Monday, March 02, 2009

Happy as a ClamShell Tip

Here's a clamshell tip for you - how to use clamshell tips to finish your jewelry!

A clamshell tip is a folding pair of half domes, with a loop, that you use to create a nice, clean, finished end on your jewelry. They have been around for a long time, and you will see them a lot on old pearl necklaces, for instance. However, they are very versatile and you can use them in lots of places you want a nice, tidy end.

What you can't see in these pictures, and is the secret to using them, is that at the "hinge" - where the two half-domes fold together, is a hole. This is where the thread or bead stringing material goes through. For photography purposes, they seem to be determined to lay flat on their sides, so you'll have to take my word for it.

BTW - one of our packaging gals swears these look like little brassieres laying around in their package. Creeps her right out - she's always all "ewww - not clamshell tips again."

Anyhoo - the secret to use a small bead inside the clamshell to anchor your thread. BTW - these are also great for multistrand pieces!

Find a small bead that will fit inside your clamshell - I like to use a 2 mm metal bead, sterling or otherwise - whatever I have to hand. A glass seedbead works also. Thread it onto your stringing material. Secure it around the bead. If you are doing multiple strands, you can just put the bead in the middle of the strand, or knot around the bead, your choice.

Then thread on the clamshell tip, with the folding direction (hollow part) towards your anchoring bead, and away from the rest of the beads you plan to string.
You can see that the bead fits nicely into the hollow portions of the clamshell. It is important to use a bead that fits inside, and has a little extra room for the thread, so that is why I like to use a 2 mm metal round - which is also not obvious if it shows a little afterward - and they have big holes for multiple strands of thread.

Then string the rest of your beads - the next clamshell at the other end, and another small, anchoring bead. You can secure here by knotting around the anchoring bead. Thread through it again, being careful not to catch the first pass with your needle (if using one) and pull the bead up tight to the clam shell, and tie a knot. There will be a loop of thread tightly knotted outside the bead - which is fine, as the bead will disappear, inside the clamshell.

Alternately, for a multi-strand piece, you can go through the bead, around and back down through the clamshell, and add another strand on the same thread.

Then, when you get back to the first end, you just knot the two ends together on the far side of the anchor bead.

The point is to not try and make a knot so big that won't pull out of the clamshell - the point is to use an anchor bead and tie to the bead, and it is the bead that doesn't pull out of the clamshell.

Once you have all your strands in place, and your thread securely knotted around the anchor bead, trim your thread up close - some folks use a dab of glue to prevent the end working it's way back out, others string the end back down through a few beads and trim off there.

Next, you need to fold the clamshell shut. Gently squeeze it shut with your pliers.

Can you re-open them if you need to add another strand? Yes, in theory, if you can slip something like the edge of a paring knife into the gap, you can pry it open. Once. The metal will fatigue and break from being repeatedly opened and closed, so I would not make a habit of this.

Next, you need to close up the loop. I find that the loops need some pre-bending to refine their shape, so use your round nose pliers for this.

Then hook into your clasp, and use your pliers to complete the bend into a fully looped closed position.

As this is a flat piece of metal, the sideways-bend like a jumpring is not really possible. Just loop it through and finish the loop by squeezing it shut.

And there you have it. Nice, tidy ends.

BTW II - there is another version of these that do NOT have a hole at the hinge. In this case, the bead that is anchoring the thread is still trapped inside by folding the clamshell closed. I prefer the ones with the hole, as there is no way for the anchoring bead to pull out. But - the advantage to the non-holey style is that, I suppose you could string a whole bunch of strands independently, and then slap a clamshell tip on afterward. With this style, with the hole, you have to put it on in the right place, as you make it.

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