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Hammered Wire Jewelry: intro

May 24, 2011

From time to time, I believe I have some dwarven ancestors… I feel compelled to work with metal and make some jewelry and/or random metal objects.

Real, hard-core metalworking require lots of equipment, a dedicated place and time. All things I do not have at the moment… So, I went for the much simpler technique of wire hammering. By bending and hammering metal wire, it is easy to obtain nice shapes, wonderfully suited to jewelry.

For the wire, again, copper is a fabulous material to work with… It has a very cool color and looks wonderful on jewels; on the bad side, it is quite soft, and may be difficult to make it retain its shape on smaller gauge wires. However, an interesting characteristic of copper is that it gets harder the more you hammer it: in this way, it is possible to use a smaller wires and, by hammering them a lot, make them resilient enough for most designs. Small gauges of copper wires are easy to find, the larger ones are a bit trickier, but I found out that a good source of material is the cable used for grounding large electrical equipment or buildings. This cable, found in larger hardware stores or constructor suppliers, is made of separate wires (from 1 to 2 mm in diameter), twisted together: from one small batch of this cable (the length of the batch I found at the hardware store was around one meter) you will have plenty of material for several projects.

Brass is good choice too, a bit cheaper than copper, stiffer, and with a nice golden color. On the other hand, steel is hard and cheap, but looks horrible for jewelry projects. Avoid at all cost the “gold” and “silver” wires sold in art shops or DIY shops, since they are just copper wires badly plated with some alloy, which will wear off as soon as you try bending/hammering it.

For complex metalworking, it is necessary to use special hammers, with different head shapes and made of very hard metal (to retain their shape); this kind of equipment is a bit costly, and worth the investment only if you are really into metalworking. Again, hammering wire is a good way to start and see if you may like metalworking… For this kind of work, any “standard”, flat-headed hammer is pretty good…. carpenter hammer, finish hammer, framing hammer, setting hammer.. there are many many many different kind of hammers. I have (and use) a 100, 250 and a 500 grams hammers, but for small project like this, I normally go for the smaller one… It may take more hits to do the work, but gives way more control. As an additional tool, a hard-plastic hammer can be helpful for smooth bends  or, when working on copper, beating the wire to make it harder without changing too much its shape.

In order to work the metal, it is necessary an anvil, or some really heavy metal piece to work on (I have seen people working on a small piece of rail). I have two different anvils. The larger one is a one-century old square anvil that is affixed to a stone column (!!!) which is located in the house my family own in the Alps. The small one is a 5 kg desk anvil, available for something like 15-20 euros in many hardware shops.

Anvils have different shapes and some parts are flat, other curved, and have both sharp and rounded edges. Each part has its uses: for the beginners, start by using the large flat area… There will be time to learn other tricks later on. Never, ever place it directly on top of a table (unless you want to ruin it on purpose) or on a floor (unless you do like changing floor tiles); instead, put a piece of wood under it, it will reduce the noise when hammering and prevent surface damage.

Enough for now… Later on, I’ll explain some simple methods to shape wire jewelry…

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From → Jewelry, Materials

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