Daily Wire Tip June 13: Cutting Wire Not Too Long or Short, Just Right

By on June 12, 2011
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Daily Wire Jewelry Making Tip for
June 13, 2011


Is there a formula for figuring out how much wire to cut before beginning a project? I waste so much wire cutting more than I need, trying to avoid shorting myself.

-Jill in Howard City, Michigan


Hi Jill, I am sorry to hear that you have been over-cutting your wire. Yes, there are many wire jewelry formulas available for all different types of projects!

Because I edit each of Wire-Sculpture’s patterns, I can confidently tell you that each of our pattern authors, myself included, presents these patterns with complete formulations for the featured project, and that we often include suggestions for variations of those designs. (Please check out this sample pattern for Mary Bailey’s All Inclusive Earrings.) Also, you will find the correct formula for each design taught on each of Wire-Sculpture’s instructional DVDs as well as in the printed follow-up instructions. Now that covers the team at Wire-Sculpture, and although I cannot speak for other wire jewelry pattern authors, about every magazine that features patterns, also includes the formulas.

You didn’t mention what it was you were having a challenge with measurements for, but I would also like to suggest that when you personally work out a design that you make detailed notes, charts and even take pictures so you can repeat it without any waste. In this manner you can also keep track of just how much wire you need for a specific-sized cabochon frame, a bracelet made to a special size, or anything else you may need to remind yourself of, to make your wired life easier in the future. Writing everything down is also a great way to keep track of the materials cost, too.

Answer contributed by Dale "Cougar" Armstrong

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  1. avatar


    June 13, 2011 at 8:42 am

    I had this problem, also. What I did was use base wire first. Then I measured out the amount I started with, then added up what was leftover from the project. That will give you a ballpark amount. From there it’s a good idea to do what Dale suggests, esp with more expensive wire.

  2. avatar


    June 13, 2011 at 9:22 am

    Right off the bat, my first thought is you are trying to create something without having a definite pattern in mind, or you are looking at something and trying to figure it out on your own.

    As Dale has stated, those of us in the faculty group work extremely hard to ensure that we take good notes and measurements so that our patterns are clear to understand and to duplicate.

    Because we have taken classes with Dale as well as have her dvd’s we already have a strong background in knowing off the tops of our heads the formulas needed to make certain items. So we are able to create a variation on an idea or come with something completely original.

    If you are creating on your own and frustrated by the amount of wire you are cutting and wasting, I hope you are working out these ideas in copper and taking really good notes. You are going to have waste on your first design and those notes are going to be a life saver when you tweek and improve your final idea before reworking it in something else.

  3. avatar


    June 13, 2011 at 10:00 am

    I never start a piece of jewelry without a drawn design. I cannot afford to waste wire. I have never seen a “formula” for a design, but I do know that you have to measure your proposed design (cab, stone, shell, whatever) to know the circumference, then add the amount of wire needed to make the decorations that are planned in your design.

    And to keep the IRS happy, I have a written record of every inch of wire-bead-cab-CZ-feather-whatever (and its cost) that goes into a piece, each of which is assigned an inventory number. Since I very rarely make the same thing just alike twice, knowing how much wire I have used is not a great deal of help. It is a good starting place, but not the ultimate measurement for me.

    I tried doing a design in base wire one time….too much waste of time for me. I would rather have the drawn design, circumference distance, and measure by flexible tape measure of the decorations as my starting point.

    • avatar


      June 13, 2011 at 1:33 pm

      Hey Delane – you work like I do !!

  4. avatar


    June 13, 2011 at 10:30 am

    This is just an expansion on the other tips regarding using the base wire or copper wire to make the item first. Take a minute to mark your base wire at half inch intervals (or if you’re using metric, one cm intervals) with a sharpie. This makes calculating your necessary wire lengths pretty easy after the project is completed in your draft format.

    • avatar


      June 13, 2011 at 1:43 pm

      Excellent Diane! This way, if you keep your prototype, it will be easy to see just how much more you need of a length for different results – thanks!

  5. avatar

    Carol StJohn

    June 20, 2011 at 1:55 pm

    If I am experimenting with a wrap, I will use string that is about the same thickness as the wire and try out some ideas. When I know what I want to try, I can stretch out the string to measure the approximate length I will need.