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Wire Wrapping Supplies You Need (and Don't Need) to Get Started

When I began wire wrapping jewelry, I scoured books and the Internet to figure out what tools and supplies I needed. Which, of all the expensive supplies everyone said I needed, did I really need? For someone who might not know how much to invest - even if you'll like jewelry making - knowing what you really need to get started is critical. The inessential stuff can wait. But if you don't have the essential tools and materials, this could make or break your experience with the craft.

I do highly recommend learning wire wrapping as a way to get started, whether you're working with precious metal clay, beading, wire sculpture, or another. It's a basic skill you'll need to learn.  It's also a mode of jewelry making in and of itself.  Even though I make more jewelry with beads and beading wire, wire wrapping with precious metals is still my first love. I love how strong a wire-wrapped earring, necklace or bracelet is. I love that I can make my own findings, like clasps and ear wires.

And most of all, I love the rustic look of wire-wrapped sterling silver jewelry - and the delicate, elegant look of gold wire-wrapped jewelry. (Consider making a chain of freshwater pearls wire-wrapped in gold. It's the height of luxury for a fraction of the price you'd pay retail. Fine 24 gauge gold fill wire is fine enough for most pearl drill holes and is still workable.)

My suggestions includes the basic pliers you'll need, as well as my personal favorite types and brands. You'll learn what you can't do without and what you most definitely can do without (namely, a crimp tool for crimping beads - in my experience, they're next to useless).  You'll learn the best brand of jewelry wire flush cutters. You'll also discover which tools you should shell out good money for and those for which you don't have to pay exorbitant amounts to get the best value.

If you're in a hurry, here's a quick list of basic supplies for wire wrapping every beginning jeweler should start with. (Or you can read my full recommendations for essential wire-wrapping supplies.)

Lindstrom Flush Cutters
A set of quality flush cutters is super important in making jewelry, when rough edges make or break a piece - and no, it's not time effective to always file down the edges every cut.  Lindstrom is the best flush cutter for jewelry makers I know.  I have this flush cutter and highly recommend it to beginners, plus intermediates and advanced wire wrappers.

Round Nose Pliers
Quality round nose pliers are essential for gaining control of the wire as you loop it and making loops small enough to work with - the cheap round nose pliers are much larger and don't do the job remotely as well, and might even discourage you from continuing on with wire wrapping.  Again, I love the Lindstrom round nose pliers

Flat Nose Pliers
Either a flat nose plier or chain nose plier is essential for making perfect loops, since its slim profile allows you to make clean bends.  I also use it to flatten crimp beads. Because that's all it does, I don't think you need the top-of-the-line plier when you start out. Just a cheap flat nose plier should work, though expect to replace them over time if you use them for flattening crimps, as this requires some heavy-duty squeezing and strain on the tool.  (And please don't waste your money on a cheap crimping tool.  I did, and I don't recommend them at all, nor does the customer who sent back a bracelet because it wasn't securely crimped.)

Bent Nose Pliers
Bent nose pliers are the "secret" to getting into fine corners and achieving easy wire bends and manipulation at odd angles.  Many jewelers use chain nose pliers - I don't - I just use my trusty bent nose plier and flat nose pliers.

Chain Nose Pliers
Most jewelery makers would tell you you're insane if you don't have a good pair of chain nose pliers.  They assist both in fine control work and in making perfect loops.  As I said, I don't have one.  I'm addicted to my trusty bent-nose pliers and flat nose, above.  But if your budget isn't super-tight, you'd probably find it useful.

22 Gauge Half Hard Silver Jewelry Wire
I normally recommend 20 gauge sterling silver jewelry wire as the standard, but the cost of silver is going up, and for most purposes, 22 gauge sterling silver wire, which is slightly finer than 20 gauge, will do the job.  (The exception is ear wires, which really are sturdier with 20 gauge wire, although some people do use 22 gauge.)  While you're still mastering the basic techniques, you probably want to get 20 gauge copper wire to start out and learn with, then graduate to 22 or 20 gauge sterling silver when you've practiced a bit. 

Be warned, though - it's harder to learn to manipulate the softer copper wire than the half-hard sterling silver wire.  But if you can master it with copper wire, sterling silver will seem much easier. 

To understand the basics of jewelry wire gauges, see Sterling Silver Jewelry Wire for Crafters

Books on Wire Wrapping
I found All Wired Up to be an invaluable resource for my wire wrapping.   It was very clear to read, with easy to understand diagrams. Especially it taught me how to make wonderful clasps and findings from wire.  I highly recommend it to beginning wire wrappers for learning the basic techniques.

Wire Wrapping: The Basics and Beyond is not an aesthetically gorgeous book - it's not even in color - but it tells you in words and shows you in pictures all the steps you need to take to wire wrap a pendant, which is one of the most basic skills in wire wrapping.  It allows you to teach yourself how to wire wrap  and is essentially a "tutorial in a book."  It's highly recommended by those who reviewed it, and had I owned it, I probably would have mastered the art of wire wrapping a pendant - but unfortunately I never did.  Note that this book is appropriate once you already know the basic skills of wire wrapping, such as how to create a perfect loop or loop beads together with wire.

This one's not for beginners, and it seems to be more for inspiration than instruction.  Wirework: An Illustrated Guide to the Art of Wire Wrapping is appropriate after you've had some experience and know the basic techniques.  It's not essential for starting out.

Bead Storage Containers
Plastic bead storage container boxes are not absolutely essential until you get yourself more than 20 or so strands of beads.  When you have hundreds or thousands (yes, it can happen!), they're vital.  You can use storage designed for jewelry crafts, or if you're not too concerned about aesthetics, get a storage container with lots of pockets from the hardware department.

There are many other supplies and tools that make life easier, but for those starting out, these are enough to start with so that you should know whether or not you want to go on and invest more money and time in your enterprise.

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Here on the Ornatia Blog...

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