So, I’ve been meaning to post this tutorial for weeks now, but you know how it goes–finals are approaching, I’ve got thesis work to do, and Thanksgiving kind of came and went and I still have leftover turkey in the fridge. Finally, though, I’m getting it together again, and so I present to you a tutorial: how to make your own ear wires.
This one goes back to my mantra of “never buy it if you can make it”–and you can make ear wires so easily. Honestly, even if you’ve never done this before, it won’t take you more than five or six minutes to make your first pair, and it just gets easier from there on.
You’re going to need a lot of the regular tools–round nose pliers, chain nose pliers, and wire cutters.
You’re also going to need two 2-inch pieces of 20-gauge wire–the type is up to you. I’m using copper in the picture, but if you’ve got sensitive ears you’ll want to end up making your ear wires in sterling silver or gold. I’d advise starting out with a cheaper base metal if you’ve never done this before, though–the learning curve isn’t too steep, but I never like to practice a new technique with expensive wire. Also, make sure that you get 20-gauge wire–22 gauge is a little too flimsy, and while some jewelry makers swear by 18-gauge, it’s too thick for my own earlobes.
As for the rest of your tools, you’re going to need an anvil or bench block (we used this in the hammered hook tutorial), a wire rounder or metal files, and a Sharpie. Trust me on the Sharpie.
And your very last tool–a piece of clear tape. This is the secret to making matching ear wires: you have to make them both at the same time. The easiest way to make them both at the same time is, for me, to just tape them together, making sure that the edges of each wire are flush against each other. As you make more ear wires, you’ll probably find that you don’t need to use the tape–you get a feel for the process as you go along. In the beginning, though, it’s a big helper towards making identical wires.
With the wires taped together, place your round nose pliers at the edge of the wires. You don’t want to make a tiny loop–this is going to be the loop that you’ll open in order to add your actual earring piece. Place the wires about a quarter of an inch down the shaft of the round nose pliers. Holding the wires firmly in your left hand, curl your right hand over and to the left to create a loop (reverse the process if you are left-handed).
After you’ve made your loop, put down the round nose pliers and grab your Sharpie–or, okay, your similarly sized marker. Hold the wires in your right hand, placing your thumb directly behind the loops you just made, and press the wires onto the Sharpie. Use your left hand to curl the back ends of the wires around the marker, forming a loop.
The ends of the wires should cross, like an X. Pull the wire off of the marker.
Success! We’re almost done–just a few more steps left to clean the wires up. It’s time to use our chain nose pliers.
Grip the un-looped part of the ear wires parallel to the small loops you made. We’re going to turn the wire out and to the back, creating a small dent in the curved back part of the ear wire.
See? Afterwards, trim the wires so that they’re flush with each other and not exceedingly long–you can eyeball this part. At this point, we’ve done everything we can with the wires taped together. Time to separate the ear wires and get ready to use your chain nose pliers again.
Right now, the loops at the front of our ear wires aren’t in line with the rest of the finding–they’re perpendicular. Use your chain nose pliers to give those loops a little twist to make the piece one straight line.
The raw finished piece–now it’s time to do a little polishing.
This is the wire rounder, and it’s one of my favorite tools. If you haven’t already invested in a set of metal files, and you’re planning on making quite a few ear wires, I highly recommend it. The tool has a long wooden shaft for you to hold, and a cup at the top. Inside the cup are burrs. All you have to do is hold the tool in one hand and your ear wire in the other. Put the back edge of the wire–the part that will go through your ear–into the rounder’s cup, and twist the tool around the wire. I like to hold the wire in my left hand and use my right hand to manipulate the tool. Essentially, the tool will file down the back edge of the wire and round it off. You can feel it working; it grinds for a while until the wire is smooth. You need to put a little muscle into the tool, but it’s by no means difficult to use, and takes less time for me to use than if I used metal files.
Confused? Picture using a screw driver, but instead of going in complete circles, you’re going back and forth, back and forth.
Now we’re just going to hammer a bit (with a ball peen or chasing hammer–I believe that I left that out earlier, oops). Lightly tap all around the ear wire–we don’t want to flatten the metal too much around the back of the ear wire, as you could make it too wide to fit in the earlobe. I like to lightly hammer all around the piece, and then give it a few more solid taps closer to the front loops.
And you’ve made your very own ear wires! To use them, simply take your chain nose pliers and open the front loops as you would a simple loop, and slide on your dangle. Voila!
And now, you’re probably wondering–why a Sharpie? Well, I like to have a handy tool that’ll give me loops exactly the same size, every time. You could use a large wooden dowel, or a ring mandrel instead. I just like the size of the Sharpie.
Happy crafting! Feel free to comment here if you’ve got any questions.