelry. An equilateral triangle is made up of two 30/60/90 triangles, with one angle being 30 degrees, another angle being 60 degrees and the final angle being 90 degrees. This 30/60/90 triangle is also an important design shape. Since these two important triangles (equilateral and 30/60/90) can not be made with a square peg pattern jig, one vendor has developed jigs with a round peg pattern (WigJig Cyclops and WigJig Electra). There are many shapes like a star that can be made easily on a jig with a round peg pattern that can't be easily made on a jig with a square peg pattern. Finally, the same vendor who developed a round peg pattern developed a jig with both a square peg pattern and 1/2 of a round peg pattern on the same jig (WigJig Centaur shown at right). For making jewelry, this jig may be the best possible compromise for meeting all requirements in a single jewelry making jig. For those of you who want to do everything, you should consider getting a square jig and a round jig. For those of you who want a single jig with the most possible functionality, the WigJig Centaur is recommended.
Materials for Pegs and Jigs
Finally, we need to discuss materials both for the jig and for the pegs. There are two basic options -- metal or plastic. For the pegs for your jig, our recommendation is this -- choose metal pegs. At this time the plastic pegs that are available are not strong enough and frequently break. Avoid plastic pegs. In selecting the material for your jig the choice is equally easy. The acrylic plastic used in better quality jigs is actually stronger than aluminum. Your choice here is simple -- do you want a jig that you can see through or one that you can't see through. Most people realize that having a jig that you can see through allows you to place a pattern below the jig and easily see where to place your pegs. If you have patterns that you want to make over and over again, being able to see through your jig is a very important attribute allowing you to quickly set up your jig for a new pattern. The WigJig company has six jigs made of aircraft quality acrylic plastic that are both very strong and clear so they are easy to see through. We also have templates that you can mark with your patterns to remind you where to place your pegs for your favorite projects.
There are two types of accessories for jigs that are very popular. The first are pegs shaped like mushrooms, where the stem of the mushroom fits into a hole in the jig and the top of the mushroom provides a larger surface for making rounded shapes in wire. These accessory pegs are called Super Pegs by some vendors and come in sizes from 3/16" to 2" in diameter. While many vendors have this type of accessory for their jig, some don't. Because the regular pegs and the peg holes for the jigs can come in different sizes, this accessory is probably not interchangeable between different vendors jewelry making jigs. The final accessory to consider is the Spiral Maker. The Spiral Maker accessory works with the jig to make it easy to make spirals without tool marks. It is suggested that when selecting a jewelry making jig that you choose one that can sell you all the accessories you might need -- Super Pegs and Spiral Maker. You don't need to purchase all of these accessories initially, but you do need to ensure that you will be able to purchase these accessories in the future.
Before you purchase a jig, you should decide how you plan to use it. If your primary interest is in making jewelry, then having smaller pegs is an advantage. You also should consider the peg pattern you will want to use. The perfect solution is to purchase a jig with a square peg pattern and another jig with a round peg pattern. The next best solution is to purchase one jig with both a square peg pattern and 1/2 of a round peg pattern (WigJig Centaur or Centaur Lite). It is recommended that you select a jig with metal pegs, but a clear acrylic base. Finally, choose a jig that will have the accessories and the sizes of accessories that you will want. For making jewelry we find that the best possible solution is the WigJig Delphi (square pattern with small pegs) and the WigJig Cyclops (round pattern with small pegs). Many people elect to purchase the Delphi first and purchase the Cyclops in a later purchase. A second best and less expensive solution is the WigJig Centaur Lite (square pattern plus 1/2 of a round pattern and small pegs).
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View information on the history of jewelry making jigs here.