Starting Out with Wirework - The Scoop on Work Hardening
by Kristal Wick
When you first dive into the wonderful world of wireworking, you'll hear some terms that might not make sense, for example; work hardening your wire. Here's the scoop on why to do it and a few tips.
Instructions
What is work hardening?
Work hardening is the process of certain metals stiffening up as they are manipulated. Any time you are working with wire (bending, twisting, pulling, hammering, squishing) you are moving the metal's molecules and smashing them closer together. The closer the molecules are to each other, the harder the wire is to work with. This process intentionally changes the temper (hardness or softness of the wire) and forces it into a stronger state to not only ensure durability but also hold it's shape. The most commonly used wire tempers are dead soft, soft, half hard and hard. Hard wire doesn't need to be work hardened as it's already hard. You can work harden your wire creations before or after you're done manipulating. For example, it's easier to manipulate soft or half hard wire into the shape you desire but it may be too flimsy to stand up to extended wearing. You can then work harden the piece by using a mallet or hammer and bench block.
Getting started.
First, prepare the wire by using nylon jaw pliers to pull the wire straight though from one end to the other. Do this a few times to straighten and work out the kinks before you start shaping the wire. Shape and manipulate your wire. Now you're ready for a pounding! Bang the wire piece with a mallet or hammer on top of a bench block. See which one to use below:
Rawhide/rubber/nylon mallets - Using a rawhide, rubber or nylon mallets on a rubber or nylon bench block won't change the shape of your piece or leave any marks or dings in your wire.

Hammers - Using a metal hammer on a steel bench block will change the shape and flatten your piece. You can use textured hammers to add depth to your wire. This is particularly interesting when adding a patina to the surface.

Tumbling - Using steel shot in a tumbler is a very time effective method of work hardening your wire creations without leaving any marks on the wire. For example: you can fill your tumbler with dozen of ear wires and work harden, clean and polish them at the same time.

Kristal Wick's Starting Out with Wirework - The Scoop on Work Hardening - Getting started., General Education, , work hardening
Hopefully this clarifies work hardening and you're ready to pound out your stress while creating some beautiful jewelry at the same time!

Creatively,
Kristal

Materials

20 Gauge Round Half Hard .925 Sterling Silver Wire
H8-20H
  • Lesson Quantity: 1.00 pieces
  • Purchase Quantity: 1.00 1FT
  • Price: $2.74
  • Gold Club Price: $2.06
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Tools

WireJewelry Single Barrel Rotary Tumbler, Jewelry and Metal Polishing Kit, Includes 1 Pound of Jewelers Mix Shot and 8 Ounces of Shinebrite Burnishing Compound
G24-1-KITSS
  • G24-1-KITSS
  • Lesson Quantity: 1.00 pieces
  • Purchase Quantity: 1.00 each
  • Price: $149.95
  • Gold Club Price: $112.46
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Bench Block Helper with Steel and Nylon Blocks
DAP-500.30
  • DAP-500.30
  • Lesson Quantity: 1.00 pieces
  • Purchase Quantity: 1.00 each
  • Price: $29.95
  • Gold Club Price: $22.46
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Steel and Rubber Bench Block 4x4 Inches
G17-44
  • G17-44
  • Lesson Quantity: 1.00 pieces
  • Purchase Quantity: 1.00 each
  • Price: $29.95
  • Gold Club Price: $22.46
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Mini Economy Double Horned Jewelers Anvil - Pack of 1
G17-1
  • G17-1
  • Lesson Quantity: 1.00 pieces
  • Purchase Quantity: 1.00 each
  • Price: $21.97
  • Gold Club Price: $16.48
Out of Stock
Large Rawhide Hammer 1 1/2 inch - Pack of 1
G3-50
  • G3-50
  • Lesson Quantity: 1.00 pieces
  • Purchase Quantity: 1.00 each
  • Price: $28.95
  • Gold Club Price: $21.71
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Premium Nylon Jaw Pliers
G2-35
  • G2-35
  • Lesson Quantity: 1.00 pieces
  • Purchase Quantity: 1.00 each
  • Price: $14.95
  • Gold Club Price: $11.21
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Chasing Hammer with Wooden Handle, 1 1/8 Inch Face
G3-27
  • G3-27
  • Lesson Quantity: 1.00 pieces
  • Purchase Quantity: 1.00 each
  • Price: $13.95
  • Gold Club Price: $10.46
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  • Category: General Education
  • Technique(s): General Education