I have a passion for beautiful earrings. I love to wear them and I love to make them. Because I also crave variety, I've learned to make my own ear wires. I never buy ear wires for my handmade earrings and I don't think you should either. Ear wires are very simple and quick to make and, creating your own will give you much more versatility when it comes to shape and size.
First, a quick lesson in measuring wire gauge. What you're looking at above is called a wire gauge. It's used to help you determine the gauge, or thickness, of your wire. I always use sterling for ear wires. Many people are allergic to other metals but most tolerate sterling well. Also, I always use 20 gauge wire, because that's what makes your earlobes do the happy dance. Heavier gauges are too heavy and smaller gauges aren't sturdy enough. So, get your wire gauge and I'll show you how it works.
Insert your wire into the slot that corresponds with the size wire you think you have. Or, I should say, you TRY to insert your wire into the slot. If the wire goes in, move to the next slot. When the wire won't go into the slot, that means you've found your gauge. It's that simple. The hole behind the slot is there so that, once your wire is inserted, you can easily pull it out without marring the wire.
Step 1: Measure the wire and trim each end so it's flush...nice and flat. I use cheap, diagonal cutters from the hobby store. Trim the very end of your wire, making sure to have the flat back of your cutters facing the long part of the wire. This will result in a flat cut on the end of the wire you're going to use.
Step 2: Lay your wire against a ruler (oscillating dinosaurs optional) and cut it to 2 1/2 inches, again, making sure the cutters are facing the proper direction for you to get another flat end on the piece of wire you'll be using. You can cut your wires any length you like depending on the type of earwire you're making but I find 2 inches to be the length I use most.
Use the length of wire you just cut as a measure for cutting your second length. That way, both pieces will be the same.
Make sure you're getting those ends flush cut.
Step 4: Once you have a small paddle on the end of your wire, use your small, round nose pliers to bend a little loop in the end. Place the wire between the jaws of your pliers (actually, you should place the wire closer to the center of the pliers than you see in this photo) with just a tiny bit of the wire sticking up out of the top. (Objects and Elements carries pliers including a terrific set of Revere pliers).
Give the wire a firm, but gentle, twist, turning your wrist forward. This smooth action on your part should form a nice loop. As you're turning the wire, your left thumb should be supporting the wire directly behind where you're making the loop. I couldn't show this in the picture because my left hand was taking the picture!
Above, is what your wire should now look like.
Step 5: Place your wire into the jaws of a set of bailing pliers with the little loop facing you and the larger barrel of the plier away from you. The size of plier you use determines the size of the large loop of your ear wire. You can also use the back of a set of extra long round nose pliers for this step or a mandrel such as a knitting needle or ink pen.
Roll the wire around the barrel, again, with a smooth motion of your wrist. You'll be rolling away from your body.
Keep rolling until you get a complete circle around the barrel. Slide the wire off the end of the pliers.
Step 6: Using your flat nose pliers, grasp the wire right about the point where it criss-crosses. Gently bend the wire away from the loop.
Step 7: Use your chasing hammer and place the ear wire just on the edge of the bench block. Lightly hammer the circle of the ear wire right above the tiny loop. This will flatten the outer circle of your ear wire a little bit and give it a pretty bit-o-flash. Don't hammer the tiny loop and don't hammer the top of the large loop. Tip: only put the part of the wire you want to hammer onto the bench block. Definitely do not put your fingers onto the block. Anything that is placed on the block is fair game to be hammered!
Step 8: Place the end of your ear wire into the jaws of your flat nose pliers, lining up the end of the wire so that it is flush with the other side of the jaws. Gently bend the wire end just a little bit. Or, you can leave it straight if you like. They're YOUR ear wires. You can make them the way YOU like them!
A word about hammers: What you see here, from left to right, is a small part of my hammer collection. The one on the left is a rawhide mallet. Center, is a combination nylon/rubber head hammer. Far right is my fave, the soft-face, deadblow hammer. It has little beads or bb's or corn kernels or something inside that shake when I hammer and give the hammer weight. These hammers are used for hardening your wire. The materials on the faces of these hammers will stiffen the wire without marring it. Any of these hammers will do.
Step 9: Harden the earwires by gently but firmly hammering. This will stiffen up your ear wires so they don't bend out of shape at the slightest provocation. Hammer like this all up and down the ear wire, being careful to avoid that pesky, little loop again.
Step 10: This last step is extremely important. What you see in the pic above is a tool called a bur cup (also known as a cup bur or wire rounder. This tool is indispensable in creating comfortable, snag-free ear wires. Also, I have a small piece of 0000 steel wool that's been balled up between my palms.
Grasp the earwire firmly and insert the end of it into the bur cup. Hold the ear wire in the cup and rotate the cup 25-30 times. This will knock off those nasty rough spots that can cause unhappy earlobes.
When your finished with the bur cup, insert the ear wire into the ball of steel wool and squeeze while rotating the wire around; back and forth, up and down. This polishes off any remaining, stubborn snags.
Yes! NOW you're finished. And just look at those lovely earwires. Your mother will be so proud! And, if you're excited about these earwires just look what you else you can do:
These are just a few of the fun shapes you can create. You'll never go back to store bought again!