An ancient folk art form, wirework was probably first practiced
by the Egyptians beginning around 3,000 BC. By the mid-nineteenth century
this lively folk art flourished with the availability of an impressive
range of products from kitchen implements to wire fencing. By the 1920's,
wire sculpture introduced this medium to the world of fine art.
Wire diameter is measured in inches or millimeters as well as in
gauges. Gauges range from 0 to around 50; the smaller the number, the
thicker the wire. For example, a 16-gauge wire is slightly thinner
than a coat hanger, while 30-gauge wire is similar to thread.
• annealed wire: a pliable, durable and easy-to-use wire for all
of your crafting needs. An example is: dark annealed wire.
• armature mesh: a fun, versatile, flexible aluminum ideal for sculpture, model
making and arts and crafts.
• bead stringing wire: made from multiple strands of incredibly fine diameter
stainless steel wire. Its smooth, kink resistant nylon coating provides excellent
abrasion resistance. Tiger Tail, one of the original wires used for bead stringing,
actually had an industrial origin. Containing only 3 strands of stainless steel
wire, it tends to kink if you're not careful. Modern bead stringing wires are
softer, stronger and more flexible than Tiger Tail, and can be used for most
general beading designs. Bead stringing wires, now available in multiple colors
to enhance your designs, work well for stringing ceramic, glass, metal, stone
beads, seed beads and freshwater pearls. The greater the number of strands, the
softer and more flexible the wire is.
• beading cord: comes in silk or nylon cord. Nylon cord is less expensive, but
not inferior to, silk. In fact, it is stronger, has less stretch and feels very
similar to silk. Silk, the traditional stringing material used by beaders for
centuries, adds elegance and a natural drape to your designs.
• colored copper wire: consists of a copper core covered with a colored polyurethane
coating. It has a clear nylon overcoat that resists peeling or chipping despite
extensive wire working, twisting or bending. Colored copper wire is perfect for
wire wrapping, wire forming and bead stringing.
• enamel-covered wire: bendable, yet holds its shape. It's great for jewelry
making, floral design and more!
• memory wire: "remembers" its shape and retains its coil form. A rigid,
tempered stainless steel wire available in anklet, bracelet, necklace and ring
sizes. And it's corrosion and tarnish resistant.
Pliers are used to bend and shape wire, and usually only the most
basic kinds of wire cutters and pliers are needed.
• Round-nose pliers are versatile pliers that are especially good for bending
wire into smaller round loops or circles, because the jaw consists of two smooth,
slender cones. The diameter of a finished circle is determined by where on the
cone the wire is wrapped¾nearer the base for a larger circle or toward
the tip for a tiny circle. Squeeze the jaws together to see how the gap between
the two cones tapers, closing at the tip. Find the spot in the gap that matches
the wire thickness to choose the appropriate spot for wrapping. Half-round pliers
are useful for bending wire into broad curves.
• Flat-nose pliers have a flat smooth surface on the inside of the jaw, making
this the tool to use if you want to grip wire without marring it. These pliers
are also good for bending right angles into the wire.
• Chain-nose pliers are similar to flat-nose pliers, except the flat part of
the jaw is finely serrated for a surer grip. Serrated jaws will mar the wire,
so be sure to grip the wire only in areas that will eventually be hidden. Sometimes
you will use the serrations intentionally to cut some tooth in a wire for better
hold at crossover points and wire wraps.
• Bent-nose pliers slanted, serrated jaws help you work in complicated, hard-to-reach
• Long-nose pliers serrated jaws have an extra strong grip and provide easy pick
• Twisting pliers and wire cutters make tight, consistent spirals with minimal
effort. The simple one-pull action and automatic return twists wire quickly and
easily into a strand that will not unravel. Wire is cut easily with the wire
cutter in the center of the pliers
• Diagonal pliers will easily cut through wire up to 1.6mm.
• Nylon jaw pliers, regular and thin-nosed, are coated with a thin nylon layer
and can gently flatten and harden wire without nicking or changing the diameter
of the wire. These pliers are also good for removing bends and kinks.
• Parallel or channel-type pliers are useful because the jaws open and close
parallel to each other, unlike ordinary pliers. Although the jaws are smooth,
they grip well, because they hold along their length rather than at just one
point. These pliers are good for straightening bent wire or for bending angles.
• Needle-nose pliers are useful for reaching into difficult places, and are the
best kind of pliers for working with chicken wire. The more versatile needle-nose
pliers combines a flat jaw with a rounded outer surface that tapers to a point.
You can use the nose to open up loops, the jaw for crimping, and the outer surface
as a form to shape curves and loops.
Wire is a remarkably malleable material. It can be braided, coiled,
twisted, wrapped, corded, woven, crocheted, spiraled, filigreed and
fashioned into innumerable wonderful shapes.
- twisting wire
Twisting two or more wires together adds strength and creates texture.
Soft wires such as copper are the easiest to twist. Harder wires
such as galvanized wire require more effort and caution. Letting
go of the wires prematurely may cause them to spin dangerously
out of control.
The easiest method for twisting wire is with a hand drill, giving
you more control over the wire. Start with a piece of wire at
least three times as long as the desired twisted length, keeping
in mind that the tighter the twist, the more wire you'll need.
Fold the wire in half and wrap it around a table leg or doorknob.
If necessary, place some padding between the wire and the doorknob
or table leg to protect the surface. Place a cup hook in the
drill, and secure both wire ends to the cup hook. While holding
the wire taut, slowly turn the drill handle, twisting the wire.
If you don't have a hand drill, you can create your own modified
version with a wooden coat hanger that has a revolving wire hook.
Cut a piece of wire at least three times as long as the desired
twisted length. Fold the length of wire in half and loop it around
a door handle or other secure point. Wrap both wire ends at least
three times around the hanger, on either side of the handle,
to secure. Step back until the wire is taut and begin rotating
the coat hanger. For an even twist, hold the wire horizontally
and don't relax your grip. Twist the wire to the desired degree,
taking care not to over twist or the wire may snap. Remove the
wire from the drill or door handle and cut both ends.
Most wire craft designs start with a basic anchor loop. Grasp the
end of the wire with round-nose pliers, about 1/4" down from
theend of the nose, keeping a firm grip on the pliers' handles.
Create a tight loop by carefully winding the wire around the nose
of the pliers by either turning the pliers or by pulling the wire
around. Remove the loop from the nose of the pliers, and place
the looped end between the tips of the pliers, squeezing to flatten
out the end.
- wrapping wire
When wrapping wire, the core wire should be thicker and harder
than the wrapping wire. Two pieces of the same thickness can
be used, if the wrapping wire is soft enough, copper wire is
ideal. When cutting the core wire, leave an extra 2-1/2" to
form the winding loop. If you are using long lengths of wire,
you may want to coil them first so they won't become unmanageable.
round-nose pliers, make a loop at the end of the core wire and
attach the wrapping wire to this loop. Insert a pencil or chopstick
into the loop and use it as a winder by rotating it with one hand.
While winding, use your other hand to tighten and scrunch the wire
coils so that the wire is closely wrapped. You can also use flat
chain-nose pliers, taking care not to damage the color coating.
Coils, a commonly used decorative shape, add grace and style to
a design, while removing the hazard of sharp ends.
Coils: Using round-nose pliers, make a small loop at the end
of the wire. Hold the loop firmly with parallel or channel-type
pliers, and continue bending the wire around itself until you have
a coil of the desired size. Keep adjusting the position of the
pliers as you work, taking care not to mar the wire.
Coils: Using round-nosed pliers, make a small loop at the end
of the wire. Holding the loop in the pliers, place your thumb against
the wire and form a curve, eyeballing the space you want between
the rings of the coil. Finally, carefully flatten the coil with
parallel (channel-type) pliers.
Flattened Extended Coils: The flattened extended coil is
a quick and easy way to form decorative trim or a structural device
such as the side walls of a container.
the wire several times around a broomstick or dowel to make a coil.
Remove the wire from the broomstick when the coils reach the desired
length. Splay out or flatten the loops one by one by holding them
firmly between your fingers and thumbs, or by squeezing a small
group of coils with nylon jaw pliers. Keep splaying out or squeezing
the loops until the whole coil has been flattened. The loops will
now look more oval than round. You can stretch the coil further
to open the loops if desired.
a length of dimensional coils by wrapping wire around a dowel.
Remove the wire from the dowel when they reach desired length.
After removing the coiled wire from the dowel, use nylon jaw pliers
to tuck the sharp ends in and to manipulate the coils into any
manner of shapes.
tip: To slightly separate wire coils evenly, slip the blunt
edge of a butter knife between the coils and rotate the knife's
blade to separate the coils.
or ribbon coils
Place your wire on an anvil or other hard, flat surface; hammer
the length of wire into a flat ribbon shape. Use round-nose pliers
to shape the wire around the plier's jaw. Adjust the pliers as
necessary, and continue scrolling to form a coil. Use nylon jaw
pliers if incorporating the coil into another wire piece.
Weaving, knitting and lace-making techniques can be draw on to
make basketry and textile designs. Fine enameled copper wire
is especially suitable for weaving as it is soft and pliable,
and it comes in a wide range of colors.
simplest way to weave is by winding wire over and under struts
or spokes. To create struts, cut equal lengths of wire and
fold them loosely at their halfway points, or points of intersection.
Holding the wires in one hand, attach a length of wire to the
center and start weaving around the wire spokes in an over/under
fashion, fanning the spokes in a circle as you go. After going
around three times, splice in an additional spoke to get an
uneven number, in order to establish the over/under pattern.
Lay a new spoke next to one that is already in the weaving,
and as you continue weaving, incorporate the new rib into the
pattern, spreading the spokes in a uniform circle as you go.
a more closely woven, tidier finish, weave around an even number
of struts by passing the wire over each strut and looping it
back around the wire strut to create a smooth, closely woven
the previous technique, but reverse the weave, this time passing
the wire under each strut before looping it back around the
wire strut to create ridges in the weave.
- loop joins
Loop joins are used for attaching two pieces of wire together,
such as for a chain. To make the links of a chain out of wire,
you essentially create small figure eights with perpendicular
loops. Begin by bending the end of a piece of wire about 1/4" at
a 90-degree angle with flat-nose pliers and form a small loop
with the round-nose pliers. Grasp this loop with the flat-nose
pliers and bend the wire at a 90-degree angle. Cut the wire,
leaving about 1/4" length if you measure from the loop.
Turn this length into another loop with the round-nose pliers.
Make enough figure eight links for the length of chain you want.
Join the links by opening and closing the loops with the flat-nose
pliers, to keep them round. Be careful that you do not unwind
- wire beads
Twist wire into individual round beads, just as if you were winding
a ball of yarn. To make a large wire ball, take one 24" piece
of 18-gauge wire. Make a loop at one end. About 1/2" below
the loop, bend the wire loosely back on itself. Hold onto this
part of the wire with the flat-nose pliers. Use your hands to
wrap the length of wire around the center post with the loop
on it. Continue to wrap the wire, much like the way you would
wind a ball of string. If you want an airy ball, wrap loosely.
If you want a dense ball, pull the wire tight. Use the flat-nose
pliers to help manipulate the wire if needed. The pliers are
also useful for holding onto the ball--you will need to keep
shifting where you are holding the ball as you wrap it. When
the ball is approximately 5/8" in diameter, or the size
you want it to be, thread the end of the wire through the middle
of the ball along the center post and out the opposite end. Create
a loop on the opposite side of the ball from the first loop.
- hook and eye clasp
For the hook, cut a 6" piece of wire and bend it against itself
tightly, using flat-nose pliers. With the base of the round-nose
pliers, form a rounded hook shape about 1/2" from the folded
end, keeping the two pieces of wire side by side. Using the flat-nose
pliers, grasp the wire "tails" 3/4" down from the
bend of the hook. Bend one tail at a 90-degree angle forward and
the other at a 90-degree angle backward. Using one of the tails,
wrap around the two wires toward the hook, creating a tight coil.
You will need to hold the two pieces of wire together with the
flat-nose pliers while wrapping. Trim away any excess wire. Trim
the remaining tail to 1/2" and create a loop with the round-nose
pliers. Use this loop for attaching the chain links together.
For a ring to go with the hook, wrap a short piece of wire measuring
about 2", around the base of the round-nose pliers. Keep working
the pliers so that you are creating a large circle coil, about
1/4" in diameter. You need to create a split ring that has
overlapping ends, like a key chain ring. Remove any excess wire
and tighten the ring with the flat-nose pliers if needed.
- tip: To reduce the amount of tweaking on the split ring,
make three rotations and then trim the ring down so that the ends
overlap only once.
Wire hardening is the process of stiffening the wire to strengthen
it and lock in its design by manipulating the wire. Nylon jaw
pliers can gently flatten and harden wire without nicking or
changing the diameter of the wire. Two sizes of pliers are available:
regular and thin-nosed, for tighter places.
- Moving the wire gently back and forth several times will
result in hardening it. For example, after moving wire loops
backwards and forward several times, a noticeable stiffening
of the wire occurs, locking in the shape of the design.
- Another method, hammering, will (1) harden the wire, (2)
flatten the wire, (3) flatten the design, and (4) texturize
or mark the wire. Hammer with a rubber mallet or the flat end
of a chasing hammer