Saturday, May 15, 2010
Copper Headpin Tutorial
Good morning! I was here in my studio today using the torch to create some headpins and I thought you might like a quick tutorial. This one accompanies the post for Studio Saturday at Art Bead Scene today, so you can see another way to use copper wire to make headpins, this one is using a small gauge wire that's 32 gauge, to put through pearls, stones, or other beads with a really small hole to make dangles for your designs.
Pearls can be reamed out for a larger hole with a bead reamer, but natural stone chips usually don't work as well so having a smaller diameter headpin wire is a good idea for those type of beads.
This is a sample of some of the headpins I made, and the hemostat I use to hold the wire tightly in the torch flame. I use a plumber's torch for making headpins with copper wire, because the butane mini-torch I use for making fine or sterling silver headpins doesn't have enough heat for balling the end of copper wire. The hemostat locks onto the wire so it doesn't wiggle and I can hold it perfectly vertical in the torch flame but well away from my hand and fingers. Safety is important!
After it balls up at the end - (it doesn't take long at all with the fine gauge copper wire so don't go too far or the ball will drop off, make sure you have a fire-resistant firebrick or metal plate underneath just in case so nothing gets burned) - I dunk it immediately in very cold water to get the ruby red color that's so pretty with the copper and wipe it with a rag to dry it. Remember to leave it in the hemostat and don't touch it until you dunk it, the wire is still very hot and you can get a burn or blister if it touches skin.
This is the balled wire headpin through a natural freshwater pearl with a very small hole, holding it in my round-nose pliers and getting ready to make the wrapped loop at the top of the pearl.
Here I've wrapped the wire over the top of the round nose pliers to start making the loop.
Now I bring the pliers to the other side of the loop and finish wrapping back to the starting place, to make a nice even and rounded loop in the headpin. When the metal is heated up to make the ball it anneals the metal and makes it softer and easier to bend. I didn't hammer this wire with a leather mallet to make it work-hardened, but you can do that to make the wire stiffer for the loop. You can also hammer or texture the loop after wrapping to work harden it, but don't go too far or the wire can get brittle and break.
Here I've changed to my bent nose pliers to keep them out of my way while I make the wrapped part around the wire. You can make a long, skinny dangle by making the loop higher up and wrapping the wire around it, or make a thick wrap around the loop for a decorative look.
Here's the finished pearl dangle, see the pretty red ruby color in the oxidized copper that was balled up. I love that patina the heat gives copper. You can take some fine sandpaper and remove the blackened part of the flamed wire, or if it's going to be covered up and not show you can just leave it.
On this one the pearl is on top of a balled copper headpin that I lightly hammered to make it flat and paddle-shaped. That's another look you can get when you make your own headpins. So you'll always have the size of wire and type of headpin you need to make earrings, dangles or for charms. See the different sized balls on the ends of the different gauge wires?
Did you like the tutorial? If you do, I'll try to take more photos and post more on other subjects, too. It's hard to take the photo while holding wire in the flame of the torch, my attention is somewhere else!
If you are interested in more good chain making info and fusing a different kind of link, check out Catherine Witherell's blog - she's making blob chain links and you have to see them to know how cool they are!