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Making wire shapes that are strong and permanent isn't as easy as it might seem. Wire must be somewhat flexible so that we can bend it and change its shape. The same flexibility that allows us to use wire to make jewelry can also work against us, by allowing the wire component to be pushed or pulled out of shape after the piece is completed. In the following pages we will discuss some techniques for making permanent wire components.
The first step in making wire components permanent is to use the hardest wire that will meet your needs. Frequently, the wire components we make use half-hard wire. This is wire that is made stiffer in the manufacturing process. By starting with wire that is already partially hardened, you will have less hardening to do with your finished wire component. Unfortunately, some pieces, especially wire components that include a spiral, must be made with soft wire; so this approach will not work in every situation.
The second step in hardening and making a wire component permanent is to flatten the component. Wire components made on our WigJig tools will naturally be slightly three dimensional when they are removed from our jigs. The best, easiest and quickest way to flatten a wire component is using nylon jaw pliers. These pliers allow you to squeeze a wire component is several different orientations to flatten and harden the piece. The one limitation to nylon jaw pliers is that the jaws of the pliers are limited in size. Larger wire components can not be flattened and hardened using the nylon jaw pliers because the pliers may not be able to reach some parts of the component. Where this is an issue, using a larger nylon tool like The Wire Press (item 3096 in our Internet store) will allow you to reach all parts of a wire shape.
The third step in making a wire component permanent is to use the component in the proper orientation. Most wire components made on our jigs will have both a strong axis and a weak axis. The strong axis of the piece is the axis where you can pull on the piece and it won't come apart. The weak axis is that axis where you could pull the piece apart. In the piece shown above-right, the horizontal axis is the strong axis and the vertical axis is the weak axis. For this reason, we incorporate this wire component in a bracelet as shown below. By incorporating the strong axis in this piece, this wire component will be almost as strong as if it were cast.
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