Sep 26, 2005

Once in a while I get into this mood where I think I have to teach the world how to do things – of course what I am going to show you is the one and only way of doing it – don’t let anybody else tell you different, what do they know??? (grin) I got a little bit carried away with taking pictures, hope that your phoneline doesn’t collaps under the weight of the download. You might also notice that the pictures are getting considerably darker during the process – that has nothing to do with my mood changing – it was just a huge raincloud that was passing over our house, and around picture No. 16 it was so dark that I stopped and waited for it to brighten up again……

First of all you will need a bunch of tools. I am a big fan of tools, so I might have more than needed – I am using (from left to right) bend nose pliers, flushcutters, needle nose pliers and round nose pliers. Very often in Jewelry supply stores you will find two “versions” of tools – the “professional” and the “economy” line – although the professional ones will costs twice as much, it’s worth it – the economy won’t give you much pleasure in the long run…..

One important step is to choose the right bead: Corinabeads have proven to work best…..(hell no). But the really important step is to choose the right headpin. Some people make headpins themselves, using Sterling Silver wire – I am just lazy and use what I can buy. Most of the time a 2 inch HP (= Headpin) will do – for longer beads like this one you will need a 3 inch. I always like to have at least one inch more than the length of the bead, to be able to make a decent wire wrap…3 inch HP are hard to find, RIOGRANDE has some, not cheap…

I never really know what are the best “ingredients” for a specific pendant, I usually allow myself some time to play around (this can take up to an hour….) – have a nice cup of tea ready and remember that it’s only an hour – but the pendant might give you or someone else a lifelong joy, so be patient and try to make it look just RIGHT. I always start designing from the bottom of the bead – the SIMPLEST way to go is to just thread a round SS (=Sterling Silver) bead onto your headpin.

Depending on the size of the hole and the shape (yes, there are different shapes to beadholes, which depends mainly on the way the beadmaker adds the glass onto the mandrel) the bead might sit on the outside of the hole, or it might disappear almost all the way inside…..I have a variety of sizes of round SS beads, anywhere between 2mm and 5 mm, they are cheap to buy and come in very handy, as you will see later in the project….

Another popular way to embellish a lampwork bead is to use a “beadcap”. The one shown in the picture is one of my personal favorites (RISHASHAY, about $ 1.50 a piece) – but they are not suitable for every kind of bead. For this particular piece, it’s too big – you can see that the edge of the beadcap kind of sticks out. I prefer beadcaps to pick up the line of the bead – it should look almost like an organic part of the piece…… Go ahead and try different pieces

Here a cute little beadcap my friend Gidget got for me at the Jem&Jewelry show (sometimes having friends get stuff for you can be a good experience, they have different taste and prevent you from getting stuck in one style forever, also, make them pay for the silver and trade something for lesser value!!!) Design can be tricky – yesterday I made a similar pendant for myself, and the bead was shaped differently – THIS beadcap was just perfect – but it doesn’t look right on this bead – see how it interrupts the flow of the line?

This is what I finally picked as “the one” (there were several options in between, one was to use JUST the 4 mm Swarovsky Crystal (=SC) – but it disappeared halfway into the hole and was too bland. A 6 mm SC was too big on the other hand……..this kind of beadcap is meant to be used with something else – you can either add a SC like I did here, or add another round SS bead – whatever pleases you….(this beadcap was also sent to me by my friend, I have to chase her out and have her get me some more, they are very simple and versatile, and probably cost only around $ 0.30 or so….)

Before I start doing anything permanent, like wire wrapping or adding glue, I make sure that the final design looks good. Most of the time I try to have a symmetrical look – but often it will also look good to have the top and bottom of the bead made up differently. With ROUND beads I usually concentrate my effort on the top part, as the bottom kind of gets lost visually anyway (at least from YOUR point of view as a wearer). Other artist concentrate heavily on the bottom part – they even add dangling things like “SS chain tassles” or charms. That can be fun too, but it distracts from the bead itself, in my opinion.

This step might cause an outbreak of anger from some puristic minds – I remember a teacher of silversmithing telling me once that “using glue is a sign of poor workmanship”. Make up your own mind. If I can help it, I try to do without – but sometimes it’s just impossible to “anchor” your beadcap otherwise, and I don’t wont’ to be concerned about it sliding sideways. So – in rare occasions I use a little drop of glue, just to hold the beadcap in a perfectly centered position. I went through a variety of glues before I found one that I like (STAR- BOND, available for $ 6.00 per bottle at Halstead-Beads, it has a gel-consistency, and if you don’t like it, you can scrape it off the glass anytime).

My preferred way of anchoring a beadcap is using a round SS bead in the hole – unfortunately this doesn’t work all the time, especially at the bottom, where gravity works against you. What the SS bead basically does is “tighten” the hole. Most larger beads are made on a relatively large mandrel – so the hole tends to be big and gives the HP a lot of room to move around. By adding the SS bead you reduce the inner diameter of the hole greatly – and if you are lucky, the bead will also be large enough to fill out the inside of the beadcap and stabilize it just by being there – in this case, I don’t add glue….

(See how it’s getting darker?) One of the little things I have learned over time is to add a tiny (2mm) SS bead on top of any Crystal I use on top of a pendant or earring – you will get very close to the Crystal with your tools, and chances are that you will actully crack the Crystal. The little SS bead works as a buffer……

Now we can start the wire wrapping part – and as I am the one doing it AND taking the pictures, my hands might be in some awkward positions that they wouldn’t have to be in….The first step is to bend your HP in a 90 degree angle, using your round nose pliers. What you are deciding at this point is the length of the wire wrapped “neck” – the further down into your pliers you make your 90 degree bend, the longer your neck will be. If you make earrings, try to remember where you held your pliers, so you can get a matching pair (little scratched markings might help if you do a lot of the same pieces…) For making the 90 degree bend, just hold the wire between your pliers and use your thumb or fingers to actually bend the wire!

Now you move your pliers and start making the loop. Here you have two possibilities: 1. Make a large loop through which you will later pull your chain or 2. make a small loop into which you will add a Jumpring that will hold the chain. I always do the 2. version, because it makes the pendant move more – and I just think it looks better. It is also more stable if your wire isn’t really thick (let’s say thinner than 18 gauge). The size of the loop again depends on which part of your round nose pliers you use to bend the loop. I tend to work about 2 mm from the very tip of the pliers. Hold the pliers as close to the bend as possible.

Again – use your fingers for the actual bending, the pliers just HOLD the wire – YOU are doing the shaping. This might not be entirerly clear from the picture, but I was taking the picture AND trying to keep the pliers closed, my pair has a spring mechanism that wants them to be open all the time…… at this point, try to make a closed loop that goes all the way around the starting point

This is kind of what you are trying to achieve……and if you have looked closely – you can see that in between the second picture on the left and this one, I somehow lost my little buffer- bead. I didn’t notice it until I was already two coils into my wire wrap – and then trying to UNDO the wrap and using the same HP is next to impossible. Some people might be tempted to save money here and use the headpin again, but as the pliers leave small toolmarks it will never really look right. If you make a mistake of any kind – bite the bullet and start out with a fresh HP, even if it hurts……

In the next step, the actuall “wrapping”, hold the loop in your bend nose pliers (I just found these very handy for some reason, if you don’t want to buy ALL of the pliers, you can use the needle nose pliers here instead…) and use your other hand to start wrapping the wire in a TIGHT COIL around the straight neck part. The longer the HP, the easier this part is!!! Start out close to the loop and work your way downwards (If I hadn’t started over at this point, I would have needed 4 coils to reach all the way down to the Crystal – which is a little bit much for my taste. The longer the wire wrapped part, the more it will draw attention to itself…..

In this picture I was trying to illustrate how you hold the loop with the pliers and use your fingers to wrap the wire. The pliers just wouldn’t stay closed because of the spring mechanism, and I had to juggle my camera at the same time -so all this photo is achieving is adding a little bit of confusion, but you might have gotten the idea anyway by now……

I finally regained my buffer-bead!) Try to wrap the wire as closely to the bottom as possible, but NOT ALL THE WAY! You will have to cut the wire off, and in most cases, you won’t get your flushcutters all the way to the base of the coil, so you need to leave yourself some room to “fold” the very last tip of the wire into place after having cut it off!! This is kind of important for a clean look, as you will understand once you made the mistake yourself.

See what I mean with not getting the flush cutter all the way to the “root” of the coil? This is especially true if you have a cheaper or worn out pair of flush cutters – they tend to cut only a really straigt cut in the lower part of the blades (if your cutters are bad, they will make a diagonal cut rather than a straight one, and for some reason that looks cheesy..)

Finally Tony came to the rescue – he just showed up in time to take this picture, with which I had struggled for 5 minutes – nobody can hold two pairs of pliers AND a camera…..Here you can see the usefulness of the bend nose pliers – they give you a good angle to hold the loop and use the needle nose pliers to tuck in the little cut off end of the wire. If you don’t have both of THESE pliers, you can also use the needle nose pliers to hold on to the loop, but be careful not to push down too hard, as this will leave toolmarks on the loop. If you are really concerned, at this point you could also use some pliers with a “padding” – so you won’t hurt the loop.

The finished pendant!!! All you need to do now is to add a jumpring to the small loop, so you can hang it on a silk cord or a chain. I would have showed this part as well, but I ran out of battery, and by now I am kind of tired of typing anyway. If anybody needs to know how to open and close a jumpring – let me know, and I will add that part later………