Tuesday, August 04, 2015

All wired up!

I love teaching and I love answering students' questions. Probably the most-asked questions I get revolve around types of wire and my preferences. So I thought I'd review the types I use and why, in this blog, to act as a handy reference. I've provided info on the wire that has been taken from various web sites. The preferences I list are strictly my own opinion and don't reflect the opinion of Beadfx or other instructors. 

Parawire
According to their website, Parawire craft wire has a 99% pure copper core and their proprietary coatings and process offer brilliant colour. This is then coated with a clear covering. This brand of wire is my favourite for most wirework projects. I use it in Viking knitting, wire kumihimo, coiling gizmo and French knitting. 

Here's why I prefer it:
1. Variety of gorgeous colours from black and white to gun metal, vintage bronze or peridot
2. Incredibly strong and stands up to a lot of bending and manipulation, especially when it's woven. It isn't brittle and doesn't snap with repeated bending
3. Colour doesn't strip off when pulled through a drawplate
4. Comes in many gauges

I also love that you can get "bare" or "natural" copper Parawire, which takes patina such as liver of sulphur very well. And I recently started using their silver-filled wire in both dead soft and half-hard -- a great alternative to sterling silver wire. Treat it like sterling silver and work with shorter lengths as it work hardens quickly like silver. 

For more info go to parawire.com or order through beadfx.com.

Sterling silver and argentium wires
Now that the price of silver is hovering around $15USD an ounce, it's more affordable to use in your wirework projects. Sterling silver is 92.5 silver content with 7.5 copper. Argentium has some geranium in the 7.5% copper which means it is much slower to tarnish. Argentium is great for projects where you want to fuse silver and you don't need solder at all. There's very little to no firescale to remove too! I use sterling silver dead soft wire for Viking knitting and half-hard for wire wrapping semi precious stones that I use in necklaces. When weaving silver wire, work with shorter lengths, since is work hardens faster than copper/copper core wire. Both make excellent jump rings. You can purchase beautiful SS, argentium and silver-filled jump rings from marilyngardiner.com. 

Dark annealed steel wire
Working with my Now That's a Jig! and learning from Brenda Schweder, I've discovered the joy of this inexpensive wire. My only frustration is that it isn't sold in Canadian hardware stores. You can order it from Brenda or on Etsy. I usually stock up on it at Bead and Button. Basically this is iron wire with 2% carbon content used in industrial processes from rebar to fencing to stovepipe binding to floral wire. In its dead soft state, it is about as hard as half hard sterling silver wire. It is not the same as galvanized or stainless steel wire, which are both hard wires that don't lend themselves to jewellery making. This wire needs to be conditioned before you use it -- scrub it with steel wool and seal it with Renaissance wax -- then it has great potential to add an edge and strength to your jewellery designs. For more info check out brendaschweder.com.

Jewellers bronze wire
I use this in heavy gauges like 8 and 10 for forging bronze bangles and neck torques that have a substantial and pre-historic feeling to them. This wire is a true gold colour, is sometimes called red brass and is 85% copper and 15% zinc. It is very "springy" and needs to be annealed to work with easily. Jump rings made from this wire are very resilient and make bright "gold" colour pieces of chain mail jewellery that tarnish naturally and beautifully into a dull gold. 

Aluminium wire
I never use it for wirework projects. I don't really like it very much. Artistic Wire makes it in a variety of colours and gauges. It is a lightweight alternative to sterling silver for jump rings. I remember about 13 years ago when I started making chain mail jewellery my son wanted a gauntlet so I ordered green aluminium rings for the job. They marred and marked easily with my pliers but they did what I wanted them to do at the time. But for the kind of lasting jewellery I make for myself and for sale, I prefer sterling silver, copper or bronze jump rings. I know aluminium rings come in a lot of cool colours, and I think they are great for beginning chain mailers since they are easy to open and close and are inexpensive. I know that beadfx.com carries a great selection of coloured aluminium rings. 

1 comment:

Sue Henry said...

Excellent! Thanks for your experience and insight.
I just bought steel wire at Canafian Tire. 19 gauge. I'll let you know how it works on the jig.