Making French Hook earwires…

I did go back to the Craft table today, made it a bit more habitable (i.e. wiped off the dust and put some things away), and started on a French Hook earwire model. It doesn’t seem like this should be a big deal. Thing is, even minor wirework requires getting out the tools, which seems like a momentous occasion — at least, when you haven’t done it in a while.

In my case, this episode of the tools was made of flush cutters, multiple sets of pliers (needle-nose, round-nose, bail-making and nylon-jaw pliers), needle files (or one needle file, that is), carbide paper in multiple grades (300-, 400-, and 600-grit — which I had already torn into little strips, so I didn’t have to get the entire set of sandpapers out), my Beadalon rotary tool with an appropriately-sized cup bur attachment (which I had to adjust several times until the cup bur stopped wobbling), and head-mounted magnification.

It does kind of tick me off how much stuff goes into making something so simple. On top of it, I’m thinking of masking off vulnerable areas in the future with tape, so that I don’t even have a risk of marring the wire while I’m filing or sanding. It should save me some stress…until it comes time to take the tape off, and risk bending the piece. The wire I was using for my models did feel half-hard (a level between dead-soft and full-hard; basically, “somewhat hard”), but then, it’s a hardware-store copper wire, and I had cut away most of the packaging to save space in the toolbox. So…it’s wire. Let’s just say that, for starters.

I did use copper for this. I didn’t see much benefit in jumping to precious metal on my first try in weeks, and had realized that the copper had more working commonalities with the precious metal wires, than the latter did with my Red Brass (which I would have turned to, had I less experience). There’s the fact that Red Brass can be difficult to tell apart from gold — until it tarnishes. Then, the stuff I have also appears a bit dull…likely due to lack of polishing, especially where it has been bent. Red Brass is softer and runs relatively thick in gauge, for the little spools I’ve got (I think they’re 1/4 lb. spools, back from when I could get 1/4 lb. spools) than what the final pieces would be made from: sterling wire and 14k gold-filled wire.

I can see this being logical for the gold-filled wire, because maybe the gold is layered over a base of copper for strength. I really don’t know what exactly sterling gets its working properties from, but I do know there is a significant amount of copper in it. I’m not sure if it’s that or other added metals (or the mixture of all of them within the alloy) which harden it. Fine silver (99.9% pure silver), by itself, is very soft, and so it wouldn’t really be a thing to use for earwires, which are vulnerable to being deformed if the earring catches on clothing or hair (which is common).

In any case, I decided to use the copper, which worked out fine. I even found some little 2.5mm x 3mm copper beads that I could use as decoration with them, so I wouldn’t have to waste a more expensive bead (or deal with the…kind of sad appearance of my brass 3mm rounds from my teen years — which, amazingly [!] have not tarnished). I put in a log of what I did today in my work journal. Unfortunately, I was only able to get to one pair: by the time I had finished with them, I had to do other things.

There are a number of things that I can say, having done this…though most significantly to myself, I should note that these earwires with the beads right above the loop, need a significant bend above them, to keep the bead from just sliding off of the earwire. I might want to send a note with these things if it continues to be a problem with the precious-metal earwires; I’m not sure it will, for the fact that many of my precious metal beads have smaller holes than my base-metal beads. That affects how easily they can rotate around the bend above them, and ultimately escape. If the beads weren’t hollow (as small metal rounds tend to be), it would be significantly harder for them to move…which I should remember for the future. Maybe I want to use a different type of bead, that is (stone? glass is relatively fragile) — or, not use a bead at all.

I actually have found that earwires of this type are not being provided ready-made anymore by one of my main sources; from my own work, I believe that this may be because those little beads can and do escape. The alternative they’re offering is wire coils as decoration…which are easy, but also…wire coils?

Other than that…I’m still having issues with my cup bur biting into the sides of my earwires, but it only happened on one of them, this time. I’ll have to be more careful (like I was when I polished/deburred the second). I’ve noted which notches I have to use on my bail-making pliers in order to size things consistently…and I need less than two inches of wire to make one of these things. In reality, I’m using close to 1.75″ of wire for each French Hook, and 0.75″ of that is the tail that hangs down below the back of the ear.

When we finally switch to Metric, I may be in trouble, but that’s how it looks right now.

What’s interesting is the difference in look between my earwires, and the earwires I’ve bought from other vendors. I have much more of a curve at the top of the ones I produce…I am not sure if that has to do with just my personal aesthetic, or what. Not only that, but I can only get the curve in the tail I like by using my thumb to press in on the wire. Anything else seems to distort it.

I’ve also had quite a time with distortion today…my nylon-jaw pliers and I made good friends. It’s necessary to harden all of that curve after forming the earwire, that is, or it’s very easy to pull it apart. There’s also the possibility of work-hardening the metal by hammering it after it’s formed (say on an anvil or nylon block, with a nylon or rawhide mallet)…though that risks damaging the earwire’s decorative components. I haven’t really wanted to flatten the wire, which is a large reason I haven’t taken the hammers to these things before.

I have more to say, but I’ll put it into a different post.

Published by Haruna

Haruna is a Librarian by training, currently pivoting from Public Services into Technical Services. Their undergraduate major was English -- Creative Writing, and they hold an additional small degree in Art (i.e. Visual Arts). Currently, they are trying to figure out whether to place their energies more into language and language arts, or producing handcrafted jewelry and face coverings, for the interim...

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