Daily Wire Tip: Wrapping Ungirdled Cabs

By on October 16, 2010
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Daily Wire Jewelry Making Tip


I have a lot of cabs, but they don’t have the girdled edge, and are hard to wire wrap. Do you have any suggestions?

-Kris in Woodinville, Washington


To make a frame for cabochons that have no girdle or edge, never use less than four wires for the frame, and make the main curve in the frame shape over a found item that is just a bit smaller than the size desired.

When the frame has been completely shaped, wrap the top/bail section twice with wire and then make the pulls that will go over the top of the cabochon "off-the-stone" first. Then insert the cab and make the needed pulls on the back to lock the stone in. Finish the bail creation and embellish as desired.

Extra tip: This is how I personally frame-wrap delicate and soft stones such as malachite, natural turquoise, and opals!

Answer contributed by Dale “Cougar” Armstrong

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  1. avatar

    Jane Elizabeth

    October 17, 2010 at 10:25 am

    Dale has a great pattern in her Beginner Series Part 3. She calls it “Anything” Pendant Harness. Works great for me!

    • avatar


      August 11, 2015 at 9:48 am

      Could you post the link that you are referencing?

  2. avatar

    Susan Bannon

    October 17, 2010 at 11:15 am

    Thanks! Makes sense! Hadn’t thought of it but haven’t been introduced to the problem, as yet.

  3. avatar

    Rusty La Violette

    October 17, 2010 at 11:30 am

    I’m sorry. I guess I am really a visual learner, but I do not understand what you are saying: “and make the main curve in the frame shape over a found item that is just a bit smaller than the size desired.” What do you mean “over a found item smaller than desired” What does “found item” have to do with the cab? Do you have any samples of what you are talking about?

    • avatar


      October 17, 2010 at 7:10 pm

      Rusty – it’s fine to be a visual learner, however it is difficult for me to add photos to the blog : (
      However, think about this: half-hard wire has some ‘spring’ to it, therefore a wrapped bundle of 4 or more wires has that much more ‘spring’ – so if you were to shape the frame bundle around an item that is the exact size as the item you want to frame, the resulting shape would be larger than desired due to the spring. Therefore, if you shape the frame around an item that is a bit (about 1/3) smaller than the desired end shape, it will be about perfect! The ‘found’ item can be anything that has a shape about 1/3 smaller than the desired one – such as a chap-stick tube, the top of a bottle, etc.

  4. avatar

    Marcia Hooten

    October 17, 2010 at 12:31 pm

    I have learned so much from your daily tips. There is no way I can tell you how much you are appreciated. Your tip today was more helpful than you could imagine. My going and traveling are limited and this site has been….well, I get excited every time I learn something that is as helpful as this tip today. I think I’ll be able to use this suggestion a LOT! Thank you.

  5. avatar

    Margaret Roper

    October 17, 2010 at 1:38 pm

    I also have several beautiful stones in their natural shape which I thought I would never be able to use. Thanks Dale for this valuable information. I will be able to wrap them now!

  6. avatar

    Blanche Scharf

    October 17, 2010 at 2:36 pm

    Hi Dale,
    I so enjoy all your responses and suggestions. I’m not sure I understand this one. I have several odd-shaped stones without girdles that I want to wrap. Is there any possibility you could add pictures?
    Thanks for everything.

  7. avatar


    October 17, 2010 at 3:41 pm


    That was a great question! Dale, do you have, or know of a video showing this technique? If not, it would be a valuable addition!

    I think I know, but could you also explain a “pull”?

    • avatar


      October 17, 2010 at 7:13 pm

      Randee – no problem. The techniques used are the same as for calibrated frames; and what I mean by a ‘pull’ is when the top wire (on either the front or the back of the stone) is pulled over the stone to hold it in.

  8. avatar


    October 21, 2010 at 3:51 pm

    To make sure that my item is sized in the wire properly, I use masking tape to measure my item and mark my wire. Mark the tape where it meets and mark your wire at the exact same place. Bend for the bail at this mark. My pieces always fit within the wire.

    • avatar


      October 21, 2010 at 4:38 pm

      Exactly as I teach ShandeeG – thanks for your confirmation of the technique!

  9. avatar


    March 27, 2012 at 6:50 am

    Dale, I have always found a ring mandrel very handy for shaping the wires going around my cabs. It offers a variety of sizes, and is almost alway handy.

    • avatar


      March 27, 2012 at 8:05 am

      You are absolutely correct, DeLane, a ring mandrel or ring stick provides a huge variety of shaping sizes!

      • avatar

        Kathy C.

        March 27, 2012 at 8:26 am

        I keep 5-inch lengths of dowel rods(from largest to smallest) in a ziplock with my wire. They help in making the first bends of the frame. I got the dowel pieces from one of my first teachers, Lisa Roberts. She included them in our wire wrapping kits. So handy!

        • avatar


          August 7, 2012 at 11:08 am

          Ring dowel….never thought of that! Perfect :)

  10. avatar


    March 27, 2012 at 5:37 pm

    I’ve only wrapped a few ungirdled cabs, but I use my own shop tools to prepare them so that a basket/frame is not necessary. I use my belt/disk sander to flatten the edge to a width just shy of the thickness of the cab at its thickest point. I then use a leather wheel on my buffer with pink rough to repolish the edge. I then measure the thickness of the edge at 6-8 points. I then average these. I have an accurate height gauge mounted onto an ISO certified flat granite slab. I divide the average thickness in half. I then set the thick carbide cutting blade to that height above the granite surface. I then hold the cab by hand and carefully fun the edge along the carbide blade several times which results in a clean groove centered along the edge which accommodates wire as large as 20GA. The average hobby wire artist may not have a bench sander, bench buffer, and height gauge carbide marking set up. The good news is it’s not all that expensive and most of it can easily be gotten off EBay for no more than a couple of hundred dollars or even higher end pawn shops. As for me I bought my tools from discount providers. If you spend a lot of time framing ungirdled cabs, this is a small investment. Not only that these 3 tools are multipurpose and can do thousands of useful tasks. My height gauge is so accurate that when I buy a certain gauge wire (even thin wire like 28GA), I can determine whether the provider is cheating a little on the thickness of the wire. One provider of silver wire came in at .002″ under the ISO standard diameter for every gauge of wire I ordered. When you buy a lot of wire by the inch rather than ounces or grams, this is a significant loss. Trust but verify!

    • avatar


      March 28, 2012 at 6:49 am

      Awesome Steve! Thanks so much for sharing your lapidary tips with us in so much detail :)