Monday, April 7, 2014

Art Jewelry Boot Camp: Fine Finishings Week 1

Welcome to Week One of our new Art Jewelry Bootcamp: Fine Finishings!!! If you missed Staci's post last week about this new bootcamp, I encourage you to go read it, because all of our members at LMAJ have a unique and diverse perspective to draw from.

 I'll be back with you tomorrow to share some wordy and philosophical perspectives about fine finishings but today I want to talk about:

 WIRE GAUGES.

 Too Thin?

 Too Thick?

 Just Right?

 Let's talk about basic wire gauges.... There are at least 3 realms of standard gauges at the minimum you need to have in your basic toolbox for basic wirewrapping and art jewelry making. As an artist develops his or her skills and particular style, they usually add more gauges to round things out.

This is a VERY old piece of mine that used very thin (TOO THIN in my opinion now!) wire to wrap the bails of the pendant. I'm guessing it was 24g since there are also wrapped pearls in this piece. You can tell I compensated by wrapping it twice and 3 times through the holes, but I'm glad my work has evolved since then!!!!


20-21g. 
20-21 gauge wire is the widely accepted standard for earring wires. Larger gauges, such as 18 or 16 will stretch, irritate, or even tear the majority of customers while smaller gauges such as 22 will be too thin and will not enjoy longevity or will bend easily. This standard gauge also works well for wire wrapping large hole or ethnic beads. 20-21g when formed and properly work hardened either by chasing, hardening with a mallet and tumbling will produce a sturdy and beautiful finished ear wire.
These are handmade earwires I make from 20g brass wire.


22-24g. 
This is the perfect wire wrapping gauge for most bead stringing and basic bead wire wrapping applications. 22g will fit most gemstones and art beads and has a heavy enough presence to balance the work. Certain gemstones, like pearls and tiny finer semiprecious stones may require even a 24g. You may also find you lean towards 24g if you have a tendency to work very small or do very delicate work.

This is an older piece of mine but has a wide variety of wire gauges. The urn shap was formed from 16g brass wire, the Buddha pendant was wrapped with 20g, and the small glass beads were wrapped in 24g.

This is a more recent piece where I used 16g  copper wire to form a sturdy wire wrapped bail for this pendant while I wrapped the beads in 22g wire.


16g-18g. This is the perfect basic starter HEAVIER gauge wire for beginner smaller clasps, links, heavy jumprings, and beginning heavier wirework. It is generally still malleable enough without a torch annealing to wrap large bails, make wire wrapped links and connectors on their own without the use of other beads.

Staci used 18g to wrap these pieces. It is a bit lighter than 16g but allows her the flexibility to securely wrap these large pendants together.

Once you begin adding and refining your wire toolbox, you'll rely on your own judgement and burgeoning expertise to acquire a broader knowledge of different wire gauges and how useful they are in your particular piece or work!

Do you have any favorite wire tips when selecting the best solution for a piece? We'd love to hear your ideas in the comments below!!!

6 comments:

Kathy Lindemer said...

Very helpful, thank you!

Ann Schroeder said...

Thank you for this post! It is very useful.

Erika said...

In addition to the guage, the hardness also is a factor. Dead soft is great for wire wrapping, but not good for ear wires.

Barbara said...

Thank you! So glad you enjoyed it!

Artisan Beads Plus said...

I remember way back when I first started using wire one of the first things that I learned was that I had a lot to learn about using wire! lol!!! I needed a post like this, but at the time I didn't know I could find all of this useful information online.
MaryAnn

mariatepperjewelry said...

Thanks for a very helpful post! What gauge would you recommend for wrapping stones with smaller holes, such as quarts or for pearls?

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