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Wavy Design Pendants

September 12, 2011

From the works I did this summer… Here is another copper-based jewelry project. Wavy pendants with glass beads. The process is quite simple, and the results really nice…

For this project, it is necessary to start from a thick wire: I used one with a diameter of 2mm. The process starts by cutting a piece of wire, something between 10 and 15 cm, this is a good measure for a simple pendant, there will be time to cut it at measure when the bends will be decided. The first step is to harden it: copper gets harder when worked… the fact is, it is not necessary to bend it or flatten it to make it harder, so, just by using a rubber or hard plastic hammer, it is possible to harden a piece of copper without altering its shape too much.
The idea is to hold the wire at one end and hammer it gently but steadily against an anvil, going back and forth while rotating the wire. In this way, the wire will be straightened and hardened. File the wire ends and sand it lightly to clean it.

After this step, it’s bending time! What you want to obtain is a wavy shape which is gently curved, with one or two 180 degree curves. For a first try, I would suggest to obtain something shaped more or less like an “S”. The more continuous is the shape, the better: avoid sudden changes in the direction of bends. The radius of the curves should be large enough to accommodate one or two beads. Ending with a tight spiral may be a good idea. Absolutely straight lines may be used too (see the examples in this post). It is advisable to prepare a closed loop at one end for hanging the piece (even if, as visible in one of the examples, it is possible to hang the piece in other non-looped parts).

The piece is then ready for the flattening. Working with a small-headed, lightweight hammer, gently start hammering the piece from the central part of the curves, going towards the less curved areas. The goal is to make the more curved parts flat and wide, trying to obtain a smooth transition between the flattened and round parts. The result should look like a calligraphy line, width and thickness varying according to the curves. After the bending and after the flattening stage, the piece will probably be not really flat: a few hits with the plastic hammer will bring it back in shape. While flattening, the curves will change a bit their radius (depending on how you hammer, they will open or close a bit): this is normal, try to follow the change, do not rush in correcting it, it will eventually smooth out the small discontinuities residual of the bending stage.

Now, the tricky part… wiring the beads. The idea is to use a much smaller wire to attach glass (or metal) beads to the main shape, suspending the beads in the inner parts of the curves. I used a 0.6mm diameter copper wire: even this small, this wire is quite resilient. However, it will never get hard as it larger counterpart; so, in order to keep it in place, some special care will be needed.

The basic way to lay down the wire is to make coils around the round parts of the main shape and, when the coil reach the desired part of the curve, “jump” to the other side, suspending the bead across the jump. When doing the “jump” between one side of the curve to the other, it is better to make the wire go from one side of the main shape to the other: if the coil ends in front of the shape before the jump, make the coil on the other side continue from the back of the shape. In this way the piece will be  more symmetrical (as visible in the examples, I sometimes disregard this rule). Always keep the wire in tension while coiling or laying it, this helps keeping the coils tight and obtaining a more stable result.

There are different ways to start and end the wiring in order to keep it stable. The simplest way to start is to have the first two-three coils hold the wire end against the main shape. This is achieved by having a small part of the wire end, let us say a couple millimeters, laid flat on the piece (with the end towards the direction we want the coil to go). While keeping it stable with pliers, coil the wire around it tightly; then, continue coiling normally.
To end a wiring, it is possible to do a couple of plain knots (the wire is flexible enough, do not worry), and/or tuck the end behind or below some other wiring.

Beside the coiling, it is also possible, when two parts of the main shape are (more or less) parallel, to obtain a more “weaving” effect by going back and forth the two sides, each time crossing over (front-to-back, then back-to-front).

These, again, are just the basic techniques… try experimenting with other wiring methods, using connecting rings, beads holders and other small components to obtain more complex pendants. This method works well wid a single piece pendant rather than a couple of earrings, since it is incredibly difficult to make two identical pieces.


From → Jewelry, Project

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