We had a lovely weekend at the family cabin in Northern Arizona. The weather wasn’t the best — rain, sleet and even some snow Saturday morning that managed to stick to the ground for about 45 minutes before melting. It put a damper on our normal outdoor activities, but I was secretly thrilled to have a total chill weekend. We spent all of Saturday hanging out in the living room, watching Netflix movies, staying in our fuzzy pajamas and even playing some board games.
Whenever my family settles in to watch a movie, it’s my opportunity to get out a spool of wire and my favorite mandrel pliers. There are about a dozen wire components that I’ve made so many times that I can create them in my sleep! I like to use these metal components as “beads” or other areas of interest to my necklaces. I love to mix up it up with a combination of beads, chain and wirewrapping. I used up the last of my box when I made the samples for my workshops at CREATE this year and it was more than time to replenish my stash.
I have a tray — the kind used to bring breakfast in bed — that I place my Wubbers pliers on. I have the jumbo round, the medium and the small round ones. I also have my wire cutters, and then the Classic round nose and chain nose pliers. Next I have spools of 14 gauge round copper, bronze and sterling silver. This weekend, I forgot my sterling silver so I used 16 gauge nickel wire. (It’s much harder to work with so I tend to not use this wire very often. Though I do love that it’s a white wire and very cost-effective to work with). I put all my tools and wire on my tray to the right of me and then sit cross-legged on the sofa, wrapping the entire time the movie is playing. I know it seems a tad crazy, but it’s really an effective way to spend time with my family and knock out some work too.
At events, my students will ask me if I really love my Wubbers, or if there are any other brands of pliers that I use. Truthfully, I’ve bought every kind of jewelry pliers imaginable over the years and have used them (you can see my well-used pliers in my book Making Metal Jewelry because I had yet to discover Wubbers when I was writing it). I used to think pliers were pliers. Then I met Patti Bullard, the Founder and President of Wubbers, over two years ago at a jewelry making retreat. She gave me a pair to try, and that’s how I became a fan. I keep my other brands for workshops for students to use, but for my work I’m pretty faithful. I honestly can’t live without my round mandrel pliers, particularly the medium size. They make perfect French ear wires every time. They also make great bails and clasps.
You can definitely make loops using found “mandrels” from around the house. The barrel of a Sharpie marker and pens work great when you’re learning. You can also cut dowel rods to fit in your hand. I’m not advocating everyone run out and buy high end tools when you’re first learning the trade. However, I will tell you that your hands are your best and most important tools. When you begin to make jewelry as a part-time hobby and sell your work, remember the investment in good tools is worth it’s weight in gold for your health and safety, as well as the time you save while creating. I know this pile of wirewrapped components in the top picture looks like days worth of time. Actually, I made them (and more not shown in the pic) during two movies. That’s what I mean by time savings with good tools.
After making the wire components, I work harden the clasps with my hammer and steel bench block. Then I add patina. I use Jax Brown for copper, bronze and brass and Jax Black for nickel. For sterling silver, I use Liver of Sulphur and I prefer to buy it in the extended life gel now rather than the hard chunks. After patination, I put them into the tumbler for additional work hardening and polishing for about 4 hours. Then, I can finally add them to my jewelry. It does take some time to create these, but they make me happy.
Here’s a few pics of the finished patinated and tumbled copper and brass components. They look fantastic and quite a bit different from the top picture when they were still in phase 1 of creation.
Here’s wishing you a truly Artful week!