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Daily Wire Tip May 12: Straightening Square Wire
Daily Wire Jewelry Making Tip for
May 12, 2011
Dale, I have some square wire in coils that I want to use for making wire bundles. It takes forever to straighten out. Any suggestions?
-Cecilia in Rochester, Washington
Hi Cecilia, in my classes I have noticed that the main challenge folks have when straightening wire by hand, is that they put too much power into it! It really does not take a lot of strength to straighten wire. Please watch this short video, Straightening Your Jewelry Wire. Go ahead and watch it, then come back!
Now, let me verbally explain what you just watched. When you place your thumb on top of the curve and your index finger is placed under the curve and slightly to the outside of your thumb, when the wire is drawn through your fingers, the index finger slightly pushes the wire over the side of your thumb, thus “countering the curve” in the wire and straightening it. If you use a lot of pressure, and handle the wire roughly (especially with sterling silver), the wire will end up with lots of little “waves” in it. That particular piece should probably be used as a twisted wire, so it will straighten it easily.
Just be gentle and use bare fingers (meaning no polishing cloth) so you can actually feel the wire as you counter the curve. Practice makes perfect! Before long you will be able to easily straighten you wire without hurting with it or your fingers – then you may use a polishing cloth to clean as you straighten. I also use just a piece of t-shirt as a wire cleaner. Good luck!
Answer contributed by Dale “Cougar” Armstrong
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May 12, 2011 at 9:18 am
Oh dear…does this sound so familiar to me. Considering where you live and where a well known supplier is, “…where there is smoke, there is…” I bet I know what you have because I have some in my inventory as well. Tightly wound coil? Won’t straighten out no matter how hard you try? Makes you angry and frustrated??? Yep, sounds really familiar.
I hate to say it, but if this is the kind of wire I’m thinking of, it is only going to frustrate the heck out of you even more if you do try to make it straighten, because it will never lay flat and perfect like half-hard wire will because it has been wound mechanically on a spool first and then cut into lengths, and it probably better classified as being a full hard temper now.
Your recourse at this point would be to make twisted wire out of it or such.
May 12, 2011 at 9:47 am
Dale, be careful when pulling wire through the fingers with no cloth! I once received some silver wire that had very, very sharp edges in some places (bad wire!). It even cut through my cleaning cloth. Now I use a piece of chamois (that has been washed thoroughly before use) to clean and straighten new wire. The chamois can be washed over and over when it gets dirty, and it does not irritate my skin like polishing cloth did.
May 12, 2011 at 10:36 am
Wow DeLane – I have only ever received bad wire once or twice. The issue with that square, half-hard wire was that it had been pulled through the mill on an angle, so no matter how straight it ‘looked’, all of my bundles worked like parallelograms! I just sent it back and it was replaced with no challenges.
May 12, 2011 at 1:03 pm
The technique shown in the video is almost exactly the one I came up with over time, so it’s good advice. I do use one of the little cloths sold for cleaning eyeglasses as a polishing cloth, and use it for straightening wire almost as much! Wire doesn’t come perfectly straight so nearly all wire needs to be corrected a bit before it’s ready for use in a design. Maybe I’m too picky, but there are two other ways I prepare wire when laying out pieces for a design:
1. Use flat-nose pliers on sections of square wire to true the square. Square wire can have sections twisted enough not to lay flat against the next piece in a bundle. This is easy to fix with a little un-twisting with two pair of flat nose pliers.
2. Straighten wire in two directions if it’s stubborn and doesn’t take to the first attempt to straighten it. This is easiest to envision with square wire, since fingers will be placed along two opposing sides on the first run. Just do another run gripping the other two surfaces. I do the same with round wire and this almost always works like a charm!
May 14, 2011 at 9:01 pm
Dale, Cecilia from Washington asked how to straighten coiled square wire. It is possible that she purchased her wire from a supplier who allows his employees to hand wrap the wire in coils for sale. This causes the wire to be twisted and coiled tightly. I had one supplier who did this, and it was a pain to straighten the wire. Dorothy
May 14, 2011 at 11:24 pm
Possibly Dorothy, thanks for your thoughts!