A Cool Cool, Clasp

23 04 2011

I doodle with wire… that’s right, I’m a doodler! When I’m sitting in front of the TV, I often have a few spools of copper wire in front me, along with my tools, and just twist and wrap and fold and coil! Seeing different designs and ideas come together is very satisfying!

Sometimes I start out with a sketch that I made, and see how it turns out. And sometimes I start with something specific in mind, to see if I can make it work. I wanted to see if I could come up with a simple circular clasp, maybe to use for some multi-stranded necklace designs, and this is how it progressed!

Doodle Try #1

I had a few parameters for the clasp: I wanted clean lines, I wanted the hook side and the eye side to lay in the same direction so it would be comfortable on the neck, and it needed to be easy to use. The first “doodle” started with a figure “8” in wire, which I sorta folded over, so that the smaller loop rested on top of the bigger loop. This has a construction issue, because I would have to solder both ends to a common wire at the point where the clasp folds, leaving 2 potential weak spots.

Doodle Try #2

The next doodle was similar in look, but it starts with an “O” shape that is pinched to create the two loops. This has a real advantage over the first style, in that the ends of the wire meet together, so it only has one connecting point. And since the original shape is round, it is easy to make sure the solder point doesn’t get stressed.

Final Clasp in Silver

I decided to create the clasp using some twisted wire I had, and I love the end result. I started by soldering a large ring, and then shaped it like an “8” using some mandrels. Once the loops were nice and round, I carefully folded it at the place it pinched to create the hook. Next, I created the other side sizing it to the clasp.

Silver Clasp Closed

Here is the clasp closed – you can see how the two sides are balanced, so it looks nice, both sides lay in the same direction, so it is flat against the neck, and there are no wire ends, so nothing catches onto your clothes or sticks into you.

I have tried variations of this without soldering, some work ok, but the advantage of the soldering is that it makes the clasp robust. Knowing a variety of techniques is key to being able to create your designs as you envision them…!

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Perfect Wirework!

11 04 2011

Although most of my work is very “one-of-a-kind” and organic in nature, being a professional means that I don’t mess around with my wirework! It takes time and practice to achieve a clean line, and it can be difficult to get repeatable results.

One of the things I’ve been doing for years is to always prototype and document my new work. Whenever I develop a project for a  class, I write out notes and sketch my ideas – many don’t work out, but I often find an element of the idea that appeals to me, and I wind up using it for something totally different.

I also teach my students one of the “tricks” I use for wire components, which helps to really ensure repeatability – I create wire templates.

16g Wire Clasp Components

Once I know HOW to make something, I like to play around with different wire gauges and lengths – there’s no such thing as “one size fits all” so if something works, I always see how far I can take it! In the photo above, it’s easy to see how the different length of wire makes clasps of different sizes (you can learn to make a wire clasp in this TUTORIAL). This way, I can just pick the clasp that works for my project, and easily make it the same size. On one side of the tag I mark the wire gauge, on the other, the length.

Wire Wrapped Beads

Not just for clasps – I make this type of template for other wire components (such as wire spirals HERE), as well as these wire wrapped beads, so I can make sure to cut the right size wire when making bead links (I just love making the link with the zigzag on the wrap!).

And if you like to make earwires that are as creative as your earrings, than wire templates are a great help – it’s important to get the proportions accurate.

A Variety of Hooks and Hoops

I love creating different earwires – these are the ones I use most because they are the most flexible. You can make a whole earring wardrobe using simple gemstone or pearl drops, and putting them on different wires! I have already posted two tutorials in this blog for SIMPLE EARWIRES and SIMPLE HOOPS – I always seem to get alot of folks who check out the wire tutorials, so I’m thinking it’s time to post a few more… any favorites?? Just post a comment, and I’ll see what I can do!





Getting Hooked (or, How to Make a Clasp)

26 07 2010

Being able to make your own jewelry findings means that you can always create what you need, in the size you need. I love finishing off a handmade piece with a well made clasp, and one of my favorites is the basic wire hook.

Step 1: flatten one end

I start with a 2.5 inch length of wire, in a pretty heavy weight. I’m using 16g here, but you can change up the gauge and the length to customize your clasp. Sand or file the ends clean, and hammer one end to create a “paddle” shape.

Step 2: create a small loop

Next, you need to create a small loop (as small as possible) at the flattened end, using the very tip of my round nose pliers.  Make sure you don’t use good precision round nose pliers – the heavier gauge wires could twist the tips out of alignment and ruin your pliers!

Step 3: make a large loop

On the other end of the wire, make a larger loop, using the base of your round nose pliers. Make sure that the loops are facing the same direction, as shown below:

The wire is now ready to be shaped

The loops are round, facing the same direction. The wire is nice and straight, and  can now be shaped around a mandrel into a hook (I use a pen in the following steps, but you can use any appropriately shaped rod as a mandrel).

Step 4: holding the wire

Hold the wire across the top of the pen, with both of the loops facing up. Position your thumb a bit closer to the large loop, and hold the wire tight on the mandrel.

Step 5: bending the wire

Start bending the wire over the mandrel on both sides – the end with the small loop will be longer. Bend the wire gently, ensuring it keeps a rounded shape.

Step 6: shaping the hook

Once both sides are pushed down (like an upside down “U”), push the longer end with the small loop under the mandrel, toward the large loop. This gives the clasp a “swoop” shape, which helps with the integrity of the hook.

Step 7: the finishing touches

Now the hook is done. The final step is to harden the wire, so that the clasp will not bend out when used. You can either whack it with a mallet, which will keep the wire round (as shown on the left), or you can lightly hammer the wire on the curves, which will result in a clasp as shown on the right. If the curves open up a little, just reshape them closed. And don’t forget to antique your clasp to match your chain and metal components if needed.

Practice a few in copper before working with silver, and adjust the wire gauge and length to create variations that suit your designs and style. You  will never be “held hostage” to store bought components again!