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Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Wire 1 (Part 1)

In part 1, we will learn how to strand beads together.

Part 1 - Tools, Supplies and the Basic loop

I completed the Wire 1 class offered from Beadworld. The instructor, Christina, has years of experience in the jewelry industry as well as training as a professional metal smith. She is an experienced teacher as well.

As a daughter of a teacher who had thought about a career in teaching, I was pleasantly pleased with her teaching technique. At the end of her lesson, she tasked us with an assignment that builds on the smaller steps she taught. She stated that she was going to walk out of the room and expects us to teach each other if someone isn't sure what to do. She left the room so that she wouldn't interfere. She wanted the students to help each other succeed, because when you teach someone else to do something it really solidifies the task in your mind.

During a break we were allowed to shop and all purchases was discounted 10% off. There was tools provided and all the materials necessary to follow along with lessons, make one class project and to practice. This class was a beginning wire class and covered tools, supplies and the basic loop. We made one pair of earrings from the skills we learned in the class. This article will cover what was covered in the class and then a follow-up article will cover the steps to create a pair of earrings.


There are three tools that are required for wire working.

Round Nose PliersRound-nose pliers: These pliers have one function only, to bend the wire in a circular fashion. They should not be used for anything else. There isn't much difference between cheap or expensive round-nose, except maybe a brand name. The thing to keep in mind is that the pliers noses are lined up and round with no nicks. Do not use these pliers for holding or moving wire. The reason for this is there is little contact area between the rounded pliers and the round wire. When attempting to hold wire with these pliers, you will notice that you can easily wiggle the wire and lose your grip. These pliers are used solely for creating a round shape in your wire. (image courtesy of

Chain-nose (aka Flat-nose): These pliers have three basic functions, bending wire at an angle, using as a holder, or repositioning wire (opening a loop, wire wrapping, etc). Again, not much difference between cheap or expensive chain nose pliers. The key is that the inside of the jaws are flat, no ridges which a are used for "man tools" (the instructor's term). When gripping wire, keep the wire at the very tip of the pliers. This will give you the most dexterity out of your tool. (image courtesy of

Side cutters: These pliers are for cutting metal wire. The cutting surface is offset to the side to ensure precision in where the cut is made. There is a difference in quality between cheap and expensive cutting pliers. Since they are cutting metal and the pliers are metal, what you get with more expensive pliers is a harder metal for cutting. The harder metal will last longer before getting dull and nicked. The price tag may reflect how much jewelry work you plan on doing, or how often you are comfortable replacing this tool. There is a right and wrong way to hold this tool. The flat edge of the blade should be facing up when the tool is laid in the palm of your hands. If you have trouble remembering how to hold the tool, you can label your tool with a Sharpie so you can easily identify which end goes towards your palm. A smaller cutting head is better as it will provide more precision. (image courtesy of

All of these tools should be spring-loaded, so that when you release, the jaws open up. The other thing to keep in mind when purchasing tools is the size of the tool. You don't want "man tools." The tool should be smaller so they fit in a woman's hand comfortably. The heads should be appropriately sized as well. They should be smaller than "man tools." (Gawd I dislike that term! As a woman engineer in a male dominated field, I naturally desire to bridge the gap between male roles and female roles, but this term does invoke the difference between jewelry making and doing something like working on a car.)


This is what you will need to complete the basic loop and make your own pair of earrings!

Wire: For completing the basic loop, 22 gauge, half-hard, German jewelry (aka silver fill) wire is recommended. This wire is good in that it will keep its shape without adding too much weight (which is critical for earrings). As the gauge number goes up, the finer the wire. Finer wires require the wrapped loop, which is taught in the wire 2 class (upcoming!). The German jewelry wire has a copper core with silver plating. This makes the wire very pliable and less expensive than pure silver wire. (image courtesy of

Head pins: Besides a spool of wire, you will want head pins.You will want a 22 gauge head pin with either a flat or ball end. These will be a stiffer metal and harder to work than the German jewelry wire. In the future, I want will take the class to learn how to make my own head pins utilizing a torch. (image courtesy of

Earwires: For now, I am purchasing my earhooks. Can't wait to take my class! I tend to go for the cheapest earwires and in bulk. I don't see any reason for these to be fancy.  If you plan on selling jewelry, you may want to splurge on the metal type for those with metal allergies. (image courtesy of

Findings: I love findings! These can really make the piece. Check out my Project: faux antique chandelier earrings (upcoming!). For our first earring, we will not be using any findings. (image courtesy of

Chain: Chain can be found in all different sizes, metals and shapes. We will use chain to make our first pair of earrings in part two of this post. (image courtesy of

 Beads: And of course, you need beads, beads and more BEADS! For the basic loop, you will need beads that are center drilled.  This is where the hole goes completely through the center, from top to bottom. Another great thing to have on hand is spacer beads and/or seed beads. I love using seed beads for spacer beads. Colored seed beads are a great way to add a touch of color for minimal price. Better be keen on the color, though, because you will have plenty on hand! I use the silver seed beads all the time. (image courtesy of

Work Hardening

As metal is worked (including moving, bending, gliding your fingers across it and hammering) the molecules rearrange themselves to become tighter, which makes the metal harder. It is a linear progression and what we do with wire shaping tends to move from right to left on the below chart. Heating the metal can bring the metal back to the right. Metal wire can be purchased in either the "Dead Soft" or "Half Hard" stages.

The choice of wire is dependent on how much work the metal is going to experience before being the final product.  As the metal is being worked, it moves from soft to hard.  Hard is where we want the final piece. If the metal goes beyond that point, it becomes brittle and breaks. Never unbend and reshape metal wire. If you make a mistake, it is best to just start over.

Work Hardening - Metal wire can be purchased either dead soft or half hard. Our goal is for them
to be hard, but to not go beyond hard where the metal becomes brittle and will break.

Basic Loop


Materials List
Materials List: 3" of wire, 1 headpin
and 2 round beads.
  • 3" of wire - as you get better at making these, you will use less wire and conserve materials.  While learning, go ahead and be generous with your wire lengths so that you have plenty of room to work.
  • 1 headpin - buy the 3" long headpins to start wit, but you will eventually be good enough to just use 2" long headpins.
  • 2 round beads - buy ones that are center drilled (from top to bottom).  Start off with round beads.  Pearls may have too small of a hole for the 22 Gauge wire.


Here are the steps for the basic loop.  Apologies for the not super great pictures.  This is my first tutorial. Click on the picture for an enlargement.

Step 1: Using your chain-nose pliers, bend your wire 90 degrees roughly an inch from one end. From here on, the short end will be called the tail, while the long end will be called the stem. You can picture the stem being the stem of a flower, while the tail looks like a hunting dogs tail when he is pointing.Step 2: Grip the tail end with your round-nose pliers such that the tail is pointing away from you and the pliers are snug up to the bend.
Step 3: Bend the tail end of the wire over and around the top of the pliers in a full circle in the opposite direction of how you bent it in step 1.Step 4: Rotate the loop with your round nose pliers still encircled such that the loop is centered on the stem, forming an O instead of a P.
Step 5: Remove your round-nose pliers from the loop.Step 6: With your side-cutters, cut the excess wire tail from the loop. Make sure your side cutters are lined up so the flat edge is flush with the beginning of the loop where the tail crosses over the stem.
Step 7: With your chain-nose pliers, wiggle the end of the loop to be flush with the stem.Wallah! You have made your first eye pin!

String the bead onto the eye pin and bend the stem over the bead, creating a new tail.

Now thread a bead through your pin and repeat steps 1-7 on the other side. Instead of using pliers for step one, you may be able to just bend the wire over the top of the bead to ensure a flush start. Most likely you won't want to bend it a full 90; perhaps just 30-45 degrees. This will help you get your round nose pliers under the tail.  You will want your round nose pliers to be as close to the bend between tail and stem, but it should still be on the tail end.  You do not want to grip the stem. Now you have a double beaded eye pin!

Double-beaded eye pin.

Now let's do it with a head pin. Thread your head pin through your bead. Make sure to check that the head pin doesn't slip into the bead's hole. If the hole is too big, then try using a small spacer bead. Now repeat steps 1-5 above, potentially substituting using your chain-nose pliers by just bending the wire over the top of the bead in step one. The headpins are generally stiffer and harder to work with than the German jewelry wire, so you may need to use the chain nose pliers. Stop after Step 5. This is your first beaded head pin. Before cutting the excess tail, thread the tail end through the eye of your double beaded eye pin. You will hear a small "tink" sound when the eyes are connected.

Thread the loops together until you hear a small "tink."

Now continue with steps 6 and 7 above.

Your first strand of beads.

Wallah! Your first strand of beads. Go to my Google+ album for more pictures! We'll go over making your first pair of earrings in Part 2.


Here is a graphic for the terminology in types of loops:

click to enlarge!
Shown top to bottom: eye pin, double beaded eye pin, beaded head pin.

Opening/closing wire loops

How to open/close a loop.
This is key to preventing losing the shape of the loop and causing metal fatigue.  When you open your loop, take the chain-nose pliers on the end of the loop and twist the loop open to the side.  Close the loop by twisting it back into place.  Never open the loop like a jaw - this will ruin the shape and you will never be able to restore it.  See Fusion Beads tutorial on opening and closing a loop for more details.

Eye fatigue

Remember to take breaks! Don't work on a project too long.  Symptoms of eye fatigue might be a headache, frustration, decrease in dexterity (hand eye coordination), etc.  You may not even realize you have it, but if you find yourself feeling frustrated or making mistakes, take a break.  Even five minutes can save your eyes!


First Pair of Earrings
My first pair of earrings - I made these
earrings during my Wire 1 class. Now I'm
going to show you how to make these.
  • Beadworld - This is my local bead shop where I take classes and buy my supplies and tools
  • FusionBeads- Another local bead store.  They have a really great website with tutorials and inspirational projects, including the following related tutorials:
  • Pinterest - Check out all the inspirational projects that are posted to pinterest.

Up Next

Check out Wire 1, Part 2 for a tutorial to make my first pair of earrings!

Have you taken any jewelry making classes? If so, please share the location and name of where you took the class and a general review of your experience and whether you would recommend them in the comments below.


  1. [...] make earwires through a class taught at Beadworld. The instructor, Christina, also taught the Wire 1 class I took early last year. This was a super easy class! It certainly lived up to its name: [...]

  2. [...] Wire 1: Basic Loop – required for a basic understanding of wire working, work hardening, basic wire tools (pliers, wire cutters), eye fatigue, etc. [...]

  3. [...] Wire 1: the Basic Loop - this tutorial steps you through tools, supplies and the basic loop.  [...]

  4. [...] Wire 1: tools, wire and the basic loop - covers a basic understanding of wire working and basic tools. [...]

  5. This is really great basic info., thanks!

  6. [...] tutorial will build on skills from Wire 1: the Basic Loop. Here are some examples of what can be made with the wire wrapped [...]

  7. [...] could make a really simple pendant like the one below by using the basic wire loop and crystal beads to represent [...]