Making Ear Wires

 

Explorations in Metalsmithing: Creative Chainmaking

 

Lesson Info

Making Ear Wires

So remember we are doing our hashtag 10x chain earring challenge. And I'm hoping that some of you guys have already started doing this because I know you were asking about that hashtag earlier. And so obviously in order to make earrings we need to make some ear wires. And yes, you could absolutely certainly go out and buy premade ear wires. But you've just learned how to make this beautiful handmade chain full of personality so why not add some handmade ear wires to that as well. Now for those of you who did tune in to our statement class, you are going to find that this process is completely identical to what we did there. But for those of you who didn't we are going to do this process again so bear with us those of you who saw it once before. So in terms of ear wires the first thing that we need is our gauge of wire. And I recommend 20 gauge for ear wires. What you'll find is that anywhere between 19 and 21 is pretty standard, but I find 19 to be a little thick for some people's ears...

and 21 because it's on the thin side if you want a heavier earring it can actually feel like it's almost slicing your ear. So 20 really seems to be the sweet spot. Because it's going to go through someone's ears regardless of what metal you're using for your chain, I recommend using either silver or you can use, you can use sterling silver or argentium silver. Or using gold-filled wire for your ear wires. Now that said, if you're still playing with shape you can certainly experiment with your brass, bronze, or copper wire but most people don't want to put brass, bronze, or copper in their ears for obvious reasons, that's not something people are comfortable with. So for your actual final ear wires use silver or gold-filled. When you're buying your wire for ear wires I recommend buying half-hard. It's going to bend nicer and it's going to save the shape better. The shape of your ear wire will be preserved. If, Tracy's like I'm never gonna live that one down. If for some reason you don't have half-hard wire you can also tumble your ear wires to work harden them or you can even give them a little hammer. But buying half-hard wire is definitely the way to go. So when it comes to your ear wires you want to start by cutting two identical lengths and just like with our S-hooks, ear wires give us a lot of room for variation. So you can really kind of think about matching your ear wire to the aesthetic of your chain. So you can see I've got some ear wires that have more of a square shape kind of at the top, I have ear wires that are super round I have kind of your standard, this size would be what most people refer to as a french hook. So I've got that in there, I think I've got some that are sort of long and pointy or longer and pointy. So you can really play around with this process and make ear wires that again, match the aesthetic of your chain. So depending on the length of your ear wire and the size that you're making you'll end up kind of varying this. But kind of just like with our S-hooks so more in like the two and a half to three inch range is a good place to start so you'll get that, you know, measure decide if you like it and then kind of go from there. Again, I'm just using brass to practice on until I get what I like. And of course in my own studio just like my S-hooks I have premade ear wire pieces that are measured out. So let's go, we'll go two and a half inches for this guy. So I like to make, because ear wires are pairs, I like to make my pair together. So I'll cut both pieces at once. And just like with our S-hook you can round your end in a couple of different ways. So you can use your file, you can use the cup bur, or I mentioned this little wire end rounder. This is great because you can use it without a flex shaft I think they're like six bucks online they're pretty cheap, you match it to the gauge of your wire. So this one, it basically looks like a cup bur, it's designed for 20 gauge. But instead of having to go in your flex shaft you can literally just put it here and twist it a little bit. This end of my wires. Got a pretty big bur on it and so what I might actually do just to make this process a little better Is I'm just gonna quick knock this bur off with my file because it was having a hard time taking off all that material. And now come in and I'm just kind of twisting this around. And so I do this with my ear wires I do it with all four sides. I'm not gonna do it to the other one because you guys get the idea, right. So this is one of those little like six dollar magic things that's gonna save you so much time. Alright so add my linch pin, I've got that here. Now I'm gonna grab my ear wire, and again I like to bend this together so that I know I'm getting the same shape. So the first thing that I wanna do is I want to make the part for the little loop that is gonna hang from our jump rings. This is one of those where you want to pay attention if you've made earrings that are out of big 12 gauge wire you're gonna need a bigger loop on the end of your jump ring than if you're making something delicate. So I usually kind of eyeball this bend with my parallel pliers somewhere between let's call it a half an inch and three quarters of an inch long depending on how long I have to loop around. So I'm gonna take this and I'm just gonna bend it back into a little L. You guys see my little L here? Then I usually wait to make this L into a loop at the end. The next thing that I'm gonna do is bend the big curve of my ear wire. And I typically bend that around a jump ring or a mandrel depending on the size. So this jump ring will give me a pretty big loop, we'll go down a size. So I'm gonna bend this just around here to get the shape that I want. So now we've got this kind of little shape. And then the last thing that I'll do while they're still together is I'll give my end a little bend up because that's gonna help it stay in the ear. So I typically use my parallel pliers for this and get kind of a nice corner but you could also make this bend with your round pliers if you wanted something that was like a little bit of a softer S you could make this round, this bend with those as well. So again, playing around with this to kind of match your aesthetic and then the last thing that you'll do is I tend to bend these loops apart. So now I'll just take one, come in here with my half rounds and bend my little loop that's gonna go around my chain. I'll bend my other one. And if it gets a little like, I don't know if you guys can see this is like super misshapen, right? I'll just take my parallel pliers or any kind of flat plier and just flatten these out. And then just like with our jump rings we want to twist this open rather than prying it back apart. So now I can go ahead and let's just pretend this guy is my chain earring challenge guy. I'll just go ahead, stick this on here. And just like that I can turn any of my chain samples into earrings. It's really straight-forward but just like with the chain you've got all of these options so you can really play around and make it match the aesthetic of your chain. And they can be small, they can be big, I've got some tiny guys here. So if you're like a person who's into delicate stuff or your chain is really small, make little itty bitty guys. You know, start with something like two inches of wire instead of two and a half.

Class Description

Go beyond the basics of handmade chainmaking and discover your own creative voice.

There’s no need to buy boring, store-bought chain. In Explorations in Metalsmithing: Creative Chainmaking, you’ll learn the basics of creating your own handmade chain (including how to get comfortable soldering with a torch) and how to take the basics of chainmaking and add endless variations to create designs that are uniquely yours.

Designer and metalsmith Megan Auman has built her own jewelry line by discovering her signature style in chainmaking, and now she wants to help you do the same!

In this class, you will learn how to:

  • Make and solder jump rings into a basic link-in link-chain.
  • Create variation in your chainmaking through wire gauge, link size, shape, and more.
  • Hone in on your aesthetic to find a style that’s uniquely you.
  • Finish your chains so they’re sturdy and stunning.
  • Turn your chainmaking explorations into amazing earrings, bracelets, and necklaces.

Whether you’re just getting started in metalsmithing, or you’re looking to inject some creativity into your jewelry designs, you’ll leave this class with the skills and ideas necessary to create your own unique chain. Plus, you’ll explore your ideas by creating a series of chain-link statement earrings - perfect to wear, share, or sell!

Reviews

Liz
 

Megan' an excellent instructor and lays things out very clearly, with a lot of good tips based on her extensive experience. I've experience making wire wrapped chain and have taken a beginning metalsmithing class before, and this class had some good refresher information. I particularly appreciated seeing her techniques and process for streamlining production.

a Creativelive Student
 

Megan is an awesome teacher! She is genuinely enthusiastic about sharing her metalsmithing skills with us. I am really looking forward to trying my hand at designing and making a chained necklace on my own soon.

Vernell Bevelander
 

Another excellent class! Thank you Megan!