Jul 25, 2001

Once in a while I feel this great urge to “educate” the world around me – and I enjoy greatly when people ask me how to do things WITH my beads (and not how to MAKE my beads). A couple of days ago one of my customers asked me whether I could explain how to actually string a bracelet – nothing easier than that – here it is: (as with all of the things I say and do – this is only ONE way of doing it, I am sure there are better ways – but at least this works for me…..)

You don’t need a lot of tools – basically a pair of crimping pliers (you can even do without those, if you can’t find any) – they cost anywhere between $ 10 and $ 15 depending on where you buy them. The red pair of pliers is a bent needlenose – no particular reason for the “bend” in this case, it just happens to be the one pair of all my pliers that fits closest together and is thus most suitable for holding the wire. Straight needlenose pliers will work pretty much the same. Softflex wire (I use 0.14 gauge – other people prefer thicker wire for usage with lampwork – but I haven’t had the wire break so far – and unless I play tug-o-war with an elephant I don’t think it will. Not really a tool, but an essential part – the crimping beads. I use Sterling Silver, usually buy them at Rio Grande. I found that other suppliers often have thinner ones, which break while crimping (the ones from Shipwreck beads I used first broke about 1 out of 4 times…..)

BEADS – of course!!! For this bracelet I used “Calvin’s Shirt Beads” – with a bunch of matching spacers…………..(in case you are interested in this particular set – all the beads I used in this bracelet are $ 60!!! not a cheapy!)

Indispensable for the style of bracelet I like to make: Accentbeads in colors that compliment the lampwork. The Calvin’s Shirt beads are great because they match pretty much anything in green and fuchsia….I like to use crystals, fiberoptic beads and miracle beads (and silver of course – but I didn’t know that yet at the point I took this picture. I started stringing on seedbeads – but then I changed my mind and used little round seamless sterling silver beads instead – as far as resale of your bracelet is concerned I would say this adds about a $ 20 to $ 30 added value – while the supplies only cost you a couple of dollars more….the seedbeads are fun – but some people might consider this “cheap” looking….

I basically start stringing right onto the roll of softflex wire – that way I don’t have to cut off a piece first (and thus decide on a lenght) – for this style bracelet I like to alternate between a “stationary” round bead and a sliding spacer that sits on top of 4 or 5 small beads (silver or seedbeads…). The amount of small beads depends on the overall look – I don’t like to have a big “stretch” of space where the spacer slides, I prefer this to be rather short and subtle…You can see in this picture that I added a tiny silver bead between the piece that is right next to the round bead – that way you can never see the wire when you look at the bracelet from different angles. this is particularly important when you use beads with bigger holes (of course in this case you need bigger beads, so I always order a variety of seamless silver beads – from the smallest of 1.5 mm up to 4 or 5 mm….they are pretty cheap) Most people who string bracelets use bali silver heishe and spacer beads – (so do I ) – unless I want to give my bracelet a “modern” look. In this case I prefer the contemporary appearance of shiny “flat” silver. Both these spacers (called “disks” and “rondels”) are from Rio Grande. cost somewhere around 50 cents a piece….

The crimping is pretty easy, even though it might take you a couple of times to get used to it. The backside of the package the crimping pliers come in should have detailed instructions. This picture actually was supposed to be used a little later in the process – but it shows the way the beads line up: I ended with a 4 mm crystal, a 2 mm sterling silver bead (using a crystal at the very end is kind of dangerous – if you get too close to a crystal with your crimping pliers you might actually CHIP it, this I always try to “protect” it with a silver bead) – a crimp bead – through a link of the chain I use (if you use a toggle clasp instead, just go through the loop of one of the toggle parts…) and back through the crimp bead and the other beads. Some people cut the wire right after it comes back out of the crimp bead – I pull it at least through 3 or four other beads – that way I feel it is a) safer and b) it gives you some additional lenght if for whatever reason you want to change the size of your bracelet at a later point.
This might need a little bit of planning if you use pearls – you cant have the pearls too close to the end of the bracelet because the hole of pearls is not big enough for the wire to go through twice!!!

Here is the first step of the actual crimping – put the crimp bead into the second part of the pliers – squeeze…

This is what it’s supposed to look like – a “butt crease” on half of the crimp bead…

In the second step you put your crimpbead into the front part of the pliers, with the butt crack facing toward the handle – squeeze again, done!

Now I cut the end of the wire, I use some flush-cutters, but a regular pair of scissors will do…

In the second step you put your crimpbead into the front part of the pliers, with the butt crack facing toward the handle – squeeze again, done!

The second end of the bracelet goes through a crimp bead, the loop of the clasp (whatever clasp you are using) and through as many beads as you can manage….you don’t need to go through as many beads as on the other end – usually I try to keep one end longer – and if I have to undo one end, I always know which one it was where I have more extra wire to work with….
At this point I hold on to the clasp (as I also had to take the picture I couldn’t show you my hand actually HOLDING the clasp) – and I pull the wire with the needlenose pliers as tight as possible…..then I crimp the same way as shown above and cut the end of the wire off as close to the next bead as possible

the finished piece…..