Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Making Your Own Ear Wires

Making basic ear wires is really quite simple and making them yourself gives you so much more flexibility as far as sizes, shapes and thicknesses go.  The majority of ear wires are made with 18, 20 or 21 gage wire.  I use sterling silver because it holds its shape better than fine silver (pure silver) and is antibacterial and for most people non allergic.  18 gage makes a fairly thick strong ear wire and is great for heavier stones or hammered hoops.  I don't find it as popular as 20 or 21 gage - which I also find to be most comfortable in my ears.
For ear wires I use the half hard wire. Wire is sold hard, half hard or dead soft. If you have a lot of bending to do and the wire is thick (lower numbers) use dead soft. Hard wire is very spring like and harder to bend - it can also break if you bend it too much. 
For a very simple french style ear wire - first cut  two 1.5 to 2" pieces of wire and make a small loop around the tip of your round pliers on one end of each (see picture at right).  This is where you will later attach your "drop".  Now use a sharpie, dowel or pen to bend both pieces around - this forms the part that rests in your ear.  I do them together so they match.  Then take your flat pliers and bend the back end up slightly (apx. 1/8"). Now file the end that will go through the ear to make it smooth.

Once you are happy with the shape- you now need to "set it". That means hardening the wire so it will keep its shape.  I do this by tumbling in a rotating barrel with stainless steel shot for several hours.  It can also be done by hitting the rounded part of the earring with a hammer several times (flattening it).  "Working" the metal by hammering or tumbling alligns the molecules and makes it stiffer or harder.
If you look through the Fire Mountain Gems or Rio Grande catalogs you can see the huge variety of shapes that are possible - you just have to get creative and find objects to shape your wire around! Have fun designing your own special ear wires!


Julie said...

Wonderful tutorial! Thank you for sharing!

Victoria said...

Cool tutorial, thanks so much! Have you tried doing the hammer technique? How would you say it compares to tumbling? I'd love to make my own ear wires too, but I don't think I can invest in more equipment at the moment!

Divine3Designs said...

Hammering works fine - you can even use a leather or rubber hammer if you want to harden without too much flattening.

Chiara said...

Doesn't it get bent out of shape while tumbling?

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