Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Make Earrings from Scrap Wire

Before: Scrap Metal in Bin
Artisans working with precious metals have always followed the adage "reduce, reuse and recycle." Economics always demanded careful use of expensive metals and gemstones. In fact, the term "findings" originated because it has long been the custom for those making jewelry to go into the gold or silver scrap pile to find small pieces of wire or sheet metal to make ear wires, ear posts, clasps, bails and other findings.

After: Earring by
These simple, elegant earrings are made from small pieces of wire salvaged from the scrap pile.

20-gauge round wire

Round nose pliers
Nylon jaw pliers
Mandrel or  Wrap n' Tap pliers 
Wire cutter
Needle file, wire rounder or flex shaft and 18-gauge cup burr
Tumbler or rawhide mallet

Straighten scrap wire
Step 1
Straighten the scrap wire using nylon jaw pliers.

Step 2
Cut the wire into two equal lengths approximately 4-inches long each using a wire cutter. File the ends with a needle file, wire rounder or flex shaft and 18-gauge cup burr until the both ends of the wire are jewelry smooth.

Make a loop and add beads.
Step 3
Make a loop at the end of the wire using round nose pliers.

Step 4
Select some beads and slide the beads onto the wire. We used orphan beads leftover from an old project, but you can use any beads.

First bend
Step 5
Bend the wire at a right angle just above the beads.

Second bend
Step 6
Third bend
Measure about 1/4-inch and then bend the wire at an angle.

Step 7
Measure about 3/4-inch and make an arc using a mandrel. Here, we used a pencil as our mandrel but there many commercially made products for forming wire (including ring mandrels and Wrap n' Tap pliers). Many household items can be used as a mandrel (including the barrel of a pencil or a  Sharpie marker).

For this piece, the front of the earring measures about 1-3/4" (4.4 cm) and the back measures about 1-5/8" (4.1 cm), but measurements can vary depending on the look you want and the length scrap wire you have.

Step 6
Measure about 1/4 inch from the end of the wire and bend that piece of wire at a slight angle to make the earring more comfortable to use and wear.

Step 7
Repeat to create matching earring.

Step 8
Tumble the earrings in a tumbler to harden the wire and add shine. If you do not have a tumbler, you can harden the wire by hitting the earring with a rawhide mallet.

Related Tutorials
How to Make Dangling Pearl Earrings 
How to Make Pearl Chandelier Earrings
How to Make Citrine Drop Earrings
How to Make Emerald Drop Earrings
How to Make Smokey Quartz Earrings
How to Make Star Stud Earrings
How to Make Moissanite Stud Earrings 
How to Use a Ring Mandrel
How to Use a File for Jewelry Making
How to Make a Wire Wrap Pendant
How to Make an Ear Wire Jig
How to Make Your Own Jewelry Jig

Further Reading 
"Make Your Own Great Earrings: Beads, Wire, Polymer Clay, Fabric, Found Objects"; Jane LaFerla; 1999.
"101 Wire Earrings: Step-by-Step Projects and Techniques"; Denise Peck; 2009.
"The Earring Style Book: Making Designer Earrings, Capturing Celebrity Style, and Getting the Look for Less"; Stephanie A. Wells; 2010.

Day 60.  Month 3. Jewelry from Found Objects.  $ spent to date: 0
Found materials: scrap wire, orphan beads
New Jewelry a Day.

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