Cool Custom Clasp Tutorial

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Start with 2 to 3 inches of 14 gauge wire.  I used copper here.   Trim ends flush

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Bend wire in the middle You might wait until this point to flush cut your ends so the wires are even.3

Make a loop on the end of each wire4

I like to use bail making pliers to do this.   You can spread the wires out to curl each end.

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Press the  wires closed.  I like to use flat nosed pliers for this and I must warn you that it takes practice to keep the wires even.  The less you have to touch them with the pliers, the less nicks you will have.  A trick: insert the bail forming pliers in the loops while you adjust the rest of the wire.  The make any adjustments needed  in the loops.5See the left of the picture: I have put a little bend in the end of the clasp.  
8Side view.  Notice how everything is even.  That’s what you want to strive for.

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Gently bend the wire over a mandrel.   Don’t try to get your finished shape in one try.  You can refine later.
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Here is a shape that’s more refined.  Notice how the loops sit back from the clasp.  Notice also how the wire in the top look is shorter than the bottom one.  It happens.  Try to get in there with the tip of your flush cutters and  clip the longer wire to the size of the shorter one.  Then close the rings right.  You don’t have to open the rings to do this.  In fact, you shouldn’t because then it will be harder to get them back into shape.

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Here is a finished clasp with jump rings

Clasps

And here are more clasps in different sizes and shapes.  

Wired and Inspired!

Photo by Sarah Sorlien

I taught a wire class at for first Greater Philadelphia Polymer Artists Meetup on March 15. I was actually substituting for Olivia Surratt, who developed the class, chose the tools and materials, and provided excellent handouts (illustrated by Trish Pfaff) for the students. I have learned a great deal about wire working from Olivia and also from Beading Yoda Jeri Schatz who introduced me to working with a torch and fine silver wire. But I have not taken any other classes and am basically self taught.  And I know that not everyone has access to good teachers or the time or money to invest in a class. So here are links to information and tutorials I have found helpful. Wig Jig University has hundreds of free wire tutorials.  This is the site I turned to when I became interested in working with wire.  Connie Fox is another person whose web site I turned to again and again when I first started. She does not do much wire work anymore, so the gallery on her web site does not have a lot of examples.  Fortunately, you can see several examples on Pinterest  here  and here.  Along with the wire skills tutorials on her  web site, you can check out her Garden Bangle Tutorial on Polymer Clay Central. Sharilyn Miller is another one of my favorites.  Check out her free tutorials here. Miller has made four DVDs that are well worth the investment. (I wrote about  the Ethnic Style DVD in an earlier post.).  The other titles in the series are Tribal Treasures,  Rings of Beauty and Bohemian Bangles.  Each DVD contains more than three hours of information.   You can purchase them here.  Be sure to check out her blog here. Wubbers, the people who keep designing new wireworking tools that you never knew you needed until you tried them, have set up Wubbers University.  You have to register for the site, but it is so full of free information that it’s totally worth it. Connie Fox, Sharilyn Miller and Olivia Surratt all studied with Lynne Merchant whose work is probably most responsible for the popularity of wire art jewelry today.  See examples of Merchant’s work here and here.   And watch this video of her demonstrating how to make a spiral.

A New Twist on Viking Knit!

One aspect of creativity is combining ideas.   Finding new ways to use and combine materials is another one.   I have been interested in Viking Knit for some time and between experimenting with alternative ways to do it and alternative tools to make it,  I came up with some new ideas to give single weave Viking Knit a new look.

Cloth, Fabric

I found this beautiful fabric on a discarded window treatment. This is what it looked like after I washed and dried it. The blued and coppery hues reminded me of the copper wire I use in Viking Knit. And I love the contrasting look you get with using ribbon with stones or metal.    

Viking Knit 5 sided

Why not thread some of this luminous looking fabric through the Viking Knit?  

viking knit chain and fabric

Ok, the first thing I learned is that you do not, I repeat do not pull the chain through the draw plate before you thread the fabric through- do it before.  Just make sure the  fabric or ribbon is long enough to fill the length of the knit after its final pull through the draw plate.     The fabric does not make the chain any thicker or harder to pull.

Closeup

I’ve used 24 gauge copper here.  See the fabric inside?  I  don’t recommend using fabric inside of  double or triple weave because you really won’t see it.    Besides, double or triple weave is beautiful on its own.    

So, what can you do with your ribbon filled Viking Knit?  Here are some ideas.  Run with them.

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This is a necklace that I’ve finished with bands of flat copper wire run through a rolling mill.

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I braided the ends of the wire.  The ends are purposefully left raw and unfinished for a funky look which might not be for you.  

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These pictures are of a Viking Knit that’s around 20 inches long (excluding fabric ties) that I’ve made into a multi-strand bracelet for a  funky bohemian look.

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You can try different fabrics, add beads, finish the ends however you want- the sky’s the limit.  Make something that looks different from what everyone else is doing! Play and have fun.

 

Make Your Own Viking Knit Tool

To start Viking Knit the conventional way, one generally fashions a

Flower

Five or Six-leafed petal out of wire

Flower2

secures it to the top of a dowel, and then starts the weave from there.   I decided to try making a tool to make the process a little easier.  I am posting this because some people might find it helpful.

Screws

I took a wooden dowel about 3/4 inch thick and drew a six slice pie on the top with a Sharpie marker.  I continued those lines down the sides of the dowel mandrel using a ruler to draw them straight.  These are guide lines for the Viking Knit.

 

TopView

I used a rotary tool like a Dremel to drill pilot holes for small screws.  I screwed the screws into the mandrel by hand.  You have to go slowly because it’s easy to split the wood.  Don’t use a hammer.

Starting Loops

 

This picture shows how I loop the beginning wire off of which I will work the Viking Knit.  I have used a bit of tape to secure it.  You could also hold it in place with a band of wire under the screws.  Since this part will be cut off, it doesn’t matter what it looks like so long as you are comfortable with it and it works.

 

 

First Row

 

This  is the start of the weave.

 

8Rows

The lines help you to keep your rows straight.

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This is the single weave knit that I’ve removed from the dowel after cutting off the starting loops.  (This is 24 gauge copper wire)  I have another dowel the same size as the starter tool I made and I could slip the open weave onto that and keep weaving for a longer chain.  That would help me to keep a uniform shape.  There are those who would be able to do this without the dowel, but I am not one of them!

Length before Reduction

 

I made about 10 inches of weave and pulled it through the drawplate until it was about  18 inches long

Pliers

 

I recommend using wire drawing pliers because it makes the job so much easier.  They don’t have to be expensive.  

You could put end caps and  a clasp Viking Knit at this point.  Here’s a video that shows how to do that.

 

But you don’t have to be limited  to end caps and clasps.  Next week I will post on a new idea for designing and finishing single knit Viking Weave that I hope gets your creative juices flowing.

New Work

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I still have a buzz from Clayathon  and am exploring some new ideas.  Here are some pictures.

 

Do Overs


Do Overs.    Don’t you wish you had the chance to do some things again because they didn’t turn out  the way you wanted the first time?  Or, maybe you thought of a better way to do something, but it was too late you you couldn’t get motivated to begin again.   Do you give up or try again?

Contrary to popular belief, even talented people don’t usually nail  a technique the first time they try it.   In his book  Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell says you have to work at a technique for 10,000 hours to master it.  I normally have to try something many times (except marriage thank the powers that be) before  I get something that comes even close  to what I had in mind.  Sometimes I never do.  Sometimes I  take a detour, have a happy accident, and end up in a new place all together.  Now that I think of it, that’s how I ended up getting married!

Do not be afraid of Do Overs!  Do overs are a great way to learn.  Do overs do not make you a failure.   Here’s an example: Look at the Viking Knit  necklace below.  It’s a triple weave made from 24 gauge copper wire.  I wanted to make a finding that would work as a focal piece and clasp.   First, I made the one  you see on the left.    I liked it for about a minute, then it began to aggravate me.  I thought the scale was right, but it was boring.   It was difficult to open and close the necklace.  The metal (14 gauge wire) was dinged and hammering it flat didn’t add anything to the design. 

Compare the finding on the left with the one on the right.

   

I used the same gauge wire and the same length for the second finding.  This time, I fabricated hooks with balled ends and  loops.  I suspended the hooks from the  loops coming out of the end caps.  This gave me the option of making  a  focal piece or clasp I could attach to the hooks, and it gave me the option of  switching out the item if I wanted a new look.

The new focal piece/clasp is also a spiral, but I balled both ends this time.  This was a design decision instead of the design indecision I  made on the first piece where I cut the spiral ends, filed then and just left them.   You need a hot torch to ball copper wire this thick,  so I used my EZ Torch.    Then I made copper jump rings and soldered them to the spiral.  The necklace is now easy to take on and off and is more comfortable to wear because the hooks and jump rings make the assembly more flexible.  I don’t like to know that I am wearing jewelry and I don’t want to spend a lot of time putting it on and taking it off.  But I don’t want to lose it, either.  The hooks and the weight of the necklace components work together to hold the necklace on securely.


Press here  to see another piece I  did over before I was happy with the results.  And here are two metal lentil beads I made and wore suspended from chains.  One day I decided to try them as pendants on bead strands.  I think the whole look is more opulent.  If you’re not happy with one of your projects, don’t be afraid to do it over!


Viking Knit Unraveled and Revealed

I recently spent time trying to puzzle out the Viking Knit.  There some excellent directions on the Internet including these on the Fine Art by Rocio website.  The problem is, the Viking Knit that looks so cool is double or triple knit and all of the instructions that I saw, including those in Irene Petersen’s otherwise marvelous book,  tell you to loop down a couple of rows with a single wire and then go up a couple of rows and come back down to double knit and repeat to triple knit.  I don’t know about you, but that would drive me “Ape-something that rhymes with knit.”  Plus it’s hard to keep your rows and stitches even and the wires lying evenly instead of whopper jawed and all kinked up.

And then there was this thing about clamping an Allen Wrench in a vise that seemed like overkill. Viking Knit wants to spiral and as long as you keep your stitches fairly even,  you don’t have to be fanatical.  You can straighten your wire work when you take it off the mandrel.  I was able to find several artists on the Internet who used a mandrel of some sort.  I have had success with dowels and chopsticks.

But my biggest discovery is that you don’t have to do the up and down nonsense to do triple and double knit.  All you have to do is work with two or three wires at a time.  It’s  really not that difficult.

Here’s a crudely drawn picture of how you start:

The red loops are what they call the petals.  The above diagram shows the stitch worked flat, and you can see examples of this in Arlene Fisch’s classic book Textile Techniques in Metal.  But for now, think round.  Since it’s recommended that you work in 24 or 26 gauge wire, working with 2 or 3 strands at a time is easier than it sounds.  When I work with copper wire,  I work with yard long strands of wire taped together one end and proceed as if I was using a single wire.  When I work with brass wire,  I use  18″ to 24″ strands because the wire is stiffer and a little harder to work with, but it is not difficult.  Here are some pictures:

Here is a triple knit chain in progress.  It is three stitches around and I am using 24 gauge wire.  They say that 24 or 26 gauge wire is the best size to use.

Here is a detail:

I add new chain according to the standard directions you will find in Internet tutorials or Irene Peterson’s book.  I worked on this brass wire chain until it was about 16″ long.  Then I annealed it with a micro torch (you don’t need to do this with copper or fine silver, but brass is stiffer) after brushing it with flux to cut down any fire scale.

The next step is passing it through the wooden  draw plate.

The above picture shows the chain during the drawing process.  I passed it through three successively smaller holes, then stopped.  I once saw a video of Charles Lewton-Brain demonstrating fold forming and he said something that stuck with me.  I don’t remember the exact quote, but he said that when you are working on something and reach a point where you like how it looks, STOP!


The picture above is the finished necklace.  I soldered the knitted ends together and soldered a 14 gauge wire to each end.  Then I made the end caps from brass, passed the 14 gauge wire through the holes in the end,  I formed wrapped loops. made jump rings and soldered them closed and finished with an “S” clasp I made for the necklace.

Here is a close up.

To give you a little perspective, the two copper sections below are five stitches around.  The top one is triple knit the same way I did the brass necklace and the bottom one is single knit.

The final picture is a close up of a wide hole bead I slipped over the chain.  The final necklace was about 24″ long.  How long do the chains get when you draw them?  There isn’t a hard and fast answer.  It depends on the stiffness of your wire, how many times you draw the chain and how many stitches around your chain is.  The only thing I can say for sure is better too long than too short.

So now that you know how to make a double or triple Viking Knit chain without all the up and down maneuvering, go ahead and give it a try.  OK, you might think it’s cheating.  You might be a purist.  Just remember, as someone wiser than me once said, “Virtue is its own reward and little else.”

Here’s a late addition:  the Viking Knit is the same as the “Acorn Stitch” or Celyon Stitch” used in embroidery, only it’s worked upside down.  Sometimes you can get the hang of a technique by trying it in another medium first.  If you’re new to wire work but good at sewing,  try the technique with thread to get the hang of it.

Jewelry from the Trash Can

I have been exploring textile arts and learning  techniques for incorporating them into jewelry.  And making up a few of my  own.  The bracelets below are from recycled materials:  old clothing dyed, stamped, painted and shredded, cast off electrical wire stripped and straightened, scrap stained glass tumbled and drilled, some gilded twigs from the sidewalk, pieces of old jewelry, and old plastic bangles or wire forms,  There is no plan; I just start to wrap and embellish.   I hit some of the bracelets with a heat gun to see how it would affect the fabric.  Depending on the fabric, it will burn, seal the frayed edges, or melt the fabric to reveal  what’s beneath.  I got this idea from a video by  Textile  and Mixed Media Artist Maggie Ayres.  There is so much information out there.  Don’t limit yourself to what you already know or think you have to take a class (unless you are learning how to use a torch, or another technique where proper safety instruction is vital).   Don’t be afraid to try something new!

Five Pendants for Five Women

Last year, I wrote about Shari’s rainbow.  The year before that, I wrote about a trip to Nag’s Head, North Carolina and the shells I found there.

I didn’t know what to do with the shells, so I decided to wait until they talked to me.  I only knew I wanted to do something in Shari’s memory.  A few weeks ago, I made these pendants for five women: Leigh, Robin, Sandeye, Colleen and me.  I wanted to make something that would remind us of the ocean and the last days we spent with Shari.   Lapis was Shari s favorite stone, so I wired a small lapis bead onto each clasp.

When we look at these pendants, we will remember.

Shades of Blue Earrings

Blue

You can read my newest project article on how to make these cool drop earrings  in the November/December issue of Step By Step Beads. You probably know that SBS Beads will cease publication  with the January/February 2010 issue,   The good news from the Interweave site is that it is being merged into Beadwork Magazine, and that Step By Step Wire is still going strong.  I had a clasp making article published there earlier this year.