Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Tuesday Tips - Wire Wheels Go Round

Before I left on vacation, I ordered some wire from Rio Grande. They were having a sale, so I splurged.

Not sure how long this much 18 gauge wire will last, but I can't wait to get it unwrapped and start shaping and hammering it.

I will patina and darken some of it for rosary wrapping, to make necklaces and bracelets. And for cold connections like rivets and stitching things together.

Each wheel is one pound of copper wire! It was waiting for me when I got back from vacation. I have some projects in mind to use with it, and now I won't have to keep making trips to the hardware store to pick up copper wire.

I can solder with it, make wire wrapped beads and all sorts of lovely ideas to try out. If you're in need of copper wire, check out Rio Grande, they have sterling and fine silver wire also. They ship quickly and package nicely.

Here are some Tuesday Tips for working with copper wire:

1. If you want to patina the wire with liver of sulphur or other oxydizing items, be sure to use uncoated wire. If the liver of sulphur can't reach the copper, it won't darken. Some wire is coated with plastic to keep it from changing color. Choose raw copper wire if you want to use a patina.

2. Although it seems backward, the higher the number of the gauge of the wire the smaller the diameter of the wire. A 24 gauge wire is thinner in diameter than an 18 gauge or 14 gauge wire. If you want a really thin wire, for crocheting with beads or something of that sort, use a 30 gauge wire.

3. Sterling silver wire comes as hard, half-hard and soft. This indicates how easy it is to bend. For wire wrapping you will start with either half-hard or even soft. Copper wire doesn't come with these different initial choices.

4. As you work with wire, it begins to stiffen due to being work hardened. If you hammer it or wrap with it, gradually the wire begins to get harder to work with. To make it softer again, it needs to be heated to its annealing temperature. Copper wire in coils can be annealed using a torch or by putting it briefly in a kiln at the annealing temperature. Just be careful and don't melt it, or handle very hot copper wire and get burned!

5. Copper wire, together with copper foil, solder and a soldering iron, can be coated (or "tinned") with lead-free silver solder, to use the wire with your glass or other projects. You'll need a good water-based flux and the lead-free silver to use in projects that will be worn, to keep them safe and non-toxic for handling and wearing next to skin.

6. When learning a new wire wrapping technique, practice on copper wire before you do the newly learned technique on sterling silver or fine silver wire. You can measure your wire lengths and also master the technique using inexpensive copper before you start the same project with silver wire.


EmandaJ said...

Hi Lynn, Thanks for the wire tips. I bought some "robin's-egg-blue" fresh-water pearls the other day and I've been dying to make a little wire nest pin. I have silver wire, but I think I'll go get some copper wire to use for practice, as you suggested. You probably saved me some frustration.

Judy said...

Great post, thanks for sharing.