Daily Wire Tip June 9: Is Work-Hardened Half Hard Wire, Hard Enough?

By on June 8, 2011
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Daily Wire Jewelry Making Tip for
June 9, 2011

Question:

Hi Dale, I just made a wire bangle bracelet out of square half hard wire. How do I harden it to retain its shape? I’m new at this and don’t have a clue! Thanks.

-Lisa in Beaverton, Oregon

Answer:

Congratulations Lisa! You have just made an heirloom piece of jewelry.

It has been my experience that when a bangle bracelet is created from square half hard wire, there is no need to find additional ways to harden it. As you wrapped the wire bundle, the wrap wires hardened, which will keep the main construction firmly together. After finishing the bundle, while you shaped the bracelet around either a found item or a mandrel, the base wires were hardening. Bouncing the clasp ends toward one another helps to further harden the formed shape. Most wire artists make their bracelets in the same oval shape as a human arm. In this manner, when the finished piece is worn, it shouldn’t spin around easily, which could cause the bracelet to lose its shape.

Of course there are some folks who like to play it safe by putting their finished jewelry into a tumbler with a bit of burnishing compound or Dawn dish detergent and mixed steel shot to get a final shine and further harden their finished creation. The choice is yours!

Answer contributed by Dale "Cougar" Armstrong

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6 Comments

  1. avatar

    Dharlee

    June 9, 2011 at 7:20 am

    I am an advocate of tumbling and do it regularly! I would caution that some stones might not ought to be tumbled however. One such stone that I made with a bracelet was a bangle with rectangular dyed onyx beads. The dye in the beads turned the copper a very odd shade and while I was disappointed, I found my customers loved the “patina” lol. Just be careful!

    • avatar

      dalecgr

      June 9, 2011 at 10:02 am

      Glad you had a ‘happy’ accident Dharlee – now, can you repeat the process and make a signature line? (Your homework, if you should decide to accept the challenge.)

  2. avatar

    Mary

    June 9, 2011 at 9:06 am

    Congrats on the bracelet Lisa!!

    Bracelets are extremely popular and can be dressed up or down depending on your pattern and bead selections. I always love one done with pearls worked into it. We use half-hard wire simply because it is solid and holds as you work it, hardening the wires, and once shaped, other than a good polishing with a sunshine cloth doesn’t need that “extra” step of being put into a tumbler. I have never understood that thinking process of having to do so, if you use half-hard wire. In recent years, dead soft has been the teaching medium for many other wire teachers; to me, it is an injustice to the learning curve of a student to work in dead soft unless you are doing “sculptural” wire wrapping.

  3. avatar

    Adrien

    June 11, 2011 at 4:42 pm

    Either in your book, or dvds you ask the question Dale, why would you create something with beautiful wire and stone and then put it a tumbler. I have taken that comment to heart and work almost exclusively in half hard wire and I don’t own a tumbler . . .yet!. Here’s a recent example which may provide assurance to Lisa that items made with half hard wire will work harden beautifully:
    I had made a bangle bracelet from square 20 gauge argentium wire and a lapis lazuli gemstone to show a customer what I could make. Although I meant it only as an example and I wasn’t quite finished forming it, the customer fell in love with it and wanted to take it home with her. Using my bracelet mandrel and the customer’s wrist we custom sized it to her liking. She was concerned that the bracelet seemed rather flimsy. I explained how it would harden as we worked the wire and she took it off and on. I saw her a week later. Not only was she proudly wearing her custom made bracelet, she was so pleased it hardened to the exact shape she wanted.

    • avatar

      dalecgr

      June 12, 2011 at 11:05 am

      Awesome Adrien!! Congratulations on such a wonderful sale – and thanks so much for your confirmation about the benefits of working in half-hard : )
      Have a lovely weekend!

  4. avatar

    Nancy

    June 12, 2011 at 7:31 pm

    I, too, am a “tumbler”, although I would not put pearls into the tumbler. I have successfully tumbled every other type of stone and dichroic glass wire jewelry I have made, and not only does it beautifully harden all pieces, but polishes them up in a way that no Sunshine cloth can possibly do. Every little nook and crannie gleams, and leaves no powdery residue from a polishing cloth behind. Plus, no danger of pulling any wires out of shape or catching the ends, as a polishing cloth might do. Even when i work with half hard wire, i always do the finaly “polish” in the tumbler. Now, there are pieces that I will only tumble for maybe 20 min, but that is enough to harden and polish; no need to let it run for hours LOL.

    I think if you try tumbling for even 10 minutes, you can achieve wonderful results, and not damage your stones at all.

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