Monday, April 28, 2014

Psst....Your Crimps are Showing! Fine Finishing Boot Camp!

Details, details.  This month's boot camp is all about details.  Fine Finishings, the little things that make your work really POP, really shine.

As a newbie jewelry designer, some of the basic details were often the most difficult to master.  One thing in particular I have always been obsessive about is covering my crimps, and creating good, strong crimps. 

Stainless steel crimps
If you work with gemstone beads, you know how important a good crimp is.  Especially if you like heavy, large beads.  The crimp is the very foundation for any strung design.  The strength of your crimp is the difference between a design that will last for generations and a disaster that falls apart after a few wears.  So, what's the deal with crimping?  For starters, crimps come in all materials.  You may think that sterling silver or real gold crimps are the way to go to make your designs lux, but I prefer base metal crimps and here's why--pure silver and gold crimps are usually weak as Hell.  Silver and gold are soft, and a tiny crimp needs to be strong to support your design.  I have found that base metals are much stiffer and stronger, and hold up for the long haul. You can get them in stainless steel, which will last forever! 

Tools matter and a good set of crimping pliers is a must.  Learning how to use them matters.  Where to place the crimp in the jaws, how to then finish the crimp with that all important fold, then test that crimp to make sure it's holding.  I sometimes use two crimps if the design is heavy or I'm not sure about the crimps themselves.  Practice, practice, practice.
 

Then, covering those bad boys.  To me (and this is just a personal opinion), nothing makes a design look unfinished like an exposed crimp, yet I see this so often!  Get yourself some crimp covers and hide that thing!  Crimp covers are basically seamed round beads (usually 4 or 5mm) that are left open, allowing you to slip the bead around the crimp like a clamshell, then you squeeze the crimp cover closed--viola, no visible crimp!  Crimp covers are also great for fixing mistakes in layout or spacing.  Have a loose spot or space between beads you didn't notice?  Slip in a crimp cover or two and you're good to go.  If you want to get super fancy, you can also use French wire to cover the stringing material you made your loop with. French wire is fine wire coiled up like a micro spring.  You thread your stringing material through it to cover it.  I must confess that this is something I should do, but don't because I am lazy and impatient and never remember to order it.  BUT, whenever I see a strung design finished with French wire I love it and really think it adds a professional detail and look to the design.  AND, it protects your stringing material from whatever you crimped it to (clasps, hoops, etc.).  Again, these little things matter so much in the long run!! 

Gold French wire from Rio Grande
You'll discover all sorts of ways to cover crimps--pre-made crimp covers are just one quick and convenient way to do it.  I create tiny wire wrap bundles around my crimps as added texture to a design, or use a large hole bead that will slide over a crimp, followed with a crimp cover or bundle somewhere else in the design to take up the slack.  You can be creative, even with something as basic as crimping.

Two recent designs showing how I cover crimps--either with large hole beads followed by crimp covers
to take up slack, or bundles of wire as an accent following or over a crimp or large hole bead.
Finally, when trimming your stringing material behind a crimp, try not to trim flush with the crimp.  Leave yourself as much room as you can for stretching or loosening (unfortunately, this is pretty much inevitable over time).  I try to use beads with holes big enough for my stringing material to pass through twice (at lease near the crimp) so I can tuck a nice tail of material behind the finished crimp.  This way if the crimp gets loose or fails, the entire design won't immediately fall apart.  This is also a good argument for double crimping on each end.  Better to be safe than sorry!

The process--All it takes is patience.  Notice the extra tail of stringing material I left, going through the turquoise. 
If this was an extra heavy design, I would add another crimp here, then cover it.
While crimps may not be the most exciting topic in jewelry design, learning how use them properly and professionally are basic skills all jewelry designers must master.  So, go forth and CRIMP ON...just make sure you COVER YOUR CRIMPS!

18 comments:

Kathy Lindemer said...

Great article! I learned that using sterling silver crimp beads is a poor idea through using them. I quickly saw that they almost crumble when used.

stacilouise said...

Thank you for this! I wish I had known some of these things years ago. I had a lot of re-do's when I started out due to crimps. I too bought the silver crimps thinking they were better and had a ton of stuff break- and I was crimping properly too. Oh well, live and learn. I'd also like to add to not pull your bead wire so tight, leave a little slack so it can move, or it will put undo pressure on it and can break over time.

Alice said...

Thanks for the great info! I've been buying sterling crimps for years thinking they were the strongest!Yikes!

Susan Marling said...

Great post - you are so right about how important they are and how they need to be covered. I wish someone would address how to get the 2nd end really tight- I seem to struggle with that one since everything butts up against it.

A Little Crazy said...

One place I buy from also teaches in the store. I over heard her telling a student that the major cause of breakage was not using wire guardians. If everyone used them she would have no business in repairs. I've never used them, what do you think?

Monique (A Half-Baked Notion) said...

The basics like crimping are SO important! Thanks for the great pointers, Karen :)

Erika said...

I always use base metal crimp tubes, but my local bead shop insists that they are too brittle and won't last and swear by the silver ones. I never wanted to pay the high price for silver crimps. Now I'm glad I didn't!

TesoriTrovati said...

It is the little details the make a piece soar! I like to use clusters of jump rings linked together. I showed a little picture close up of this on Facebook once and that got so many excited for such a simple thing. It is a great way to add texture as well in between the beads if you want to carry that through your piece. I like the look much better than those little crimp covers. Tying some sari silk or other cord around them is another great trick! Thanks for all the super tips! Enjoy the day. Erin

TesoriTrovati said...

I just read the comments... I almost always use thick walled copper crimps no matter what the metal is, so I would have to cover them. I hate using silver crimps as I don't trust them and the plated metal ones are just too thin. As for wire guardians, I think they are strong but unsightly. I have never had a piece break at that point, usually the inferior crimp doesn't hold up. I also like to use tiny metal seed beads on the loop part for a little bit of flair but I am not bothered by the look of the wire. Enjoy the day! Erin

Almost Precious said...

I agree with Resori Trovali. I too always use thick walled crimps. I don't feel it is the metal but how thick or thin the metal is that matters. The thicker the metal, the stronger the crimp.
In the past I tried base metal crimps and had them break easily. I now realize it wasn't that they were base metal but that they were thin and cheap. I've since learned never to cut cost on those findings that are the most important - such as crimps.

KJ said...

Interesting post and comments. I have found base metal crimps to be brittle and stay away from them. I really like the sterling crimps, but, and it is a big BUT... mostly I work with seed beads. I will have to try the copper crimps and some stainless steel crimps. I have never used wire guards and I like the crimp covers- they really do make a piece look finished.

sandi m said...

Interesting discussion. I was taught to use the best quality sterling crimps, thick walled not the thin ones which can fall apart literally in the crimping tool. (Rio and SoftFlex have the better quality ones.) I don't care for base metal crimps - tried and they did not hold, and the guards are rather distracting. I have used jump rings and wire to cover crimps but it all depends on the design. Some of my finished crimps look like silver tubes which melt into the design.

Shaiha said...

Great article. I was always told to only use SS crimps but I have to admit that I will do anything to avoid using them. I don't like a bare crimp but I can't seem to get the crimp covers to work properly. I once sat down with a package of 100 to practice and they looked just as bad at the end as when I started.

I really like the idea of the jump rings. Even with knotting sometimes I don't get the beads as tight together as I want. That tip with make it look intentional. Thanks Erin!

Mischelle said...

Great article. Crimps have always been my downfall. I am definitely changing the way I buy crimps. Thanks.

Shel said...

Super tips here today! I too use the s/s crimps - the thicker the better, and luckily they've always worked for me. But I do prefer them covered. Nothing bothers me more than going to a craft show or seeing pics on Etsy of really nice jewelry and then seeing (get this) FLAT crimps! I am just shocked that people still do those w/the crimping tools they have out there these days - and then to not cover that kind of crimp is just plain ugly and tacky. Great post!!

Kathleen Lange Klik said...

I am always searching for thick wall crimps as they are the sturdiest! I too did not realize sterling was not a great option, although the ones with a thicker wall do work pretty well. While not ideal, I have used two crimps in a row and then covered them with jump rings- gives a decorative element to the design! I have not come across stainless steel crimps, what are some good resources for them?

Carol Dekle said...

This is a very informative post Karen! I avoid crimps in my designs and have therefore been limited in what I create. I am ordering me some base metal crimps and french wire. Thanks for the tips!

beauport01930 said...

I'm quite appreciative for this helpful blog. As a beginner, I am ruining so many pretty pieces as I loop the string when adding clasps. I have arthritis in my fingers and it's difficult for me to do detail. However, I am determined and need quick fixes for problems. This article is sure a helper.

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